Rafael Nadal suffered his second defeat in as many matches after going down 3-6 6-1 7-5 against Alex de Minaur at the United Cup.

The 22-time grand slam champion, who was also beaten by Great Britain's Cameron Norrie in his opening match, is still seeking his first victory of the season with the Australian Open just around the corner.

Home favourite De Minaur delighted the Sydney crowd by recovering from a set and break down to claim his maiden win over the world number two.

"I think it's definitely up there [as one of my best wins]," he said. "It's one of those achievements that you have unlocked in your career.

"But also, it's a big win for myself, one that I really needed. I'm going to cherish and use, take all the confidence from this and be able to hopefully take it to have a good [Australian] summer."

Spain and Australia are unable to progress to the City Finals, but Nuria Parrizas Diaz levelled the Group D tie with a 6-1 6-3 victory over Maddison Inglis.

The USA, who required just two points against Germany to advance to the next stage, set up a showdown with Great Britain after Taylor Fritz and Madison Keys enjoyed straight-set successes over Alexander Zverev and Jule Niemeier respectively. 

Italy moved to the brink of joining them in the City Finals after taking a 2-0 lead over Norway. Lorenzo Musetti overcame Viktor Durasovic in straight sets, while Martina Trevisan edged out Malene Helgo in three.

Greece require one win from their final three matches against Belgium to also advance, Stefanos Tsitsipas hit 12 aces on the way to defeating David Goffin 6-3 6-2 to level the Group A showdown at 1-1.

Poland's winner-takes-all Group B clash with Switzerland is also finely poised at 1-1. World number one Iga Swiatek beat Belinda Bencic 6-3 7-6 (7-3), before Marc-Andrea Huesler's 6-3 6-2 victory against Daniel Michalski.

Roger Federer saluted Iga Swiatek's miracle shot at the United Cup, declaring 'that was crazy' in response to a tweet from the world number one.

Swiatek - the winner of eight WTA titles in 2022 including the French Open and US Open - helped Poland to a commanding 4-1 victory over Kazakhstan in their opening match in Brisbane.

With the Poles' first win in the competition secure, the 21-year-old helped Hubert Hurkacz put the icing on the cake with a 6-3 6-4 success in their mixed doubles clash against Zhibek Kulambayeva and Grigoriy Lomakin.

Swiatek's moment of brilliance came at 30-15 in game six. Desperately chasing Lomakin's drop volley after a fiercely contested rally, she produced a wonderful backhand slice around the net post to the amazement of everyone inside the Pat Rafter Arena.

The shot was executed on several occasions by 20-time grand slam champion Federer, who retired last year, including in his third-round clash with Nick Kyrgios at the 2018 US Open.

Swiatek subsequently asked the Swiss in a light-hearted tweet: "Do you approve?" - to which he replied: "That was crazy."

The world number one is back in action on Monday when Poland ironically face Switzerland, who boast the likes of Olympic gold medallist Belinda Bencic and three-time grand slam winner Stan Wawrinka in Group B.

Dan Evans helped Great Britain reach the last eight of the inaugural United Cup as his 6-3 1-6 6-3 win over Albert Ramos-Vinolas decided the team's Group D tie against Spain.

Rafael Nadal's shock defeat to Cameron Norrie – coupled with Katie Swan's win against Nuria Parrizas-Diaz – put Spain 2-0 down in the best-of-five tie ahead of Sunday's action.

World number 13 Paula Badosa put them back into contention with a hard-fought 6-7 (6-8) 7-6 (7-5) 6-1 win against Harriet Dart, but Evans gave Britain an unassailable lead by battling past Ramos-Vinolas, recovering from a dismal second set.

Having topped Group D, Britain will face the Croup C winners – the United States, Germany or the Czech Republic – for a semi-final place on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Hubert Hurkacz doubled up to help Poland past Kazakhstan, teaming up with Iga Swiatek in the mixed doubles after beating Alexander Bublik.

Hurkacz beat Bublik 7-6 (8-6) 4-6 6-3 in just over two hours before Magda Linette overcame Zhibek Kulambayeva 6-2 6-1.

With Poland's first win in the competition secure, world number one Swiatek helped Hurkacz put the icing on the cake with a 6-3 6-4 victory against Kulambayeva and Grigoriy Lomakin.

The Czech Republic also enjoyed a fruitful day as two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova downed Laura Siegemund in straight sets to seal the team's win against Germany, but Casper Ruud was less fortunate, with Norway losing their tie against Brazil despite his success against Thiago Monteiro.

Iga Swiatek warned rivals "I'm getting stronger and stronger in my mind" as she targets another memorable season in 2023.

The world number one enjoyed a dominant 2022 as she landed eight titles, including the French Open and US Open, while also embarking on a 37-match winning streak – the longest this century on the WTA Tour – and registering 22 'bagel' sets.

Swiatek made a winning start to her 2023 campaign at the United Cup with Poland earlier in the week, beating Kazakhstan's Yulia Putintseva 6-1 6-3 in Brisbane.

While acknowledging she must not become complacent this year and rely on past glories, the 21-year-old feels better prepared for the season with the Australian Open just a fortnight away.

"I feel more solid, and I feel more stability as well because last year, Adelaide was my first tournament with a new coach [Tomasz Wiktorowski], so that was my main focus," she said.

"This year, I have totally different challenges, so it's really hard to compare. But I feel like I had more time to actually work on some technical stuff at home, and hopefully I'm going to be able to use it in matches.

"I just think that it's going to be pretty easy for my head to compare everything to last year. And I feel like it's not really going to be helpful.

"Last year, it wasn't perfect, but sometimes when you win tournaments, all your head can remember is those good moments and that it went so smoothly.

"It wasn't like that, but I don't really want to go into those tournaments and be held back by my previous results. I want to treat it as new chapters, so I'm going to try to do that.

"But this is the biggest challenge I'd say, and we'll see how I'm going to go with that. Usually when I had goals like that, I had ups and downs, but I feel like I'm getting stronger and stronger in my mind, so maybe I'm going to be able to control that."

Rafael Nadal's United Cup campaign began with defeat against Cameron Norrie as Great Britain established a 2-0 lead over Spain in Group D.

The 22-time grand slam winner surrendered a first-set lead before going down 3-6 6-3 6-4 against the world number 14, who secured his first victory in five meetings.

Norrie, who became only the second Briton after Andy Murray to beat the Spaniard, set the tone for his team, with Katie Dart also coming from behind to deny Nuria Parrizas Diaz 3-6 6-1 6-2 later on.

Meanwhile, Germany's Alexander Zverev lost in straight sets on his return to ATP action, going down 6-4 6-2 to Jiri Lehecka of the Czech Republic, who went 2-0 up in the tie after Marie Bouzkova defeated Jule Niemeier 6-2 7-5.

World number one Iga Swiatek got Poland off to a flying start against Kazakhstan in Brisbane with a commanding 6-1 6-3 victory over Yulia Putintseva, but defeat for Daniel Michalski against Timofey Skatov leaves the Group B tie finely poised.

Brazil enjoyed a flawless start against Norway in Group E. Beatriz Haddad Maia was a 6-4 6-2 winner over Malene Helgo, and Felipe Meligeni Alves overcame Viktor Durasovic 6-3 6-3.

The spoils were shared between Belgium and Bulgaria in Group A with Alison van Uytvanck beating Isabella Shinikova, before David Goffin was seen off by Grigor Dimitrov 6-4 7-5.

Croatia closed the day with a pair of victories against Argentina in Group F as Donna Vekic and Borna Coric defeated Maria Carle and Francisco Cerundolo respectively.

Carlos Alcaraz pinpointed Iga Swiatek as a hot shot example to follow as the world number one looks to successfully defend top spot in the ATP rankings.

Spaniard Alcaraz enjoyed a hugely impressive 2022 season, winning five titles including a first grand slam at the US Open.

The 19-year-old subsequently became the youngest number one in ATP history, as well as the youngest player to top the year-end rankings.

It has also been a dominant year for Swiatek, who landed eight titles including the French Open and US Open, while also embarking on a 37-match winning streak – the longest this century on the WTA Tour – and registering 22 'bagel' sets.

Alcaraz, who knows there will be greater expectations on him delivering the goods, hopes to follow in the footsteps of the runaway WTA leader.

 

"I see her year has been incredible," Alcaraz told Arab News. "She broke a record for the longest winning streak [this century]. It's amazing,

"I wish to be like her, to not lose the number one [ranking]. But I think it's almost impossible. I'm going to lose it, but the point is to recover it and stay there at number one as much as I can."

He added: "Obviously yes, all the people want to beat the number one in the world. I could feel that after the US Open, everyone had a target on me and everyone wanted to face me on court. That's what I have to be prepared for."

Despite an incredible year, Alcaraz admitted his achievements are yet to truly hit home.

"It sounds like a dream for me," he said. "Honestly, there are so many times I think about this year, about my position right now, and I still can't believe it. I'm thinking: 'Is this real? I’m number one in the world?' I'm dreaming. It's something I have to realise someday."

Rafael Nadal and Nick Kyrgios could face off in the inaugural United Cup, while WTA world number one Iga Swiatek will represent Poland.

The United Cup is the new warm-up tournament for the ATP and WTA Tour seasons, and will take place in Australia in December and January.

While ATP world number one Carlos Alcaraz will not feature, compatriot Nadal will be competing for Spain, and they have been drawn alongside Australia and Great Britain in Group D.

Those matches will be played in Perth, with a clash between Nadal and Kyrgios, who have enjoyed an entertaining rivalry down the years, in the offing.

They were set to meet in the semi-finals at Wimbledon this year, but Nadal withdrew due to injury, handing Kyrgios a walkover into his first grand slam final, which he lost to Novak Djokovic, who will not be playing in Australia.

Serbia are not among the batch of teams taking part, but even so, there remains doubt whether Djokovic would be able to enter Australia given his stance against the COVID-19 vaccine, which eventually saw him deported from the country after a drawn-out legal battle ahead of this year's Australian Open.

Emma Raducanu has decided against playing for the British team, which also does not feature Andy Murray.

Casper Ruud, the beaten US Open finalist, will play for Norway in Group E, in Brisbane, while Alexander Zverev will be in action for Germany.

Swiatek is the biggest name from the WTA Tour to enter, with the brilliant 21-year-old lining up alongside Hubert Hurkacz for Poland in Group B.

Maria Sakkari and Stefanos Tsitsipas, along with his brother Petros, will team up for Greece in Group A.

Two more countries will be admitted to the tournament later in November.

Aryna Sabalenka eliminated world number one Iga Swiatek 6-2 2-6 6-1 on Sunday to advance to the decider of the WTA Finals.

Swiatek had not lost a set during her week in Fort Worth entering the contest, earning her spot in the semi-final after straight-sets wins against Coco Gauff, Caroline Garcia and Daria Kasatkina.

Needing to start well to give herself a chance against the in-form Polish star, Sabalenka did just that, breaking Swiatek in her first service game.

Swiatek broke back instantly, but she had no response when the BelaruSsian secured two more breaks of serve in the opening frame to wrap it up in 40 minutes.

After winning only 43 per cent (12-of-28) of her service points in the first set, Swiatek seemed to figure things out in the second, raising that number to 61 per cent (17-of-28) to win the first four games and run away with it and send the match to a decider.

But Swiatek's uncharacteristic errors came back to bite her, committing two double faults in each of the three sets, and after posting a combined 21 winners with 17 unforced errors in the first two frames, she mustered only five winners with nine unforced errors in the last.

Sabalenka rattled off five consecutive games to close out the match, utilising her imposing serve to get the job done, serving 12 aces to Swiatek's one.

She will now face Caroline Garcia in the final after the Frenchwoman proved too strong for Maria Sakkari in a 6-3 6-2 victory earlier in the day.

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Sabalenka - 12/9
Swiatek - 1/6

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Sabalenka - 23/19
Swiatek - 26/26

BREAK POINTS WON

Sabalenka - 6/13
Swiatek - 4/10

World number one Iga Swiatek won the Tracy Austin Group in style with a comprehensive straight-sets victory over Coco Gauff in the WTA Finals in Fort Worth on Saturday.

Swiatek made it three wins out of three matches in the group stage without dropping a set, getting past fourth seed Gauff 6-3 6-0 in one hour and 10 minutes.

The 2022 US Open and French Open champion advances and will take on seventh seed Aryna Sabalenka in the WTA Finals semi-finals on Sunday.

The Pole made light work of Gauff, improving her head-to-head dominance to 5-0, with her 28-minute second set representing the 22nd bagel she has doled out this season.

Swiatek committed 15 unforced errors in the first set, but made only two in a lopsided second frame where she won 26 of 36 points.

Gauff had pushed Swiatek to 3-3 in the first set, before the top seed broke her twice to clinch the opening frame, putting her foot to the throat in the second.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Swiatek - 20/17
Gauff - 5/15

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Swiatek - 0/1
Gauff - 4/1

BREAK POINTS WON

Swiatek - 5/10
Gauff - 0/3

13 - Only Justine Henin in 2007 (11) has won the group dropping fewest games in the Round Robin at the WTA Finals since the current format was re-introduced in 2003 than Iga Swiatek this season (13). Tornado.@WTA @WTA_insider @WTAFinals pic.twitter.com/cAd0dnfQ3k

— OptaAce (@OptaAce) November 6, 2022

Iga Swiatek moved onto the verge of sealing her place in the final four of the WTA Finals as she cruised to a 6-3 6-2 triumph over Caroline Garcia at Fort Worth on Thursday.

Garcia was the only WTA Finals player to have beaten Swiatek this year, but the world number one swept her aside with an impressive display in one hour and 23 minutes.

Swiatek remains yet to lose a set at Fort Worth and will qualify for the semi-finals should Coco Gauff fail to beat Daria Kasatkina in two sets, or if Kasatkina wins.

Garcia managed the first break in the third game of the opener, but Swiatek broke back immediately before finding another at 4-3 up, kicking on from there to take the opening set.

The Pole was excellent in the second set, breaking Garcia twice to secure another victory and inch closer to the final four.

Swiatek gets some measure of revenge for the 6-1 1-6 6-4 defeat to Garcia at the Warsaw Open quarter-finals in July, her only loss on clay over the season.

A Kasatkina win against Gauff will see Swiatek advance as group winner, while a Gauff win in three sets will seal her progression but leave her position in the group undecided.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Swiatek - 17/8
Garcia - 16/14

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Swiatek - 1/2
Garcia - 3/3

BREAK POINTS WON

Swiatek - 4/5
Garcia - 1/6

Iga Swiatek continued her hoodoo over Daria Kasatkina as she breezed through their opening match at the WTA Finals.

Swiatek needed just an hour and 23 minutes to see off Kasatkina 6-2 6-3 in Fort Worth, Texas.

The world number one was in command throughout, her movement and intensity too much for Kasatkina in the Tracey Austin Group encounter.

Swiatek saved all three of the break points she faced and converted four of the seven chances she created for herself.

She sent down 23 winners, her highest tally in a single WTA Finals match, to complete her fifth win over Kasatkina this season.

The Pole is the first player to win five or more matches against the same opponent in a single season since Petra Kvitova against Lucie Safarova in 2014.

With her 46th such win of the year (excluding Billie Jean King Cup matches), she is the first player to win 46-plus WTA main draw matches in straight sets in a season since Serena Williams (66) and Agnieszka Radwanska (46) in 2013.

BREAK POINTS WON

Swiatek - 3/7

Kasatkina - 0/3

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Swiatek - 23/18

Kasatkina - 4/9

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Swiatek - 1/3

Kasatkina - 1/1

There will be one racing certainty when the WTA Finals gets under way: a new champion will be crowned.

Iga Swiatek heads the list of contenders to carry off the trophy in Fort Worth, Texas, having enjoyed a spectacular season.

Ascendant Americans Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff will be chasing a home victory, while Tunisia's Ons Jabeur has reached finals at Wimbledon and the US Open so loves the big occasion.

Ahead of the tournament getting under way on Monday, Stats Perform has taken a look at the eight-player field.

Swiatek still the player to beat

With no past winner in the line-up, there is every reason to look to the world number one, Swiatek, as favourite.

The 21-year-old Polish player has eight titles this year, lifting trophies at Doha, Indian Wells, Miami, Stuttgart, Rome, the French Open, the US Open and San Diego.

Indeed, she is the only grand slam singles winner in the draw, with Ash Barty having retired and Elena Rybakina absent after no ranking or race points were awarded at Wimbledon, where she was a surprise champion.

Rybakina's absence calls into question the meritocracy of this year's tournament, which is intended to showcase the top performers on tour, yet there can be no doubt the season's premier performer is in the draw.

French Open and US Open winner Swiatek's remarkable run of 10 straight-sets victories in finals (dating back to the 2020 French Open) was finally ended by Barbora Krejcikova, who sprang a shock by winning in Ostrava in early October.

But by getting back to winning ways a week later in San Diego, scrapping for a three-set victory over Donna Vekic in the title match, Swiatek produced a typically impressive response, beating Qinwen Zheng, Gauff and Pegula on her way through the draw to improve to 64-8 in her win-loss record for the year.

Here is a measure of her dominance this season: Swiatek headed the 'Race to the WTA Finals' rankings with 10,335 points, with the players in second (Jabeur) to eighth place (Daria Kasatkina) having tallies ranging between 4,555 and 2,935 points.

Is Pegula the chief rival to Swiatek?

She might not have been the player that would have sprung to mind even a month ago, but Pegula's victory at the Guadalajara Open this month was an eye-opener.

Beginning by saving match points in a thrilling three-setter against Rybakina, Pegula took down grand slam winners Bianca Andreescu, Sloane Stephens and Victoria Azarenka before swatting aside Maria Sakkari in the final.

Pegula has reached quarter-finals at the Australian, French and US Opens in 2022, and she has a tour-high 39 wins in WTA 1000 events since the beginning of last year.

She is up to third in the WTA rankings, one ahead of Coco Gauff, with the United States now having two women in the top five for the first time since October 2010, when Serena Williams was number two and sister Venus sat fourth.

As Pegula said after the Guadalajara final: "I'm definitely a very ambitious person. A little bit of a perfectionist, as well. I don't think you could win if you weren't ambitious, especially at this level.

"I feel like it's going to give me more motivation going forward knowing I can win these big titles. I think it will give me a lot of confidence ending the year, going into next year."

These are spirited words. She heads into the tournament with a 0-4 record against Swiatek in 2022, however.

Who's in, who's out, what's it all about?

As well as Swiatek and Pegula, the field for the eight-day tournament includes Caroline Garcia, Aryna Sabalenka and Sakkari, who have all featured at the WTA Finals in the past.

Four players make their debuts, including Pegula, who is joined as a newcomer by Jabeur, Gauff and Daria Kasatkina.

Gauff, 18, has become the 14th player aged under 19 to reach the WTA top five since the rankings were introduced in 1975.

She would not be the youngest WTA Finals champion, were she to lift the title, as Monica Seles has a tight grip on that record, having triumphed at the age of 16 years and 11 months at the 1990 edition.

Last year's champion Garbine Muguruza is absent. The Spaniard was expected by many to push on and enjoy a stellar 2022 season, but it did not play out that way, with the former French Open and Wimbledon winner sliding to 57th in the world rankings after a dismal campaign.

It goes to show that whoever prevails in Fort Worth, we should be cautious about treating the outcome as an indication of what to expect in the new year.

Iga Swiatek says she "wanted to go all in" to ensure she won her eighth WTA Tour title of 2022 with a 6-3 3-6 6-0 victory over Donna Vekic in the San Diego Open final on Sunday.

Swiatek became the fifth player since 2000 to win eight or more WTA-level titles in a single season after Martina Hingis, Serena Williams, Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin.

She did not have it all her own way against Vekic, with the Croatian world number 47 battling back from losing the opener to take the second set and level the match.

But Swiatek showed her class in the decisive third set, breaking Vekic three times to romp to the title.

The world number one says she had to give it everything to ensure victory over Vekic in a tough match, saying at her on-court presentation: "It was a really tight match and pretty long.

"We felt the intensity for sure. At the end I wanted to be the one who played the last ball in. I wanted to go all in.

"Knowing how well she can serve, I just wanted to be more loosened up on my return games - not think too much, use my intuition and fight for every ball."

With her round-of-16 win over Zheng Qinwen, Swiatek became the first player to win 61 matches in a single season since Caroline Wozniacki in 2017.

Frighteningly for her opponents, the 21-year-old spoke after that win of her belief that she was still a few years away from her prime.

"I wasn't expecting to have this kind of season this year," Swiatek told reporters. 

"I thought, maybe, I'm going to be at my peak when I'm 24, 25, and have that experience, maybe results like that are going to come."

Swiatek's 64 wins in 2022 is the most for any woman since Serena Williams' 78 in 2013, while the Pole has lost just one match in the United States this year.

Swiatek intends to take full advantage of San Diego's sun and sand as she celebrates another title, making it 11 wins and just two defeats in finals.

"I am speechless," the 21-year-old said in a video on Twitter. "I'm so proud of me and the team that we actually won this tournament.

"It wasn't easy so I'm happy that I believe in myself and I fought to the last point.

"I love San Diego, I'm going to enjoy the beach tomorrow!"

World number one Iga Swiatek claimed her eighth WTA Tour title of the season, storming home to claim a three-set victory over Donna Vekic in the San Diego Open final on Sunday.

Swiatek improved her record in the United States to 24-1 this season with the victory in one hour and 47 minutes, getting past the Croatian qualifier 6-3 3-6 6-0.

The Pole previously won the US Open, along with the Indian Wells and Miami titles this season.

Top seed Swiatek secured her 64th win of the season, which is the most since Serena Williams won 78 in 2013.

Vekic ensured it was not easy for Swiatek, continuing her excellent week – knocking out Maria Sakkari, Karolina Pliskova, Aryna Sabalenka and Danielle Collins - with a strong second set.

The Croatian actually had to complete her semi-final earlier on Sunday after a rain-interrupted encounter with Collins, winning 6-4 4-6 7-6 (7-2) after resuming 4-2 down in the third set, before taking on Swiatek.

Swiatek's dominance was felt, winning 82 per cent of her second-serve points, ruthlessly converting four of six break points as well.

Vekic only generated one break point for the match but she took it, keeping the match alive in the second set where she was more aggressive.

The 2022 US Open and French Open champion responded emphatically in the final frame, capitalising on three of four break points and winning 24 of the 29 points for the set to triumph.

World number one Iga Swiatek qualified for her ninth WTA Tour of the year, coming from a set down to get past fourth seed Jessica Pegula at the San Diego Open on a rain-affected Saturday.

Swiatek was at her dominant best against Pegula after dropping the opening frame, breaking her opponents' serve four times in the latter two sets to triumph 4-6 6-2 6-2 in two hours and six minutes.

The Pole extended her domination of Pegula this year, winning all four of their encounters in 2022, while the victory is her 63rd of the season, equaling Angelique Kerber's mark from 2016. Swiatek is also 23-1 in the United States this season.

Swiatek finished with 22-8 forehand winners, while she won 75 per cent of her second serves, compared to Pegula's 38 per cent.

After Pegula won the first set that included three breaks of serve, the match was halted for more than an hour due to rain, with Swiatek revealing post-game she passed time with crosswords.

That worked for the top seed who raced to a 3-0 second-set lead after the resumption and did not drop serve for the remainder of the match, saving three break points at 2-2 in the third.

The 2022 French Open and US Open champion will take on either Croatian qualifier Donna Vekic or American world number 19 Danielle Collins in Sunday's decider after their semi-final was ultimately suspended due to rain.

Collins leads Vekic 4-6 6-4 4-2 with the match restarted three times after rain, before the call was made to postpone it until Sunday, no earlier than 12.30pm local time, with the final to be played later in the day.

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