SYDNEY — Rafael Nadal ended an up-and-down 2022 with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 loss to Britain’s Cameron Norrie at the United Cup mixed teams tournament.
Nadal won the Australian Open and French Open to take his career Grand Slam singles total to a leading 22. But foot, rib and abdomen injuries meant he played only four events after Wimbledon in July.
He wasn’t upset by the loss.
“It was not a disaster at all,” Nadal said. “I can do things better, and I need to do it. But as I said, I have not had many matches. I think he played the first match two days ago. I think that’s an advantage, especially if you win the match the way that he did.”
Norrie failed to win a set in his four previous matches against Nadal.
“It was pretty crazy. I was thinking I’d never won a set before, so I wanted to come out and firstly do that,” Norrie said. “It was a super physical match and I enjoyed it. It’s a great way to end 2022 for me.”
Britain took a 2-0 lead after Katie Swan had a 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 win over Spain’s Nuria Parrizas-Diaz.
Top-ranked Iga Swiatek beat Yulia Putintseva 6-1, 6-3 at Brisbane. Poland and Kazakhstan were level at 1-1 going into the final three matches.
“First matches of the season are always kind of rusty, so I’m happy that in the important moments I was really composed,” Swiatek said.
At Perth, Bulgaria and Belgium were also level at 1-1 after the first day. Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov beat David Goffin 6-4, 7-5 after Alison Van Uytvanck had a 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 win over Isabella Shinikova to give Belgium the early lead.
Earlier, Jiri Lehecka scored a 6-4, 6-2 upset win over world No. 12 Alexander Zverev to help give the Czech Republic a 2-0 lead.
The 21-year-old Lehecka, ranked No. 81, broke four times in the Group C match at Ken Rosewall Arena in Sydney to bounce back from an opening singles loss to Taylor Fritz of the United States.
Marie Bouzkova later beat Jule Niemeier 6-2, 7-5 in the second match to give the Czechs a 2-0 lead. Czech women’s No. 1 Petra Kvitova can clinch the tie when she faces Laura Siegemund.
Zverev was competing for the first time since June when he tore three ligaments in his right ankle during his Roland Garros semifinal match against Rafael Nadal.
“I knew before the match that he hadn’t played in a while but with a player like him that can mean nothing,” Lehecka said. “In the crucial moments I showed all the experience from the last year playing against good players.”
In other matches, Brazil took a 2-0 lead over Norway at Brisbane.
World 15th-ranked Beatriz Haddad Maia improved her tournament record to 2-0 after defeating Malene Helgo of Norway 6-4, 6-2. Felipe Meligeni Alves gave Brazil its second win of the day when he beat Viktor Durasovic 6-3, 6-3.
“I was trying to be as aggressive as I could,” Haddad Maia said. “I was happy that I was patient and giving myself chances . . . even if I was missing. I was happy with the way I was thinking in this match.”
Two singles matches – one men’s and one women’s – are played over each of two days, with a mixed doubles to conclude the five-match encounter on the second day.
The inaugural United Cup has teams from 18 countries competing in Brisbane, Perth and Sydney through to Jan. 4. The three city champions and the next-best performing country from the group stage will meet at Ken Rosewall Arena from Jan. 6 to 8 to determine the overall winner.