Djokovic and Team USA toast silverware Down Under

The first official week of the 2023 season has delivered world class action from the off with focus locked on Australia.

Novak Djokovic Masters Turin 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

From Adelaide, to Sydney and across to Auckland, a number of the world’s best have been fine-tuning for the Australian Open.

With silverware showdowns looming at the weekend, it was America who had a say across the board. Here are the storylines you might have missed from an action-packed 2023 opener.

Djokovic battles back from the brink

There is something about Novak Djokovic competing in Australia.

The 21-time Grand Slam champion hasn’t fallen Down Under since Hyeon Chung toppled the Serbian in Melbourne in 2018.

Djokovic chose the Adelaide International to ramp up his Australian Open preparations, where he seeks a 10th crown at the end of the month, defeating world No.7 Daniil Medvedev en route to the final.

Here the 35-year-old met Sebastian Korda in red hot form. The towering American had championship point in the second set, however, Djokovic compiled another archetypal comeback.

6-7(8), 7-6(3), 6-4 was the eventual scoreline, Djokovic reeling his opponent from match point down for the 16th time during a Hall-of-fame career, to fire a huge warning sign to the rest of the draw in Melbourne. 

“Five great matches. The last three opponents: Second round, 7-6, 7-6, tough two tie-breaks against Halys, who is playing very well,” said a delighted Djokovic, scooping his 92nd career title and 34th successive victory on Australian courts.

“Then I had Shapovalov, Medvedev and Korda, who is on fire… I couldn’t ask for a better preparation and lead-up to Australian Open.”

Sabalenka strikes back

Rewind to Adelaide 2022 and Aryna Sabalenka was reduced to tears on court following a succession of double faults and serving troubles.

A beaming smile told a very different story 12 months on.

The world No.5 halted the astonishing week from qualifier Linda Noskova 6-3, 7-6(4) for her first trophy since Madrid in May 2021.

"I think I'm a different player right now," insisted Sabalenka. "Maybe a little bit smarter, a little bit calmer on court. Just a little bit of everything changed."

Noskova, who also qualified for Roland-Garros last summer, snatched two Top 10 wins in Adelaide over Daria Kasatkina and Ons Jabeur to soar into the Top 60.

Certainly keep an eye out for this talented Czech this campaign.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Your 2023 champion, <a href="">@SabalenkaA</a> 🏆<a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#AdelaideTennis</a> <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; wta (@WTA) <a href="">January 8, 2023</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

United Cup belongs to USA

World No.1 Iga Swiatek lit up the group stages, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Cameron Norrie excelled, Italy’s team chemistry boosted their final run, plenty of players thrived in their national colours, but the inaugural United Cup was all about Team USA.

The new 18-country mixed event truly exemplified the strength and depth in American tennis. Social media was awash with their team-bonding exploits, including plenty of escape rooms in Sydney.

On court, the stars and stripes dominated, dropping just two singles matches and none of their ties were closer than a 4-1 scoreboard.

Top 10 duo Taylor Fritz and Jessica Pegula (who dismantled Swiatek 6-2, 6-2 in the semi-finals) spearheaded the attack, alongside No.2 players Frances Tiafoe and Madison Keys.

“It's just so much more exciting, there's so much more emotions,” stated Fritz, having clinched the title for his country with a captivating 7-6(4), 7-6(6) triumph over Matteo Berrettini.

“You can celebrate with your whole team as opposed to just celebrating by yourself. As soon as I won, I turned to the team and I knew everyone was going to run at me. It was great until Frances full speed head-butted me in the face.”

Gauff already in the winner’s circle

American fans were cheering once again at the weekend as Coco Gauff lifted her first hard court title since 2019.

The world No.7, finalist in singles and doubles at Roland-Garros, dispatched Spanish qualifier Rebeka Masarova 6-1, 6-1 to claim the Auckland trophy.

"Couldn't ask for a better start to my season. First title on hard since I was 15. I'm happy to be successful on a surface that I love,” said the 18-year-old, champion without dropping a set, losing just 22 games in five matches.

"It gives me a lot of confidence. You never know how your first week is gonna go. Could be good or terrible. But I think it's been a great week.”