The United Cup, a new mixed event to launch the 2023 tennis season

As every year, the world of tennis has gathered under the Australian sun to start the 2023 season. And it is the participants in the United Cup, a brand new competition for mixed national teams, who will throw the first balls on Thursday. December 29 – and until January 8 – in Brisbane, Perth and Sydney.

The director of Tennis Australia (the Australian tennis federation), Craig Tiley, sees “a unique opportunity to unite the men’s and women’s circuit, in an unprecedented way”. Born from the desire for a merger between the ATP and the WTA (the bodies that govern the men’s and women’s professional circuits), and in collaboration with Tennis Australia, this event replaces the ATP Cup, a men’s team tournament which has never really won over the fans and which was deleted this year after only three editions.

The eighteen participating countries, each represented by a maximum of eight players (four men and four women), were divided into six pools – two in each host city – of three teams. Four singles (two men and two women) as well as a mixed doubles will be played in each match between the selections. Then, in each of the three cities, the winners of the two groups will face each other for a place in the semi-finals. A fourth team, the one with the best record among those lost, will complete this “Final Four” which will take place in Sydney from January 6 to 8.

Although a bit complex, the format could appeal to the public since it recalls that of the Hopman Cup, a mixed exhibition that disappeared in 2019 when it was nevertheless very popular. “The United Cup will allow players and fans to live a unique experience”promises Steve Simon, the boss of the WTA, in a statement from the United Cup.

Rafael Nadal and Iga Swiatek as headliners

The very high plateau of this first edition already sets the tone. Greece, led by Stefanos Tsitsipas (4e world player) and Maria Sakkari (6e in the WTA ranking), and Poland, with the world number 1, Iga Swiatek, and Hubert Hurkacz (10e at the ATP), are favorites. Olympic champions in Tokyo Alexander Zverev (12e) and Belinda Bencic (12e), Norwegian Casper Ruud (3e), American Jessica Pegula (3e) and, above all, the Spaniard Rafael Nadal (2e) are also expected. “It’s always important for me to start the season well to build up my confidence,” has also revealed the Majorcan to the media.

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Thanks to Caroline Garcia, who ended 2022 on the 4the world rank after its success at the Masters, France is seeded number 6 and will play the group stage in Perth. Les Bleus, who can also count on their number 1 player, Arthur Rinderknech (44e), will enter the fray this Thursday (at 11 am, Paris time) with a first meeting with the flavor of revenge since they will face… Argentina.

We will also find familiar faces on the bench since some captains are none other than current or former players, such as Edouard Roger-Vasselin (France), Lleyton Hewitt (Australia), Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland) and Iva Majoli (Croatia). Only the Russians and Belarusians are missing, still banned from team competitions, in response to the war in Ukraine. Daniil Medvedev (7e), Andrey Rublev (8e), Daria Kasatkina (8e) or even Aryna Sabalenka (5e) may however resume individual competition the same week at the Adelaide tournament.

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To find a place in the calendar and attract the world’s elite, despite the holding of other tournaments simultaneously, the United Cup awards points (ATP and WTA) and an endowment of 15 million US dollars. (about 14 million euros). If players have the assurance of playing at least two matches – and therefore of being able to prowl for the Australian Open – thanks to the group stage, they are also certain to leave with a nice check. Whatever happens, everyone receives a participation bonus whose amount, based on the individual world ranking, ranges from 5,000 to 200,000 dollars. Further gains are expected per match won and per match won.

Another source of motivation is obtaining points for the ATP and WTA rankings. A scale, which depends on the stage of the competition and the classification of the opponent, has been put in place. In total, a player can earn up to 500 points.

After the Davis Cup so decried since its reform adopted in 2018 and the ATP Cup which fizzled out, has the United Cup found the winning recipe? Answer on January 8.

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