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IS THE UNITED CUP THE NEW "NETFLIX CURSE" OF THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN



Much has been made of the “Netflix Curse” during the Australian Open with all players in the series ‘Break Point’ out through loss or injury. But there’s been another factor that’s had an arguably bigger impact on the men’s side of the tournament: the United Cup. Coming into the Australian Open, 16 of the seeded male players had played the mixed teams event across Perth, Brisbane and Sydney. In comparison 12 of the seeds played their first week in Adelaide, giving us an opportunity to see which approach would work best for the Australian Open. The United Cup seemed to have the advantage with half of the Top 8 seeds from there including no.1 Nadal, no.2 Ruud and no.3 Tsitsipas. But coming into today’s quarter finals, just two players remain from the United Cup (Tsitsipas and Lehecka) and five from Adelaide (Djokovic, Rublev, Khachanov, Korda and Shelton). Many United Cup top seeds went out in surprising fashion with Nadal, Ruud, Fritz, Zverev and Berrettini all losing to unseeded players in the first or second round. And, in total, half of the 16 United Cup playing seeds were out before the third round. In comparison, only one seed (Kecmanovic) who played Adelaide lost early in the tournament and nine of the 12 seeds made the fourth round. It hasn’t all been bad news for United Cup players, with Jiri Lehecka’s run to the quarter finals unseeded coming off the back of the event, and Tsitsipas remains in the tournament with every chance of taking out the title. But if we look at the raw numbers it is quite evident the United Cup warm up hasn’t produced the results on court in Melbourne. By the fourth round United Cup seeds had a 3-13 record of players still in, while Adelaide had a 9-3 record. Additionally, United Cup players won 63% of their matches while Adelaide players have won an impressive 81%. A hands down victory to Adelaide as the best preparation overall for the tournament on the men’s side. So, why is this the case? It’s hard to say with any certainty but the United Cup demands more of players than your average ATP tournament. There is more promotion and PR for the event, players are expected on the sidelines to support their team mates in sometimes long and emotionally draining matches, and often the players were playing dead rubbers that meant little even if ranking points were on offer. A quite draining event in the build up to best of five set tennis over two weeks in the sometimes harsh Melbourne conditions. In comparison, Adelaide was played in tournament conditions with little spotlight and players could concentrate more on their own preparation. Add in a similar climate to the Australian Open and a city close to Melbourne and you can see why this could be more favourable. Could these results lead to some changes for the United Cup in 2023? You’d hope so or we may see some of the top players skip the event in the future. Performance of seeds by event in the Men’s Singles of the Australian Open Started the tournament: United Cup - 16 Adelaide - 12 Second round: United Cup - 13 Adelaide - 11 Third round: United Cup - 8 Adelaide - 11 Fourth round: United Cup - 3 Adelaide - 9 Quarter finals: United Cup - 1 Adelaide - 4

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