Last year, Jessica Pegula lost all of her four matches against Iga Swiatek. But the new year has brought with it a burgeoning confidence for the American. In 2023, Pegula’s now 1-0 against the World No.1.

Pegula scored a decisive 6-2, 6-2 victory over Swiatek on Friday at the United Cup semifinals in Sydney. When Frances Tiafoe followed that up with similarly definitive 6-3, 6-3 defeat of Kacper Zuk, Poland found itself in the precarious predicament of needing to win all three matches Saturday against the United States to advance to the final.

It’s the same for No.1-seeded Greece, surprisingly down to Italy 2-0 after Martina Trevisan  and Lorenzo Musetti won their singles matches. Trevisan was a 6-3, 6-7 (4), 7-5 winner over No.6-ranked Maria Sakkari in a contest that ran 3 hours and 15 minutes. Musetti was a 6-1, 6-1 winner against Stefanos Sakellaridis.

Here’s how Saturday’s matches -- two singles and a mixed doubles encounter, if necessary -- shape up:

U.S. 2, Poland 0

The good news for Poland? The team is rolling out the No.10-ranked player to start things off in Hubert Hurkacz. The bad? His opponent, Taylor Fritz, is ranked at No.9.

“I think Taylor and Hubi is going to be tough,” said Tiafoe, who is now a heady 4-0 in singles matches at the United Cup. “I think whoever serves better is probably going to get over the line. They’re both in two different stages of their career. They're both playing the best tennis of their life. So we’ll see.”

Friday’s results

  • Jessica Pegula (USA) def. Iga Swiatek (POL) 6-2, 6-2
  • Frances Tiafoe (USA) def. Kacper Zuk (POL) 6-3, 6-3

If Hurkacz manages to win, Magda Linette will try to level the tie -- bringing it to a deciding mixed doubles confrontation. Linette meets Madison Keys, who is 3-0 in singles so far in United Cup play.

“I gotta back Maddie with her big game, as long as she serves pretty well,” Pegula said. “She’s been playing some really solid tennis. I think it helps she kind of got that tough three-setter out of the way, so hopefully she’ll feel pretty loose tomorrow.”

Said Swiatek, who was in tears after falling to Pegula, “Magda played really solid match two days ago. So I hope she’s going to be confident. I would say [Linette and Hurkacz] are both kind of, you know, 50/50, but it depends. I will do my best on the bench.

“I wasn’t able to do that on court today, but I will do my best to cheer and help them.

Hot Shot: Dialled-In Pegula Strikes Clean Winner In Sydney 2023

2023 United Cup

Saturday, Jan. 7

Ken Rosewall Arena, 10 a.m. start

Hubert Hurkacz (POL) vs. Taylor Fritz (USA) 

Head to head: 1-1

Magda Linette (POL) vs. Madison Keys (USA), to follow 

Head to head: 1-1

Iga Swiatek and Hubert Hurkacz (POL) vs. Jessica Pegula and Taylor Fritz (USA), to follow

Italy 2, Greece 0

One week in, Italian captain Vincenzo Santopadre is starting to run out of material for his United Cup press conferences.

“Of course I have to say the same thing that I said last two, three matches, but I’m really super, super happy about this,” he said after his team bolted to a 2-0 lead. “We know that we have a strong group, but I think we have unbelievable guys, because they are helping each other so much.”

Friday’s results

  • Martina Trevisan (ITA) def. Maria Sakkari (GRE) 6-3, 6-7 (4), 7-5
  • Lorenzo Musetti (ITA) def. Stefanos Sakellaridis (GRE) 6-1, 6-1

It falls to World No.4 Stefanos Tsitsipas to keep Greece alive, but he’s facing a major threat in Matteo Berrettini. Tsitsipas has won the two previous matches.

Despina Papamichail has a 1-0 record against Lucia Bronzetti -- but that came five years ago at an ITF $15,000 event.

If they can level the tie, it would all come down to a mixed doubles match between Tsitsipas and Sakkari and the Italian team of Camilla Rosatello and Musetti.

Saturday, Jan. 7

Ken Rosewall Arena, not before 5 p.m.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) vs. Matteo Berrettini (ITA) 

Head to head: Tsitsipas, 2-0

Despina Papamichail (GRE) vs. Lucia Bronzetti (ITA), to follow

Head to head: Papamichail, 1-0.

Maria Sakkari and Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) vs. Camilla Rosatello and Lorenzo Musetti, to follow