The Most Memorable Times United Cup Teammates Lifted Each Other Up
Several countries boast leading male and female players with a long history of shared success, and in many instances, they enjoy long associations and great relationships on and off the court.
We revisit moments when soon-to-be United Cup teammates have shone in tandem, and how this bodes well for their teams ahead of the 2023 event.
A Decade On, Hewitt & Stosur Re-unite
Now, they will join forces once again – this time to co-captain Team Australia at the United Cup.
Hewitt and Stosur’s London 2012 partnership was made possible with the return of mixed doubles to the Olympic Tennis programme for the first time in almost 100 years. Both Grand Slam singles champions, the Aussies had also flourished in their respective doubles careers, and it showed when they began playing together.
They dominated Polish fourth seeds Agnieszka Radwanska and Marcin Matkowski 6-3 6-3, then came within a few points of the medal rounds before falling to Brits Andy Murray and Laura Robson in a Wimbledon Centre Court thriller.
"That was a huge experience, playing with someone like Lleyton in the Olympic Games," Stosur reflected. "I didn't love warming up with him, because his ball just skidded through the grass too much for me, so that wasn't great to be on the other end of it (smiling). But playing with him was obviously a lot better.”
Stosur, who at age 38 now only competes in doubles, said she was looking forward to learning the ways of team captaincy from Hewitt, who is also Australia’s Davis Cup team captain.
"He's obviously got heaps of experience captaining Davis Cup and being on the bench... whereas I'm kind of the newbie, I'll be trying to find my feet. So I think it's going to be a great opportunity to kind of learn from him and see how it goes,” she said.
"To actually be privy now to the actual (strategic and coaching selection) information I think is going to be pretty awesome.”
Team Poland Keeps It Among Friends
It also helps that these two leading players get along extremely well.
Welcome to the BNP Paribas Poland Open!— We Are Tennis (@WeAreTennis) July 17, 2021
Supported by 🇵🇱 champions Iga Swiatek and Hubert Hurkacz, the new WTA tournament held in Gdynia hosts some of the best Top 50 and Top 100 players starting this weekend pic.twitter.com/VDxdmkzAcb
The duo came together to play a “mixed singles” exhibition match ahead of the WTA Poland Open in Gdynia in 2021, thrilling home fans who packed into the stands.
Their ascents have coincided; Swiatek broke through with her triumph at Roland Garros in 2020, while Hurkacz won his first ATP Masters 1000 title in Miami in 2021 before reaching the Wimbledon semi-finals that same year.
Swiatek attained a new level in 2022, wresting control of the women’s tour to become a dominant World No.1, adding two more majors to her collection.
Hurkacz also continued to enjoy success, ending a season inside the Top 10 for the second consecutive year in 2022.
The two Polish stars have been supportive of each other along their respective journeys, frequently congratulating each other on social media for their achievements.
Hubert Hurkacz (@HubertHurkacz) September 11, 2022
The Kindest— Iga Świątek (@iga_swiatek) August 28, 2022
Team Poland captain Agnieszka Radwanska said that in team competitions, it was important that the atmosphere within the squad made players feel comfortable and supported.
“They have a lot of stress and a lot of adrenaline everywhere. So this kind of event... Of course, you go on court and you want to win, but also on the other hand, you want to have a little bit of fun and you want to really enjoy the tennis,” the former WTA World No.2 said. "So I think having friends in a team is the best that we can have.”
Greek Pride For Tsitsipas & Sakkari
Stefanos Tsitsipas and Maria Sakkari have long shared an association as the standard bearers of Greek tennis. They have known each other since they were children; their mothers were both also professional players.
As their journeys have unfolded, they have frequently overlapped; there is a wonderful story that Sakkari, upon receiving funding from the Greek Olympic Federation to prepare for her Tokyo 2020 campaign, gave a chunk of it to Tsitsipas.
They are now the two highest-ranked Greek players in history, both having recently held career-high positions of World No.3, and they have come together on several occasions to represent their country proudly – first at the Hopman Cup in 2019, then in mixed doubles at the Tokyo 2020 games.
Most recently, they teamed up in an exhibition mixed doubles match at the 2022 US Open to raise funds for war-torn Ukraine.
“It's wonderful to see (Maria’s rise). I'm extremely proud and happy that she was able to equal me and get to No. 3. I think she can do better than that,” Tsitsipas said. “I was watching her progress, I was watching most of her matches. She deserves to be there more than anyone.”
Added Sakkari: “For Greek people I think it's very nice to have a female and a male player competing in that level, and especially giving them a lot of joy. I think they are proud of us. Stefanos inspires me a lot. It's very, very good and very important for me to be kind of like by his side in that journey.”
Support Strong In Norwegian squad
One of the warmest moments at Roland Garros in 2022 came when Casper Ruud was interviewed on court following his quarter-final victory. The rising star had just broken through for his first Grand Slam semifinal, improving upon his record as the best-performed Norwegian man at a major tournament.
But instead, he used his moment to highlight somebody else’s achievement.
"A big day for Norwegian tennis, because we have also a female player, Ulrikke Eikeri, who made the final of mixed doubles today. She is even one step further than me,” he said.
“She will play for probably her biggest title of her life tomorrow so I wish her luck."
Ruud then attended the mixed final at Court Philippe Chatrier the following day to support his countrywoman.
Eikeri told rolandgarros.com she drew inspiration from Ruud, who enjoyed a banner 2022 season highlighted by two Grand Slam finals and a rise to World No.2.
“I’m so happy for Casper and it’s huge for Norwegian tennis… For sure he’s inspiring all of Norway, all the new tennis players coming up and it makes everyone believe it’s possible,” she said.
Ruud and Eikeri will come together to represent Norway at the United Cup, where they will feature in Group E alongside Brazil and Italy and play their matches in Brisbane.