Italy to face U.S. in United Cup final after Lucia Bronzetti victory

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Italy will play the United States in the final of the inaugural United Cup in Sydney after defeating Greece in a semifinal of the mixed teams competition.

Stefanos Tsitsipas kept Greek hopes alive by defeating Matteo Berrettini 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4 in a clash between two Grand Slam finalists after Italy won the first two singles.

The world No. 4 held his nerve in an enthralling contest before breaking Berrettini for the first time midway through the deciding set to maintain his unbeaten record in the United Cup.

“Somehow I hung in there. He is a big server. He hits some bombs consistently. You have to accept that, move on from that point, and concentrate on your serve,” Tsitsipas said.

But Lucia Bronzetti clinched the finals berth for Italy by beating Valentini Grammatikopoulou 6-2 6-3 to give her nation an unassailable 3-1 lead in the tie played at Ken Rosewall Arena.

“We are a great team and I am so excited, so happy right now,” she said.

All five matches in the final between the United States and Italy will be played in Sydney.

Taylor Fritz beat Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5) to clinch the U.S. a spot in the final.

Fritz put the U.S. up 3-0 in the best-of-five matchup, and 2017 U.S. Open runner-up Madison Keys then made it 4-0 by defeating Magda Linette 6-4, 6-2.

Jessica Pegula partnered Fritz to a 6-7 (5), 6-4, 10-6 victory over Alicja Rosolska and Lukasz Kubot to sweep the semifinal for the U.S.

Pegula and Frances Tiafoe had given the Americans a big lead by taking the opening singles matches, including Pegula’s straight-set victory over No. 1-ranked Iga Swiatek.

In the second tiebreaker of his match, the ninth-ranked Fritz had success during rallies by targeting the forehand wing of the 10th-ranked Hurkacz, drawing errors on crucial points. Hurkacz was clearly angered after making three forehand mistakes in succession to drop a tiebreaker he had led 5-4.

“No one could really get through for a (service break), but I think the difference in the tiebreakers is that I served well and put some returns in the court, played some really solid points and didn’t give him anything,” Fritz said.

Fritz has represented the U.S. in the Davis Cup but said combining with the country’s best female players enhanced the experience in the new, 18-nation team competition.

“I have played with Team USA a lot and I think it is a huge advantage this time having the girls in our team because it just makes the whole team so much stronger,” he said.

“I am super excited going into the finals and I think we have been the favorites all week.”

Jabeur bounces back at French Open, Ruud and Andreeva advance

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PARIS — Ons Jabeur got a do-over on Court Philippe Chatrier at the French Open and won this time.

A year after her first-round exit, the No. 7 seed Jabeur beat Lucia Bronzetti 6-4, 6-1 to help erase some bad memories and answer questions about a recent calf injury.

The Tunisian, a crowd favorite in Paris, smiled and expressed relief in not repeating last year’s mistake, when she lost to Magda Linette of Poland.

“I’m very happy to win my first match on Philippe Chatrier – because I’ve never won here,” Jabeur said on court about the clay-court tournament’s main stadium.

Now she can focus on trying to win her first major. She was runner-up at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year.

The 28-year-old Jabeur has also battled injuries this season. She had knee surgery after the Australian Open, and was then sidelined with a calf injury. She had stopped playing against top-ranked Iga Swiatek at the clay-court tournament in Stuttgart, Germany, in late April and then pulled out of the Madrid Open.

“It was a very difficult period for me after Stuttgart,” said Jabeur, adding that she’s beginning to find her rhythm.

Jabeur struck 27 winner’s to Bronzetti’s seven, though with 24 unforced errors she’ll have room to improve.

Mirra Andreeva had a memorable Grand Slam debut by dominating Alison Riske-Amritraj 6-2, 6-1. Andreeva’s older sister – 18-year-old Erika – was facing Emma Navarro later in the day.

Later, Swiatek gets her French Open title defense started against Cristina Bucsa, who is ranked 70th.

On the men’s side, No. 4 seed Casper Ruud beat qualifier Elias Ymer 6-4, 6-3, 6-2, to remind the higher-profile tournament favorites that he was runner-up to Rafael Nadal last year at Roland Garros.

New mom Elina Svitolina beats seeded player at French Open in 1st Slam match in 16 months

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PARIS — So much has changed for Elina Svitolina, who played – and won – her first Grand Slam match in nearly 1 1/2 years at the French Open, eliminating 2022 semifinalist Martina Trevisan 6-2, 6-2.

For one thing, she’s now a mother: Svitolina and her husband, French tennis player Gael Monfils, welcomed their daughter, Skaï, in October. For another, Svitolina is now ranked 192nd, nowhere near the career high of No. 3 she first reached in 2017, back in the days when she was regularly reaching the second weeks of major tournaments – including a pair of semifinal runs. Away from the courts, her home country of Ukraine was invaded by Russia last year, and the war continues.

“Everything,” she said, “is kind of old and new for me right now.”

In sum, Svitolina is juggling a lot nowadays.

She hadn’t played at a Slam since a third-round exit at the Australian Open in January 2022. She hadn’t played a match anywhere since March 2022, when she was still ranked 20th.

“It was always in my head … to come back, but I didn’t put any pressure on myself, because obviously with the war going on, with the pregnancy, you never know how complicated it will go,” the 28-year-old Svitolina said.

The work to return to the tour after giving birth began this January; her initial WTA match came at Charleston, South Carolina, in April. She won her first title since returning to action, at a smaller event on red clay in Strasbourg, France.

At Roland Garros, she used her big forehand to compile a 20-12 edge in winners and never faced a single break point against Trevisan, who was seeded 26th.

Trevisan cried as she spoke after the match about a problem with her right foot that made it difficult to even walk and prompted her to stop playing during her quarterfinal last week at the Morocco Open, where she was the defending champion.

Still, she gave Svitolina credit.

“Even though she’s just coming back from having a daughter, she’s a champion,” Trevisan said. “And she’s coming off a title, so she’s confident.”

Svitolina talked about feeling “awful when you’re pregnant, especially the last months,” but getting into a position now where she thinks she’s stronger than before – in more ways than one.

“I feel that I can handle the work that I do off the court and, match by match, I’m getting better. Also mentally, because mental (state) can influence your physicality, as well,” she said. “I tried to find the balance, and I feel like I’m seeing (things) a little bit again differently as well after the break. Everything is getting there. The puzzles are getting slowly into place.”