Lucia Bronzetti clinched Italy’s place in the United Cup final in style with a 78-minute 6-2, 6-3 victory over Valentini Grammatikopoulou.
Italy led Greece 2-0 overnight, but Stefanos Tsitsipas clawed one point back by defeating Matteo Berrettini 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-4 in the third match of the tie.
“It was not easy, because it was the most important point,” Bronzetti said. “I felt pressure because I had to win.”
Italy lost its City Final in Brisbane against Poland, but earned a spot in Sydney as the best-placed runner-up. They have taken full advantage, and will now try to lift the trophy on Sunday.
With Greece’s No. 2 women’s singles player Despina Papamichail unable to play, the last-minute substitution of Valentini Grammatikopoulou could have been an advantage: the No.199-ranked 25-year-old had beaten Bronzetti in both of their previous meetings, including in the final of last August’s Vancouver 125 event to seal the biggest title of her career.
However, an unbothered Bronzetti came out in top form, smothering Grammatikopoulou with depth and changes of direction. It was the Greek player who played as though taken by surprise by an unexpected opponent, racking up 15 errors to only three winners in a nervy first set.
Grammatikopoulou settled to make the second a closer contest, pounding away several sharp forehand winners. But Bronzetti responded by raising her own level, breaking in the third game after an off forehand winner followed by a dead net cord. A series of terrific passing shots helped her maintain her lead through to the finish, and an errant Grammatikopoulou drive volley sealed the Italian’s first match point.
“I knew that it would have been a tough match,” Bronzetti said. “I’m proud of myself, because I think that I had a good attitude in the court, and I also played good.”
Photo Credit: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images
Tsitsipas gave his country a chance when he produced a heroic effort against Berrettini. The Greek kept alive the tie when he rallied past the Italian after two hours and 35 minutes.
“What a great atmosphere out here, I’m loving it,” Tsitsipas said. “We won this together guys.”
For the first half of the No. 1 men’s singles match, Berrettini was in control. Full of confidence after victories against Thiago Monteiro and Top 10 stars Casper Ruud and Hubert Hurkacz earlier in the mixed-teams competition, the Italian used his booming serve and thunderous forehand to keep the Greek on the back foot.
Despite having the racquet taken out of his hand for much of the match, Tsitsipas began to encourage the Ken Rosewall Arena crowd to involve itself midway into the second set. That proved the turning point.
The Greek fans enthusiastically complied, waving flags and supporting its top-ranked male player. Cries of “Hellas! Hellas! Hellas!” began reverberating through the crowd.
“It was personally a great match, a great atmosphere,” Berrettini said. “We knew that in Australia there is a big Greek community, so we felt it yesterday obviously when the No. 1 player was playing. It was even bigger. It was really nice.”
Suddenly, despite being down a set, momentum was on Tsitsipas’ side. Berrettini, who rarely let slip his concentration during the match, misfired throughout the tie-break, which the Greek took full advantage of.
After firing up the crowd, Tsitsipas, who was seemingly hanging on for much of the first two sets, used the support to his advantage. Berrettini earned a break chance at 3-2 in the decider, but missed a forehand up the line. Tsitsipas surged from there to claim his country’s first win of the tie.
“Somehow I hung in there. I was waiting for my chances. He’s a big server as we all know. He hits some bombs consistently, so you have to accept a few and you have to move on from that point, concentrate on your serve,” Tsitsipas said. “I played a very good game in that game that I broke. I was able to play with a lot of intensity and I think my concentration peaked at that particular game.”