Swiatek, Hurkacz clinch United Cup semifinal spot for Team Poland

World No.1 Iga Swiatek propelled Team Poland into the United Cup semifinals for the second straight year by defeating China’s Zheng Qinwen 6-2, 6-3 in Perth on Wednesday.

Following the win by her fellow Top 10 Pole Hubert Hurkacz in the opening men’s singles match, four-time Grand Slam champion Swiatek took 1 hour and 34 minutes to beat 21-year-old Zheng and clinch the quarterfinal tie.

Poland, who lost to eventual champion United States in last year’s final four, will now travel from Perth to Sydney to compete in this weekend’s semifinals.

“I’m really happy with my game, and also how the atmosphere in the team is,” Swiatek said on court, after her win. “I really feel like we can just be better when we’re together, so for sure playing [with Hurkacz] is an exciting thing to do, and I’m real happy with every match that I play here.”

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Zheng, ranked at a career-high No.14 and the 2023 WTA Most Improved Player, came into the match 0-4 against Swiatek, but she had pushed the Pole to a deciding set on three of those four occasions.

The top Chinese player went ahead by an early break on Wednesday as she aimed to get on the board in that head-to-head and collect her first win over a reigning World No.1.

But 22-year-old Swiatek swiftly regrouped, and from 2-0 down she won the next six games to sweep through the first set. Swiatek went 3-for-3 on break points in the opener.

Zheng continued to battle in the second set, fighting back from 3-0 down and saving five break points in a gutsy hold for 3-3.

However, Swiatek reclaimed the break at 5-3 with a sturdy return game, then converted her second match point to seal a trip to the semis for her nation. Swiatek won 80 percent of points when returning the Zheng second serve.

“I played up to my expectations in my singles,” Swiatek said. “Qinwen put some pressure on me, especially at the beginning of the match, but I was able to go even a level higher. I’m happy with how I played.”

In the first match of the tie, Hurkacz moved Poland to the brink of the semifinals when he defeated Zhang Zhizhen 6-3, 6-4 and put his country 1-0 up.

The Pole swung freely throughout the one-hour, 22-minute clash in Perth, backing up thunderous first serves with bulldozing forehands to improve to 3-1 in the pair’s head-to-head.

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“It is always a tough match against him,” Hurkacz said. “He can play amazing shots and is such a tough competitor. I am really happy with that victory today.

“I believe I have more in my game but I was really happy with my performance today. Iga is insane. She is going to fight really hard for Poland now.”

Hurkacz is now 2-1 on the new season, having also defeated Thiago Seyboth Wild in Perth. Last year the 26-year-old clinched the second ATP Masters 1000 title of his career in Shanghai.

Katarzyna Piter and Jan Zielinski made it a perfect day for Poland, coming in to win the mixed doubles 6-3, 5-7, [10-7] over You Xiaodi and Fajing Sun.

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