Rafael Nadal has reached for an overhaul of the developing United Cup match as his Spanish side prepares for the second day of a dead tie against Australia.
The new teams’ game debuted in Sydney, Perth, and Brisbane this season but has been confirmed to be more miss than hit with party withdrawals, a complex schedule, and ties that count for nothing.
Unprompted, Nadal gave his thoughts on the form following his three-set defeat to Australian Alex de Minaur, part of a link that means very little, given Great Britain had already shifted from the group after two wins.
“Putting things in outlook (for) this match, I find a gloomy point,” the world No.2 said. “Competition is amazing. The idea is great, and it’s not great that we are recreating for zero today. It’s the first year of this contest, so that’s the kind of thing that we ought to fix, to enhance, and to make it more enjoyable for everyone.”
Nadal said that the loser of the first tie should play the group that hasn’t had a game, so there is more on the line. Spain could not move in the competition after discovering themselves down 3-1 to Great Britain, meaning the last mixed doubles and five matches against Australia were essentially meaningless.
Nadal subsequently missed the mixed replicas against Great Britain but said he would have recreated if it meant bringing up the point that could have helped the cause of the Australia tie was a live one.
Instead, the 23-year-old Australian registered his first-ever win over 22-time grand slam winner Nadal at the United Cup, consuming the Spaniard 3-6, 6-1, 7-5.
Later on Tuesday, Tennis Australia director Craig Tiley launched a fierce defense of the United Cup, a key lead-up to the Australian Open.
“The United Cup’s fantastic,” the Australian Open boss said. “If you observed last night, we’ve had full stadiums, and over 120,000 people already go via the gate: yesterday, 40,000 individuals in one day in Perth, Brisbane, and Sydney.
“That’s amazing – we’ve never had that. It beats most prominent tennis events worldwide for one day’s attendance. So (it is) unbelievably thriving, great, favorable feedback from the players.”
Tiley’s shining endorsement of the United Cup will disappoint those calling for a return to the traditional summer schedule of Australian Open lead-in ATP and WTA matches in Sydney, Brisbane, and Adelaide.
But he did admit some tweaking may happen, and it is apprehended causing the composite image fits guaranteed live rubbers next year is already beneath debate.
“We’ll do a debrief (on) what enhanced for 2024,” Tiley said. “It’s essential to know that we reported this event five weeks before we began about a five-week run-up to deliver on it.
“Everyone enjoyed us only doing it in 2024, and we decided to do it in 2023. So I’m scornful that the teams pulled joint what they pulled together. It’s going be a great event, and it’s going to finish strong in the finals in Sydney.”
Only on Monday night, Sydney-born de Minaur had never beaten a player ranked No one or No 2 in the world. In defeating Nadal, he has now destroyed arguably the best of all time.
“It’s a big win, one that I needed. I’m going to cherish and use all the confidence from this and be able to take it to have a good Aussie summer, hopefully,” de Minaur said.
World No 2 Nadal started inauspiciously, running down a before the break, only to reel off four consecutive games to snatch the first set. That momentum continued with another break to create the second set, only for the Sydney resident to produce some of his trademark grit and storm through the next six games.
The decider was a cross bag – de Minaur’s foot speed and power to rip out winners from defensive positions against Nadal’s brute force and experience. The pair exchanged breaks halfway through the set before an error-strewn 11th game from Nadal saw de Minaur fit for the match and claim the win.
After a patchy rear half of 2022 and a shock loss to Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie in Spain’s opening tie, queries have been submitted about Nadal’s form and inspiration as he heads into the twilight of his career. Since stretching out of the Wimbledon semi-final of 2022 against Nick Kyrgios, he has had four wins from 11 starts.
“I need hours on the court; I need struggles like this,” the Melbourne Park protecting champ said. “I keep two weeks before the Australian Open forms. I can’t say that the problem is ideal, but at the exact time, I can’t say that it’s very negative because, for moments, I was playing well. Two matches will help me, and I need to win a couple of matches.”