World number three Jessica Pegula toppled Martina Trevisan in a powerhouse performance to give the United States a 1-0 lead over Italy in the final of the inaugural United Cup on Sunday.
The 28-year-old, who burst into the top 10 in 2022 by winning the WTA 1000 Guadalajara tournament for the biggest title of her career, stormed home 6-4, 6-2 in Sydney.
“Definitely very relieved, first match of the day, first match of the final,” said Pegula.
“Martina is playing great, she’s a fighter, I feel like she’s thriving on the atmosphere with the fans and her team and really hard to beat someone like that.
“Glad I was able to play well enough to get the win.”
Frances Tiafoe plays Lorenzo Musetti next to try to solidify the US advantage in the best-of-five tie final.
Taylor Fritz and Madison Keys then face Matteo Berrettini and Lucia Bronzetti respectively before a deciding mixed doubles rubber if needed.
A dominant United States crushed the Iga Swiatek-led Poland 5-0 to make the decider of the mixed teams tournament -- which began with 18 nations -- while Italy outgunned Stefanos Tsitsipas’s Greece 4-1.
Trevisan stunned world number six Maria Sakkari in a gripping three-hour encounter on Friday, and her confidence was high.
But Pegula was also in red-hot form, toppling world number one Swiatek for the first time in the semi-finals.
She came out firing against Trevisan, racing to a 3-0 lead after breaking the Italian’s opening serve.
Trevisan showed the fighting qualities that helped her beat Sakkari to claw back, converting a break point in the fifth game and holding serve to get it back on level terms.
They exchanged breaks again on the fast hard courts before Pegula pounced once more to clinch the set on the Trevisan serve with a backhand winner.
It was all Pegula in the second as she put her foot to the floor, racing 5-0 clear.
But the Italian refused to give up and broke back as the American served for the match before her comeback faltered.