A heartbreaking loss for Poland in the United Cup final against Germany

It was so close… Team Poland was one point away from winning its first-ever United Cup championship on Sunday afternoon. Tennis showed all of its beauty and cruelty on that final day, with an outcome that broke the hearts of thousands of Polish tennis fans. Iga Swiątek could not contain her tears.

Everything started perfectly for the Polish team. Iga was facing the former world number 1 Angelique Kerber in the first confrontation of the day. The 36-year-old lefty resisted Iga’s ferocious attacks until the middle of the first set. After a hard-fought break, the Varsovian finished the job (6-3). The second set turned into a tennis lesson by Świątek, who did not leave a single game to her opponent (6-0). The final score (6-3;6-0) does not show how tight the match had been at times, especially in the first set. 

Shortly after, it was the clash of the two giants, namely Hubert Hurkacz against Alexander Zverev. The Pole played at an outstanding level, which allowed him to seal the first set with authority in the tie-break (7-6(3)). Things started to get increasingly impressive from the start of the second. Booth players pushed each other to the limit on several occasions. The outcome of the second set was to be revealed in another tie-break. 

After firing some mind-boggling passing shots, Hubi found himself at a crucial moment. Leading 6-4 in the tie-break, he served for the championship. His sneaky attack followed by a difficult volley seemed to have done the job. However, Zverev pulled out a heroic passing just on the outside of the line. The German then saved another championship point due to a mistake by Hubi. 

This turned out to be the point of no return. The Silesian would – logically – not be able to mentally bear such a massive disappointment. It was a question of millimetres… Now the tide had turned, and it was Zverev who was boosted with confidence. The former world number 2 provided Team Germany with an equalising point in the decider of the third set after exactly three hours of an epic battle. Although it is early January, this Hurkacz-Zverev match will more than likely be remembered as one of the matches of the year. 

There we had it. At one point all, the outcome of the United Cup 2024 final in Australia, was to be decided in the doubles match. Laura Siegemund and Alexander Zverev were facing Iga Świątek and Hubert Hurkacz. The Germans broke early on and maintained their lead to win the first set 6-4. 

Team Poland reacted immediately, with a 3-0 lead in the second set. However, this comfortable advance melted quickly, among others due to a few sloppy plays by Hubi, definitely shaken by his recent loss in singles. Both teams refused to let the other one have the upper hand until eventually, after having had four set points, Team Poland won the set 7-5 and forced a deciding super tie-break (until 10 – editor’s note). 

Here, the suspense lasted only until 3-1 for Germany. Zverev and Siegemund played impeccably well and could count on a few mistakes by the Poles. This was enough to give the Germans the final word in this remarkable match, 10-4. 

In other words, a truly heartbreaking story ending for Poland. However, and let’s emphasise it, the Poles achieved tremendous success in the United Cup as a whole. The White and Reds finished in front of Spain and Brazil in the group phase, before eliminating China and France on their way to the final. 

Overall, Polish fans can be proud of their champions as the Australian Open is approaching. Hubi gained 75 points in the singles ranking and will remain world number 9. Iga – who won every one of her five matches at the United Cup – will comfort her position on top of the charts. Not only did she win all of her singles matches, but her main rival on the tour, Aryna Sabalenka, failed to defend her 500 points in Brisbane after a harsh loss in the final. 

Świątek remains therefore world number 1 with a comfortable advance of 975 points on Sabalenka. The Varsovian is about to start her 85th week on the throne. Next target: Lindsay Davenport’s 98 weeks! 

In addition to all of that, “1GA” has had a successful week. She was elected Poland’s athlete of the year for a second time in a row, and was also hailed as the United Cup’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) on Sunday. 

 

Image: X (@UnitedCupTennis)

Author: Sébastien Meuwissen

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