The United Cup showpiece final will crown a new champion team when the relentless German squad faces off against the dominant Polish force on Sunday at Ken Rosewall Arena in Sydney, Australia.
Germany and Poland emerged victorious from the knockout semifinals against Australia and France, respectively, held at the Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre.
Over nine days, the finalists fought off each of their opponents at the United Cup, leaving everything on the court to win fierce battles on their way to lead their nations to the ultimate showdown on Sunday.
WTA world number one Iga Swiatek leads Team Poland, having launched her 2024 season with a triumph on December 30 over Brazilian Beatriz Haddad Maia at the event.
Building from there, she went the distance, dropping just one set across all four women’s singles matches she contested, helping her country become the first to qualify for the United Cup final.
She also found success playing mixed doubles with Hubert Hurkacz, winning all two clashes they paired through the group stage.
On Saturday, she faced off against World No. 20 Caroline Garcia, who stole a set from the Pole player, adding pressure from the start.
However, the 22-year-old from Warsaw worked her way back, coming from a set down to edge an unrelenting adversary 4-6, 6-1, 6-1 after one hour and 45 minutes.
Assessing the semifinal, Swiatek commented: “Sometimes it’s a bit hard to point [to] one thing that changed [after the first set].
“I just feel like I needed to calm down a little bit and not rush it, and also observe the ball a little bit more because I felt like I was sometimes off the timing. Maybe because we came from Perth, but I needed some time to adjust, and I did that, so I’m happy.”
Perth served as city host to Poland, competing at the RAC Arena against Brazil and Spain to finish on top of Group A.
The quarterfinal bound saw Team China falling 0-3 to the powerful squad despite delivering high-level performances on its debut at the tournament.
Earlier on Saturday, World No. 9 Hurkacz opened tie play against Frenchman Adrian Mannarino, giving his country a 1-0 lead after producing a 6-3, 7-5 victory.
“Hubi played a great match today. He had everything under control, and it was nice watching that. It [made it] a little bit easier for me,” Swiatek added.
The 26-year-old, who did not face a breakpoint throughout the match, won 86 percent of the first serve points, courtesy of his trademark booming serve, firing 15 aces.
“Today was a real battle. Adrian was playing really, really tricky shots, and it’s really difficult to play against,” Hurkacz stressed.
“I was just battling for every single point, and I think mentally, I was able to stay in the present, stay positive before each point. I was also really resilient today.”
With the ticket to the final in their pockets, Katarzyna Kawa and Jan Zielinski hit the court to meet French fourth seeds Elixane Lechemia and Edouard Roger-Vasselin in the mixed doubles encounter.
The Pole pair sealed a straight sets win, notching a 3-0 triumph over France to improve last year’s performance.
In 2023, Poland was ousted in the semifinals by eventual champions, the United States.
Meanwhile, Team Germany fought a monumental battle versus home nation Australia, headlined by the all-court player Alex de Minaur, who excelled during the team competition.
After winning Group C by powering past the USA and Team Great Britain, the Aussies roared to the last four by taking out Serbia on Wednesday with a perfect score.
Moreover, De Minaur rose to the occasion in style, capturing the biggest win of his career by upsetting World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in Perth.
On Saturday evening, things almost went the Aussie way, but on the other side of the net, Team Germany, which booked its place in the semifinals by beating Greece on Friday, recovered lost ground to clinch a colossal tie against Australia, advancing to Sunday’s final.
In top form, World No. 7 Alexander Zverev became a pivotal piece of the German puzzle that could have fallen apart when the team fell short of winning Group D, losing to France in their round-robin tie.
And that could have been the case again on Saturday if not for a stellar performance by the duo Zverev and Laura Siegemund, a team effort worth a golden ticket.
Together, they grabbed a clinical 7-6(2), 6-7(2), 15-13 mixed doubles win over the pair from down under, Matthew Ebden and Storm Hunter to reach the final.
Addressing the squad’s ups and downs, Zverev asserted: “After the singles match, it was obviously disappointing, but I thought the level of the match was extremely high. You’re disappointed, but we were still in the tie, still had a chance to win it, and I’m happy that we did that today.”
The previous contest proved to be a test of fire for the German hopes, which got off to an ideal start.
Former world number one Angelique Kerber toppled Ajla Tomljanovic 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (9/7) after two hours and 34 minutes.
Kerber’s effort marked her first singles victory of the event, coming from an 18-month break from tour-level competition.
Nonetheless, the men’s singles match result would leave little breathing room for the teams in contention.
At the hands of De Minaur, 24, who will break into the Top 10 on Monday for the first time in his career, Australia level up 1-1.
The seventh-time ATP titlist showcased a powerful, ruthless performance, fighting back from a set down to outlast World No. 7 Zverev 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 after two hours and 40 minutes.
“I hung in there. Sascha is a hell of a competitor. He’s a hell of a player, just being too good for me,” De Minaur explained afterward.
“I managed to get out of jail a little bit in that second set, a couple of breakpoints, and then I just freed up a little bit and all of a sudden got a couple of cheap errors from him late in the second set, and the whole momentum changed, the crowd got behind, and I just tried to ride the wave.”
Zverev made up for the lost ground by playing the deciding mixed doubles alongside Siegemund, a rollercoaster of a match.
Together, they saved two match points in the breathtaking match tiebreak, celebrating the triumph after two hours and 19 minutes.
“It’s just very emotional. It’s a team competition, and it’s just so nice to have the support,” Siegemund asserted.
“They played amazing singles today, and with all respect to Sascha, he had a tough singles and then, to come out 25 minutes later to play a really intense mixed, all respect. I think he carried this match today. I think we can just be happy to be in the final. We deserve it.”