Germany came back from a 0-1 deficit to defeat Italy in Group D at the United Cup in Sydney. 

Jasmine Paolini gave Italy a 1-0 lead over Germany at the United Cup in Sydney, surviving a bout of cramps to defeat Angelique Kerber 6-4, 7-5 in the first match of the former World No.1's comeback from maternity leave. Kerber bounced back to pair with Alexander Zverev to win the decisive mixed doubles rubber 6-3, 6-0 over Sonego and Angelica Moratelli.

"Playing my first match after 18 months, it was really special, really intense," Kerber said. "Also, a close match. I think I already played on a really high level against her, but of course I think there are still missing few things, but that's why I'm here, that's why I am looking forward to have more matches."

In the opening singles rubber, Paolini appeared to be cruising at 6-4, 3-1 up, but was forced to recover from 3-4 down after forfeiting two games in order to receive medical treatment in the second set.

Three-time Grand Slam champion Kerber was competing for the first time since Wimbledon 2022, having given birth to daughter Liana in February. But Paolini, whose improvement from No.59 to her current career-high of No.30 last season garnered her a nomination for Most Improved Player of 2023, was able to out-hit and out-grit the German over the course of a riveting 1 hour and 48 minutes.

A nail-biting first set saw at least one break point feature in eight out of 10 games, and incremental momentum shifts meant that it was on a knife-edge to the very end. Kerber's trademark forehand down the line was on song as she went up 3-1, only for Paolini to reel off four straight games to lead 5-3. The Italian was unable to serve the set out, but came through a brilliant seven-deuce tussle, filled with winners on both sides, to convert her sixth set point in the next game.

Paolini found herself embroiled in another marathon game at 6-4, 3-2 up as she pushed to regain her break lead in the second set. On her sixth break point of the game, she fell to the ground, clutching her left calf. In order to receive medical treatment, Paolini was required to forfeit all the games until the next change of ends, and she returned to court trailing 3-4.

But although Kerber took advantage of Paolini's hampered movement to quickly break for 5-3 and reach set point, the German was no longer playing with her early intensity either. Paolini showed tremendous fortitude in the home stretch, relying on her shotmaking power to rattle off a series of winners -- taking her total to 35 -- and the last four games of the match.

Germany moved to 1-0 in Group D, while last year's finalist Italy dropped to 0-1. Germany will next face France on Monday, where Kerber will take on Caroline Garcia. Italy will wait until Wednesday to close out group play against France.