World No 3 Casper Ruud cruised past Thiago Monteiro in straight sets but it was in vain as Norway crashed in their mixed teams United Cup tie against Brazil in Brisbane on Sunday.
After the Brazilians won both opening singles rubbers Saturday, Ruud’s 6-3, 6-2 victory brought his country back into contention.
But the comeback was short-lived with the South Americans taking the tie when Laura Pigossi outlasted Ulrikke Eikeri 6-3, 6-4 in almost two hours at Pat Rafter Arena.
Brazil won the mixed doubles to give them a 4-1 win.
Ruud was far too consistent for the 71st ranked Monteiro, who made 27 unforced errors, wrapping up a dominant win in only 70 minutes to at least give him confidence heading into the new season.
“It was a must-win match for Norway so I was maybe feeling the pressure a little bit,” Ruud said. “But I was able to come out with a good start.”
The Norwegian was a runner-up at last year’s French and US Opens and said he was feeling confident ahead of the Australian Open later this month where he will bid to win a first Grand Slam title.
He did not play at Melbourne Park last year after rolling his ankle the day before his first match and said he wanted to make amends.
“I always feel very motivated coming down here playing in Australia. Last year was a bit unfortunate,” he said.
“Hopefully I’ll have a good start to the season down here and this is a perfect way for me to start the year on tour.”
In Sydney, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova proved too strong for Germany’s Laura Siegemund, romping home 6-4, 6-2.
It ensured the Czech Republic won the tie with an unassailable 3-0 lead, having lost their opening clash with the United States 4-1.
“Playing Laura is always difficult. She’s changing her game a lot, so I had to be ready for everything. I’m glad I got the point,” said Kvitova, who beat American world number three Jessica Pegula earlier in the tournament.
“This group is very difficult but we are enjoying the event a lot and really happy that we (the Czech team) are all together here in Sydney.”
German Oscar Otte defeated Dalibor Svrcina 7-6 (7/1), 6-2 and Germany won the mixed doubles, but the Czechs won the tie 3-2.
Harriet Dart missed a chance to close out victory for Britain over Spain - and a semi-final spot - with an eager Rafael Nadal in the team box continually urging on his Iberian compatriots.
Dart took a 6-7(6/8), 7-6 (7/5), 6-1 loss to Paula Badosa, who cramped in the second set but apparently helped cure her ills with swigs of pickle juice along with ice massages.
“I took the pickle juice and my body started to relax a little bit,” Badosa said.
“That’s why I started to play more aggressive. But it was surprising because I don’t usually cramp.”
After failing twice to serve for the second set, Badosa finally gave Spain their first point of the tie with victory in three hours.
The No. 13 cleaned up her serving in her first match of the season after seven double-faults in the opening set.
Dan Evans put things right for the Brits, defeating Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 to clinch a final four spot 3-1.
Evans, who had felt poorly coming into the event, said team support from the bench was key.
“I don’t feel my strongest, but we have a great team behind us,” he said after firing an ace on second match point.
“It would have been tough to throw in the towel with the team behind me.
“We’re into the semis, we’ve done unbelievably well on court.”
In Perth, Belgium and Bulgaria were locked at 2-2 heading into the mixed doubles.
Elise Mertens beat Gergana Topalova 6-4, 3-6, 6-0 before Bulgaria levelled the tie when Dimitar Kuzmanov downed Zizou Bergs 6-2, 6-0.
The Bulgarians claimed victory in the deciding rubber 1-6, 7-6 (7/5), 10-6 through Isabella Shinikova and Alexandar Lazarov, who defeated Mertens and David Goffin by coming from match point down.
Croatia completed a 3-0 sweep of Argentina as Petra Martic held off Nadia Podoroska 6-2, 4-6, 6-1