United Cup: Team spirit strong as Aussies embrace home assignment
Alex de Minaur, Ajla Tomljanovic and their United Cup team-mates anticipate an electric atmosphere when Australia takes to the court at Ken Rosewall Arena.
Few courts carry better memories for the Sydney-born Alex de Minaur than Ken Rosewall Arena.
Four years ago, it was the setting for an important milestone as the then-19-year-old claimed his breakthrough first ATP singles title at the Sydney International.
Earlier this year, De Minaur defeated Marton Fucsovics and Zsombor Piros – both in straight sets – on the same court to boost Australia’s progress over Hungary in a Davis Cup qualifier.
And while it follows that the world No.23 Australian is excited to launch his 2023 season in a home arena, De Minaur notes that the best experiences on his favourite court could still be to come.
“It’s a beautiful court, a beautiful place to be. I love being back here at home,” said De Minaur as Australian team members prepared to contest their first matches at the inaugural United Cup.
“I think it’s even better to be here in a team environment – a team event, we’ve got a great team and I think we’re all just happy to be here.”
Elevated to the position as No.1 Australian men’s player after Nick Kyrgios withdrew through injury, De Minaur emphasised the depth among a passionate Australian contingent.
Co-captained by Sam Stosur and Lleyton Hewitt, the home team includes Jason Kubler, John Peers, Ajla Tomljanovic, Maddison Inglis and Zoe Hives.
“I think we’ve got a great team and we’re all going to be out there doing our best, so ultimately the only thing that changes is match-ups and that’s about it,” De Minaur pointed out.
“But we’re all happy to be here – it’s a great team vibe, great team spirit and it’s going to be exciting to be able to go (out and) represent Australia.”
Stosur, who will combine her co-captaincy role as a playing member for Australia, agrees.
“We’re all really keen to get out on the court and do our best in every single match that we all get to play,” said 38-year-old Stosur, who retired from singles play at Australian Open 2022 and now competes exclusively in doubles.
“Everyone’s excited to kick off the year here in Sydney and yeah, (we’re) looking forward to it.”
While Kyrgios has withdrawn from the United Cup, the Australian team remains strong with @alexdeminaur moving into the No.1 men’s position, and subsequently Jason Kubler moving into the No.2 spot. pic.twitter.com/hY38rptJA9
— TennisAustralia (@TennisAustralia) December 28, 2022
That’s also true for Tomljanovic, who returns home to Australia after a career-best season which featured quarterfinal appearances at Wimbledon and the US Open.
Ending the year at a career-high world No.33, Tomljanovic is now Australia’s No.1 woman and notes the positives of that position.
“I mean, if Ash (Barty) was still playing I wouldn’t have that spot and I think we’re all very much aware of that,” noted the 29-year-old Tomljanovic.
“But, you know, she’s not here so it’s nice to have that expectation and I’m trying to channel it in a positive way of not putting extra pressure but just enjoying the moment – and hopefully, you know, I don’t want to fill her shoes but even just a quarter (of Barty’s achievements) is fine.”
For now, the focus for Australian team members is on a winning start at the inaugural mixed teams tournament, which begins tomorrow with round-robin stages contested in Sydney, Perth and Brisbane.
Australia’s first assignment is against Great Britain tomorrow evening at Ken Rosewall Arena, with De Minaur scheduled to face Cameron Norrie in Australia’s opening match, followed by Zoe Hives versus Katie Swan.
On Monday, Australia takes on Spain in the evening session.
“For me, it’s a great opportunity. I’ve got two great matches, I’m playing Cameron Norrie and Nadal obviously. So it’s a great test for me,” said De Minaur.
“I’m excited to put myself up there, it’s going to be great to play home ground in front of friends and family and hopefully an electric atmosphere. Hopefully we can get it going.”
Team Australia faces Great Britain on Thursday 29 and Friday 30 December, as well as Spain from Monday 2 January.
Book online, play today: Visit play.tennis.com.au to get out on court and have some fun!