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ATP AND UNITED CUPS GIVE UNSUNG HEROES A PLATFORM TO SHINE


The inaugural edition of the United Cup has provided an abundance of entertainment with some pulsating contests captivating audiences across the globe, as well as providing names you might not have heard of a chance to dazzle on the big stage.

In the pre-ATP Cup era before 2020, the opening week of the Australian summer would consist of the Brisbane International and the Hopman Cup, as well as ATP events in Doha and Chennai and the stalwart WTA competition in Auckland.

They were all 32-player events at a maximum, with the rankings of the last direct entries always within the top 100, not allowing relatively unknown players or battlers outside local wildcards to strut their stuff for some major ranking points.

However, since the inaugural ATP Cup in 2020, players well outside the world’s top echelon have been granted the opportunity to show the world what they can do and a chance to propel their rankings.

In recent seasons the world has become acquainted with Greece’s Michail Pervolarakis and Russia’s Roman Safiullin, with the latter playing a pivotal role in Russia’s run to the semis last year with Covid-19 making its way through the squad.

The prime example at the United Cup in 2023 is Stefanos Sakellaridis, a young man from Greece currently sitting at a career high ranking of 803 and has never even played an ATP Challenger Tour match let alone the actual tour.

The 18-year-old has only ever played 41 Futures events in singles and has just one solitary semifinal to show for it, but that failed to stop him from shining on his ATP debut this week.

His first match at RAC Arena was against fellow youngster in Belgium’s Zizou Bergs, ranked at 129, a staggering 674 places above the Greek.

However, following a tight first set going in Bergs’ favour, the difference looked to be the other way around as Sakellaridis claimed a remarkable 5-7 6-1 6-3 victory to spark jubilant scenes from Western Australia’s capital.

With 20 ranking points falling his way after the win, his live ranking sits at 647 to indicate a rise of 156 places.

Sakellaridis was unable to win his second encounter against Croatia’s Borna Gojo, who has enjoyed yet another successful event representing his country following his heroics in the 2021 Davis Cup Finals that saw the European nation progress to the final.

The 24-year-old is also at a career high of 144 in the ATP rankings and has again impressed the tennis fraternity with an undefeated performance across a trio of singles contests against the likes of higher ranked opponents in Federico Coria and Adrian Mannarino on top of his win against Greece.

His record for Croatia is nine wins and five losses and the average rank of his opponents before his Sakellaridis match was 39, well above his own.

Gojo’s projected ranking will rocket up 33 places to 111 after accumulating 140 points from his trio of wins at the United Cup.

Australian Jason Kubler has been able to cash in on his United Cup opportunities with a pair of wins against Dan Evans and Albert Ramos Vinolas, launching his ranking to a projected career high of 85 in the lead up to the Australian Open.

The narratives have not been as prominent on the WTA side in the multinational competition, but Brazil’s Laura Pigossi has chimed in for a win and a loss for her nation.

The 28-year-old’s ranking is set to jump to 112 as she looks to close in on her personal best of 100.

With the final four of the tournament set, there are still chances for players to etch their name into folklore in the infancy of this brilliant mixed gender competition that has filled the void of the joy that the Hopman Cup left behind.

It leaves us all salivating for more narratives in years to come.

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