Rafael Nadal loses again at United Cup in Sydney

Spain's Rafael Nadal reacts during his Group D match against Australia's Alex de Minaur at the United Cup tennis event in Sydney, Australia, Monday, Jan. 2, 2023. (Mark Baker/AP)

SYDNEY (AP) — Rafael Nadal lost again at the United Cup mixed teams tournament, chalking up Monday’s defeat to Alex De Minaur to rustiness.

The second-ranked Nadal lost to the Australian 3-6 6-1 7-5 after having been beaten by Britain’s Cameron Norrie in three sets.

The record 22-time Grand Slam champion said he needs more matches like Monday’s to be ready for his Australian Open title defence.

“I need hours on court. I need battles like this. I didn’t play much official matches the last six months, almost seven,” said the 36-year-old Spaniard, who battled foot, rib and abdomen injuries last year.

“I have two weeks before the Australian Open starts. I can’t say that the situation is ideal but, at the same time, I can’t say that it’s very negative, because for moments I was playing good.”

Both teams went into the match knowing they couldn’t advance after losing to Britain, which will face the United States in the knockout stage on Wednesday for a spot in the semifinals.

The US ensured it will top Group C by opening up a 2-0 lead over Germany, with Madison Keys beating Jule Niemeier after Taylor Fritz defeated Alexander Zverev.

Taylor Fritz took advantage of a dominant serve to beat Zverev 6-1, 6-4.

Keys extended the United States’ lead to 2-0 with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Niemeier. Keys’ power and pinpoint serving proved too much for the 23-year-old German.

“I just tried to make as many first serves as possible to make things as easy as a tennis match could be,” Keys said.

In Brisbane, top-ranked Iga Swiatek beat Belinda Bencic 6-3 7-6 (3) to give Poland an early advantage against Switzerland in a winner-take-all tie.

Stefanos Tsitsipas beat David Goffin 6-3 6-2 to pull Greece level at 1-1 against Belgium while Italy leads Norway 2-0.

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