Team Frances Alize Cornet and Arthur Rinderknech both passed the test of a first-time encounter with flying colours on Thursday at the United Cup, where they defeated Team Argentinas Maria Lourdes Carle and Francisco Cerundolo, respectively.
In a double-header of first-time tour-level meetings, Cornet and Rinderknech each secured straight-sets wins to move sixth-seeded Team France to a 2-0 lead in their opening Group F tie.
Cornet, a quarter-finalist at the 2022 Australian Open, cruised to a 6-2, 6-1 victory against No.147-ranked Carle in one hour and 15 minutes. The first five games were filled with extended baseline exchanges as both players probed each other's games while refusing to miss.
It was University of Georgia alumna Carle, 22, who ran out of ideas first. A lapse into error handed Cornet the first break for 4-2, and the Frenchwoman seized momentum firmly to reel off six straight games, including 13 of the last 14 points of the first set.
Punishing Carle's second serves and getting the better of the all-court rallies, Cornet was in control at 2-0 in the second set -- until she squandered three game points for 3-0. Carle took advantage, breaking back with a vicious slice to halt the run of games against her.
But Cornet refused to let that become a turning point. A booming backhand winner down the line regained her advantage for 3-1 and she did not drop another game, sealing her first match point with an authoritative smash.
"I barely knew anything about [Carle]. I got to see that she had a pretty good forehand and she was moving around on the court well. She's a grinder too, and really motivated. I felt she was ready for the fight, so I was trying to be even more ready than her. Overall, I was trying to stay focused on what I had to do myself, leaning on my strengths, and I thought I did it pretty well," said Cornet.
"The first four games were pretty tight -- I was feeling the nerves, to be honest! -- and then I played better and better. I loosened up my game and it was a pretty entertaining match for the crowd and for me," she added.
In the final match of the day on RAC Arena, Rinderknech produced a clinical display to down Francisco Cerundolo 6-4, 6-2.
The warning signs were there early for Cerundolo, No. 30 in the ATP Rankings. He faced two break points at 15/40 in the opening game of the match and despite digging deep to hold serve he could not forge a repeat when the same situation arose in the seventh game.
Relentless clean hitting from Rinderknech forced Cerundolo to push a forehand wide at 3-3, 30/40, and the Frenchman's typically powerful serving ensured his opponent had little opportunity to fight back from then on in the first set.
Rinderknech was dialled in on serve throughout and he faced no break points during the 91-minute encounter. That meant his two breaks of the Cerundolo serve in the second set were more than enough to complete a convincing victory and secure a commanding 2-0 lead for his team.
It was another impressive showing on Australian soil from the 27-year-old Rinderknech, who reached his maiden ATP Final at the Adelaide International 2 in 2022.
"I love the courts here in Australia. I felt really good last year. It was my first time in Australia, so I hope for another good summer [here]. I played really well on the big points, it helped me a lot, and I'm happy with the win tonight," said Rinderknech in his on-court interview.
Team Argentina will now look to Nadia Podoroska and Federico Coria in Friday's singles matches to try and stay alive in the tie. Both face higher-ranked opponents, however, with Podoroska taking on World No. 4 and WTA Finals champion Caroline Garcia and Coria taking ATP World No. 46 Adrian Mannarino.