United Cup: Double wins give France and Switzerland the edge

Belinda Bencic celebrates Credit: Alamy
Belinda Bencic celebrates Credit: Alamy

Belinda Bencic and Marc-Andrea Huesler gave Switzerland a crucial edge over Kazakhstan in the United Cup.

Bencic opened her season with a 7-6(0), 6-3 victory over Yulia Putintseva in Brisbane.

Twice Putintseva established a lead, but twice Bencic hauled her in and won the set to claim the opening win for Switzerland.

“I’m happy I kept fighting,” Bencic said. “For sure the positive attitude as well from my team, the crowd, and the great atmosphere got me through.”

Bencic said the captaincy of Stan Wawrinka made a big difference for her as she rallied to her win.

“How can you not listen to such a champion when he’s telling you things,” Bencic said, referring to Wawrinka. “I was trying to listen, to focus, and do what I had to do.”

Huesler also had a real battle on his hands, but ultimately he fought past 21-year-old Timofey Skatov 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 in a match that took two hours and 23 minutes to complete.

Skatov fought and battled for his nation inside the Pat Rafter Arena, displaying the grit and game that helped him win his first ATP Challenger Tour championship in Italy last October. The Swiss player, though, handled the pressure too coolly, fending off six of the seven break points he faced to win.

Huesler, who is 26 years old and now ranked No. 56 in the ATP Rankings, is playing the greatest tennis of his career after a fantastic end to 2022. The southpaw was just within the Top 200 at this time last year, having won his maiden ATP Tour championship in Sofia.

Earlier France’s Alize Cornet and Arthur Rinderknech had given their country the edge over Argentina.

Cornet eased her way to a 6-2, 6-1 victory against 147th-ranked Carle in one hour and 15 minutes.

“I barely knew anything about [Carle],” said Cornet afterwards. “I got to see that she had a pretty good forehand and she was moving around on the court well. She’s a grinder too, and really motivated. I felt she was ready for the fight, so I was trying to be even more ready than her. Overall, I was trying to stay focused on what I had to do myself, leaning on my strengths, and I thought I did it pretty well.

“The first four games were pretty tight — I was feeling the nerves, to be honest! — and then I played better and better. I loosened up my game and it was a pretty entertaining match for the crowd and for me.”

Rinderknech reached his maiden ATP Final at the Adelaide International 2 in 2022 and is eager to continue his enjoyment of Aussie conditions.

The 27-year-old Frenchman produced a clinical display to down Francisco Cerundolo 6-4, 6-2 to secure a great United Cup start for France.

“I love the courts here in Australia,” said Rinderknech in his on-court interview. “I felt really good last year. It was my first time in Australia, so I hope for another good summer [here]. I played really well on the big points, it helped me a lot, and I’m happy with the win tonight.”

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