Aussies face do-or-die clash against reigning United Cup champions
Ajla Tomljanovic and Alex de Minaur will look to rebound from singles defeats to Great Britain when Australia meets Team USA at RAC Arena.
Ajla Tomljanovic and Alex de Minaur will look to turn their respective singles fortunes when Australia bids to keep its United Cup campaign alive against Team USA on Monday night.
Top-10 Americans Jessica Pegula and Taylor Fritz guided their nation to success in the inaugural competition in 2023 and eked out a 2-1 victory over Great Britain on Sunday.
They present a sizeable challenge after the Australians dropped both singles matches in a 2-1 defeat to Great Britain on Friday night.
After denying the Brits in the mixed doubles, West Australians Storm Hunter and Matt Ebden require their singles counterparts to secure at least one of their showdowns to give them a chance at closing it out and keeping their team in the hunt for the quarterfinals.
Having missed most of last season due to a knee injury, Tomljanovic found positives in her loss to Katie Boulter at RAC Arena on Friday and was determined to return to the practice court comfortable in the knowledge she had competed pain-free.
“I think last time we played, Jess was a very different player,” said Tomljanovic, whose two wins against the American came more than 12 years ago.
“She’s been pretty much at the top of the game now for the last five years. She’s a very tough player and I think playing someone that high of a quality in two days will help me get there quicker because you’re forced to.
“Your back’s against the wall when you play against quality players like that. There’s no room for error and I think it’s good for me. I’m excited.”
The 29-year-old Pegula – who lost her opening singles match on Sunday to Boulter – was the world No.3 this time last year when she went unbeaten in Team USA’s United Cup triumph.
It was a far cry from Tomljanovic’s predicament after she missed the entire Australian summer.
“Obviously she had all that momentum after beating Serena (at US Open 2022) and having a great year, and then to see her get sidelined by injury again is always tough,” Pegula said.
“She lives in Florida pretty close to me. Yeah, we actually were supposed to practise a few weeks ago before she came here but we got rained out so it didn’t happen.
“It’s nice to see her back playing well. To me, she’s a top-20 player, for sure. She’s really solid and not really much weakness anywhere. She’s a really great competitor.”
World No.12 De Minaur is ranked just two places below Fritz and will bid to capitalise better on his chances than he was able to in his opening defeat to Cameron Norrie.
The Australian owns a 4-3 record against Fritz, including a win in their sole meeting last year en route to the Toronto Masters final.
“Now it’s about bouncing back,” he said. “Kind of water off a duck’s back. Move on. Yeah, I’ve got that match to look forward to, and, you know, hopefully I can come out and bring a high level and perform for my country in front of this crowd in Perth.”
Like Pegula, Fritz was part of the successful Team USA campaign at United Cup 2023 but was cautious facing the host nation in his first outing of the new season.
The American opened his United Cup campaign with a convincing win over Norrie on Sunday before he and Pegula ground out a match tiebreak for a 2-1 victory.
“It will be a fun one. Playing Demon in Australia is going to be a tough one, for sure,” he said. “I feel like he always brings a lot of energy and plays really well, especially at this time of the year.
“I’m not too surprised with how good of a year he had last year. And when we were younger, I mean, he absolutely owned me (smiling). Took me a long time before I was able to beat him.”
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