What is the United Cup? Novak Djokovic taking centre stage in the first big event of the year

Kevin Palmer
Serbia's Novak Djokovic reacts as he practices during a training session of the Davis Cup in Malaga, Spain, Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

The United Cup is set to kick off the 2024 tennis year in style, with world No 1 Novak Djokovic picking this event to start his preparations for the defence of his Australian Open crown.

This year’s edition of the competition gets underway on December 29 and runs until July 7 and here is all you need to know:

THE FORMAT

Featuring 18 nations and played across multiple Australian cities, the United Cup showcased a unique mixed-team tennis competition, with men’s and women’s stars combining to kick-start the Aussie summer of tennis in perfect style.

The tournament offers both ATP rankings and WTA rankings points to its players: a player will be able to win a maximum of 500 points.

The round-robin format will consist of one men’s and one women’s singles match, and one mixed doubles match.

Each group winner and the best runner-up of a city will advance to the quarterfinals. There will be a travel day allocated before the semi-finals and final take place in Sydney.

The groups were drawn in October and this is where each of the 18 teams will play:

Perth

Group A: Poland, Spain, Brazil
Group C: United States, Great Britain, Australia
Group E: Czech Republic, China, Serbia

Sydney

Group D: Greece, Canada, Chile
Group E: France, Italy, Germany
Group F: Croatia, Netherlands, Norway

WHO IS TAKING PART?

Djokovic is the shining star as he prepares to lead Serbia into battle in the United Cup.

Five of the world’s top 10 women will feature at the United Cup and nine of the world’s top 20 men, with Djokovic part of a Serbia team that also features Olga Danilovic.

Stefanos Tsitsipas is leading the challenge for Greece, Taylor Fritz will play for the USA, Alexander Zverev is a big performer for Germany, Casper Ruud leads the Norway charge, and Cameron Norrie, Katie Boulter and Dan Evans are included in a strong Great Britain team.

HEAD TO HEADS?

Djokovic will play his first match of the new season against China’s Zhang Zhizhen on December 31, with his second match set to be played against the Czech Republic’s Jiri Lehecka as Serbia look to qualify from Group E in Perth.

Group C will serve up some heavyweight clashes as it features USA, Great Britain and hosts Australia.

Home favourite Alex De Minaur is set to play Britain’s Cameron Norrie on the opening day of the competition on December 29.

Norrie is then in line to play Taylor Fritz two days later, but Dan Evans could also come into contention to play for Britain in singles and doubles.

World No 1 Iga Swiatek is playing for Poland in a strong team that also features Hubert Hurkacz and they take on Spain and Brazil in the group stages.

There is also the prospect of a clash between Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas and Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime in Sydney in what looks set to be a strong Group B.

WHAT ABOUT PRIZE MONEY?

The total prize money pool for the United Cup is $10 million, split equally between the ATP and WTA. Individual prize money is based on ranking, match-wins and team wins.

Match wins for No. 1 rank players in each team:
Final $251,000
SF $132,000
QF $69,500
Group $38,325

Team Wins

Final $23,155
SF $13,650
QF $8,025
Group $5,000