Novak Djokovic shrugs off injury scare, wins Adelaide title
Aryna Sabalenka wins women's title at Aussie Open tuneup
Novak Djokovic showed no signs of an injury that might derail his Australian Open campaign when he beat unseeded American Sebastian Korda 6-7 (8), 7-6 (3), 6-4 Sunday to win the Adelaide International.
Djokovic worried Open organizers when he said after his semifinal in Adelaide against Daniil Medvedev that he had been troubled by a tight hamstring. He said the injury eased as the match progressed.
If there had been any lingering issue, it likely would have been exposed in Sunday's marathon final that stretched over more than three hours and finished with Djokovic claiming his 92nd career singles title.
He also took his second Adelaide title 16 years after his first; he won the tournament in 2007, aged 19.
Djokovic had to save a match and championship point at 5-6 in the second set Sunday and was fully stretched by the 22-year-old Korda, son of 1998 Australian Open champion Petr Korda.
The match turned on a handful of points. Djokovic held serve to love in his first four service games of the final set and then held serve after being taken to deuce by Korda in his fifth service game.
Djokovic then rallied from 15-40 down at 5-4 in Korda's next service game to win four-straight points and take the set in 51 minutes — and the match in 3 hours, 9 minutes.
"I hope everyone enjoyed the show tonight, it's been an amazing week," Djokovic said. "Seb's had an amazing tournament and put in an amazing effort today.
"I think he was closer to victory at times today than I was. It was only a couple of shots, a couple of points."
Djokovic at times showed irritation with this coach Goran Ivanicevic who supported him from a courtside box or remonstrated with himself after a wasted point.
"I'd like to thank my team for handling me, tolerating me in the good and bad times today. I'm sure they didn't have such a blast with me going back and forth with them but I appreciate them being here."
Korda produced some outstanding service games and troubled Djokovic at times with the kick of his serve. But he was broken for only the second time in the match in the 10th game of the deciding set, with only a couple of points making the difference.
Sabalenka halts qualifier's amazing run in final
Earlier, second-seeded Aryna Sabalenka claimed her 11th WTA Tour singles title but her first in almost two years when she overcame qualifier Linda Noskova 6-2 7-6 (4) in the women's final.
In doing so she ended an extraordinary run by the 18-year-old Noskova who beat third-seeded Daria Kasatkina and former Australian Open champion Viktoria Asarenka in the main draw on the way to her first final.
Sabalenka didn't drop a set all week and seemed set for another comfortable win when she took the first set on Sunday. But Noskova was much more competitive in the second, holding serve and putting pressure on Sabalenka's serve, especially with her powerful backhand returns.
"I think I'm a different player right now," Sabalenka said. "Maybe a little bit smarter, a little bit calmer on court. Just a little bit of everything changed.
"I want to congratulate [Noskova] on an amazing week. I think you're going to have a great future and 100 percent appear in many more finals."
Sabalenka's last single title came in Madrid in May 2021 but she went without a title in 2022 despite reaching three finals.
She ended the year ranked fifth after qualifying for the season-ending WTA Finals in Fort Worth where she lost in the final to Caroline Garcia.
Sabalenka now has won three tournaments in the first week of a season after Shenzen in 2019 and Abu Dhabi in 2021.
Americans win inaugural United Cup
The United States claimed the inaugural United Cup in Sydney on Sunday in convincing fashion with an overpowering display over Italy in the final of the mixed teams event.
No. 9-ranked Taylor Fritz gave the U.S. an unassailable 3-0 lead in the best-of-five matchup when edging former Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini 7-6 (4), 7-6 (7).
The Indian Wells Masters champion failed to convert nine break points but faced none on his own serve and proved the steadier player in the two tiebreakers.
He was mobbed by his teammates at Ken Rosewall Arena after clinching the title for the Americans.
"We came in with really high hopes before the start of the event and I was really happy to be in the position to clinch the match and just the emotions when you win and everyone comes running at you, it is amazing," Fritz said.
"We have gotten a lot of team bonding this week and it was a lot of fun."
Jessica Pegula put the U.S. on the path to victory by beating Martina Trevisan 6-4, 6-2, continuing her strong form, which included a win over top-ranked Iga Swiatek on Friday.
Frances Tiafoe, a 2022 US Open semifinalist, extended the lead when Lorenzo Musetti withdrew with a shoulder injury after losing the first set of their match 6-2.
Madison Keys continued the U.S. dominance in the final when defeating Lucia Bronzetti 6-3, 7-2 in what was rendered a dead rubber in terms of the title.
Deserving of 'favourite' label
The U.S. were considered favourites for the 18-nation tournament based on the strength of a team where all four singles players were ranked inside the world's top 20.
Heading into the final, the U.S. had lost just two of the 20 rubbers they played in ties against the Czech Republic, Germany, Great Britain and Poland.
Dual-Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova defeated Pegula in the opening tie of the event, while 2022 Wimbledon semifinalist Cameron Norrie beat Fritz in three sets on Jan. 4.
Similarly to Fritz's 7-6, 7-6 victory over Poland's Hubert Hurkacz on Saturday, the clash between Fritz and Berrettini was dominated by serving.
But Berrettini, who fell in three sets to Stefanos Tsitsipas in a semifinal against Greece on Saturday, lost his composure early in the first tiebreaker and late in the second to give Fritz the victory.
"I had a lot of chances in there and he kept playing so well on those chances, so he made it really tough for me," Fritz said.
Pegula claimed the first three games against Trevisan and then withstood a challenge from the No. 27-ranked player late in the first set on the way to a solid victory.
No. 3-ranked Pegula said that as her team's top-ranked player of either sex, she wanted to lead by example.
"I wanted to win because I am the No. 1 American on the team. I wanted to embrace that. I did not want to shy away from that," she said.
Tiafoe, ranked No. 19, was in a dominant position against Musetti when the Italian ended the match on the opening point of the second set.
The 20-year-old had earlier received medical treatment after dropping serve to trail 2-5 in the opening set.
U.S. coach David Witt, who is also Pegula's individual coach, praised his players for their teamwork.
"It has been an honor to be a coach of them and enjoy the time we have had together. It has been awesome," he said.
With files from CBC Sports