The Insider Wrap is a recap of everything you need to know from the week that was. In a busy opening week of the 2023 season, the mixed-team United Cup made its inaugural appearance, and a couple of Top 10 players returned to title-winning form.
Performance of the Week: Jessica Pegula
Jessica Pegula finished her breakthrough 2022 campaign with a bout of metaphorical whiplash. After capping off the regular season by winning the biggest title of her career in Guadalajara, she struggled in her WTA Finals debut and went 0-6 combined in singles and doubles.
Pegula showed zero signs of a 2022 hangover at the United Cup, where she went 4-1 in singles, including a 6-2, 6-2 win over World No.1 Iga Swiatek in the United Cup semifinals. Pegula also went 4-0 in mixed doubles.
Pegula was the de facto leader of Team USA, which dominated the inaugural event to sweep their way to the title.
Just waiting for my as captain https://t.co/h6OrpdLksI— Jessie Pegula (@JLPegula) January 4, 2023
Breakthrough of the Week: Linda Noskova
The Czech Republic has a number of rising teenagers, and 18-year-old Noskova led the charge this week. Noskova made the Adelaide International 1 final as a qualifier, becoming the youngest finalist at a WTA 500-level event or higher since Caroline Wozniacki won New Haven in 2008.
Demonstrating a powerful game, Noskova saved a match point in qualifying and then had her first two Top 10 wins (over No.8 Daria Kasatkina and No.2 Ons Jabeur) en route to her first WTA singles final. Her ranking jumped from No.102 to No.56 on Monday.
"I think that when I trust myself and my game especially, I can just freely go for it, I can definitely play and actually beat some of the best players in the world right now," Noskova said after the final. "That's a really great feeling. But I'm obviously going to have to develop my game. There are a lot of blind spots. There's always things to work on, I think."
Aryna Sabalenka: The World No.5 went 0-for-3 in finals last season, but she returned to the winner's circle this year, beating Noskova in the Adelaide International 1 final for her 11th career title.
Coco Gauff: Another Top 10 player hoisting a singles trophy for the first time since 2021 is 18-year-old American Gauff, who swept to her third career title in Auckland, despite persistent rain forcing many early-round matches indoors.
Martina Trevisan: The Italian played the best match of her career to win the clear match of the United Cup, defeating No.6 Maria Sakkari 6-3, 6-7(4), 7-5 in the semifinals. The victory shifted the balance of the tie and helped boost Italy into the final.
Petra Kvitova: The Czech was impressive in her two matches at the United Cup in Sydney. She was the only player to get a win off Pegula and was striking the ball incredibly well.
Rebeka Masarova: In 2016, Masarova won the Junior Roland Garros title and reached her first WTA semifinal in Gstaad. Nearly seven years later, she returned to a tour-level semifinal in Auckland and went one better this time, making her first singles final as a qualifier.
Team Kazakhstan: The highlight of the United Cup was the team unity throughout the event, but there was something utterly charming about Team Kazakhstan. Behind playing captain Alexander Bublik, the team competed hard while also leaning into the entertainment factor. Their infectious energy made No.464 Zhibek Kulambayeva a fan favorite in Brisbane.
Iga Swiatek: The World No.1 was the star of the show at the United Cup in Brisbane and she was more than up to the task. Her physical 6-3, 7-6(3) win over Belinda Bencic in the group stage was a statement performance.
Swiatek also hit the Shot of the Week.
18: United Cup champions Team USA won 18 of their 20 singles matches during the tournament. The Americans' No.2 players, Madison Keys and Frances Tiafoe, each went a perfect 5-0 in singles.
10: Sabalenka has won 10 of her 11 career singles titles on hard court, including this week at Adelaide 1. Sabalenka's one title off hard court came in her most recent title run before this week, at the WTA 1000 clay-court event in Madrid in May of 2021.
22: Gauff dropped only 22 games in her dominant run to the Auckland title -- an average of just 4.4 games lost in her five victories.
3: Sabalenka has won a title in the opening week of the WTA season three times. She also claimed Week 1 titles in 2019 (Shenzhen) and 2021 (Abu Dhabi).
This coming week, the tour stays in Adelaide with the second consecutive WTA 500 event in the capital city of the state of South Australia. World No.4 Caroline Garcia, who went 2-0 for France at the United Cup, and six Grand Slam champions are in the main draw.
The WTA 250 Hobart International returns for the first time since 2020. No.1 seed Marie Bouzkova and 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin are among the contestants in the Tasmanian capital city.