The inaugural United Cup was staged in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth and was a huge success as 18 nations played for US$18 million and ranking points. The city winners from the three locations assembled in Sydney for the finals and the USA defeated Italy 4-0. The highlight men’s match was Alex De Minaur’s 36 61 75 win over Rafa Nadal – it was a brilliant encounter while the match Martina Trevisan won against Maria Sakkari was totally awesome and will be a contender for the women’s match of the year.
The climax to the Australian summer of tennis was super. The Australian Open was alive as, including the qualifying week, over 900,000 people attended. There was an extraordinary day (or night) when Thanasi Kokkinakis played Andy Murray which Andy won from two sets to love down; it ended at 4.05am and must be a contender for best five setter of the year. The 2022 finalists Rafa Nadal and Daniil Medvedev lost in the third round to McKenzie McDonald and Sebi Korda respectively. Iga Swiatek lost. Novak Djokovic and Aryna Sabalenka held the respective trophies. The women’s final with Elena Rybakina was the best women’s match and will be in the running for match of the year as Sabalenka won her first major 46 63 64. Djokovic rolled past all he played and claimed the title for the tenth time beating Stefanos Tsitsipas 63 76 76. It was his equalling 22nd major and 94th career title.
Tennis history was created when Wu Yibing became the first Chinese man to win a tour level title when he claimed the Dallas Open. He saved four match points in the final to beat John Isner 67 76 76. Wu had upset Taylor Fritz in the semis. The win rocketed his ranking to 58, the highest Chinese male player had ever been. He and Zhang Zhizhen had become top 100 players – the first time China had multiple players in the men’s top 100.
Indian Wells and the start of the Masters 1000 series events – the BNP Paribas Open. In what was a near ruthless performance Carlos Alcaraz won the title over Daniil Medvedev 63 62. It sent Alcatraz back to No.1. He had beaten Jannik Sinner in the semis while Medvedev stopped Frances Tiafoe. In the women’s it was a repeat of the Australian Open between Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina who, as she did in Melbourne, beat Iga Swiatek in the semis. The results of the final saw Rybakina turn the tables on Sabalenka 76 64.
On to the Miami Open. The men’s semi between Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcatraz was the men’s match of the year so far over three sets. Sinner got back at the Spaniard, but the tennis was mesmerising and blistering with some points causing standing ovations. Sinner closed it out 67 64 62 and reached his second Miami open final.
Daniil Medvedev defeated Karen Khachanov to reach the final and then went on to beat Sinner 75 63, but what Daniel achieved was remarkable. He was playing his fifth consecutive final and won his fourth title and 124 of 25 matches. His feat emulated Ivan Lendl from 1981.
In the women’s it was welcome back Petra Kvitova who beat Elena Rybakina 76 62. It’s been a great run for Rybakina and the rivalry developing between her, Sabalenka and Swiatek is important for women’s tennis.
The Rolex Monte Carlo Open brought a different name to the Masters 1000 winners circle and it was Andrey Rublev who beat another young gun Holger Rune who had beaten Jannik Sinner in the semis, and Daniel Medvedev earlier. Rublev won the title 57 62 75 with a final set rally back.
In Charleston at the women’s, it was One Jabeur over Belinda Bencic 76 64 and at the Porsche Grand Prix it was Iga Swiatek over Aryna Sabalenka 6364. The clay-court season was well underway.
Carlos Alcatraz backed up winning Barcelona title with the Spanish double by winning the Madrid Open over surprise finalist Jan-Lenard Struff 46 63 64. For the first time Madrid was a two-week event while the women’s went to Aryna Sabalenka who turned the tables on Iga Swiatek.
Rome and the Internazionali BNL d’Italia was the next big one and Elina Rybakina won when Anhelina Kalinina retired at 64 10. As for the men, Daniil Medvedev who has often voiced his negative feelings about clay, won his first clay title beating Holger Rune 75 75.
It was a very hot French Open as Paris turned on the heat some days. Novak Djokovic accounted for Carlos Alcatraz in the semis when Alcatraz suffered badly with cramps. In the final it was Novak over Casper Ruud 76 63 75 and it gave Djokovic the second leg of the grand slam. In the women’s it was Iga again and it was close as surprise finalist Karolina Muchova narrowly lost 62 57 64. It was most certainly an outstanding final. Elina Svitolina who seven months after having a baby made it to the quarter-finals. There was controversy as Ukrainian players refused to shake hands with Russian or Belarusian players. Svitolina’s loss to Sabalenka highlighted it.
END OF PART ONE
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