Bringing ATP and WTA stars collectively on the United Cup could also be one thing new, however lots of the cross-Tour friendships inside the 16 competing groups have significantly longer histories.

Take Staff Croatia’s Borna Coric and Donna Vekic, who’ve identified one another so lengthy they will barely recall their first assembly.

“I feel it was nearly 20 years in the past, so I don’t bear in mind so much, however we’ve identified one another mainly since we began taking part in tennis,” WTA No. 67 Vekic instructed this week in Perth. “We’ve been collectively for our entire profession.”

Coric retains a couple of extra reminiscences of the pair’s early days of their homeland.

“I bear in mind her, we had been taking part in under-10s in Zagreb,” mentioned the No. 26 within the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, earlier than smiling and beginning to tease his teammate about her youthful self. “I didn’t like her a lot again then really, again then she was very nervous, very conceited as properly, however now she modified. So, I’m simply having fun with spending time right here together with her and the entire staff.”

“I don’t bear in mind being conceited!” laughed Vekic in response. “We’ve been mates for a really very long time, and I feel it’s perhaps the final couple of years that we’re even nearer than earlier than. We’ve spent nearly each week collectively on Tour [over the years] so it’s good to have an in depth pal.”

That mutual help has helped Coric and Vekic every come by means of robust challenges in recent times, with each present process surgical procedure inside three months of one another in early 2021. Coric solely returned to the ATP Tour in March 2022 after a yr out as a consequence of his shoulder damage, whereas Vekic’s knee operation in February 2021 brought about a three-and-a-half-month absence and an extended battle to recapture her pre-surgery type.

These difficulties made subsequent successes in 2022 much more rewarding for the pair. Coric lifted his maiden ATP Masters 1000 title in spectacular vogue at August’s Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, whereas Vekic took out Prime 10 opponents Maria Sakkari and Aryna Sabalenka on the San Diego Open in October, earlier than pushing World No. 1 Iga Swiatek to 3 units within the remaining.

“I’m simply completely happy to see her do properly,” mentioned Coric. “She had a really, very robust yr with the knee, and I had a really robust yr with the shoulder, so clearly I’m tremendous completely happy to see that she is doing properly as properly.”

“It’s nice when we have now success collectively, however we additionally went by means of a really troublesome time in our careers, nearly on the similar time,” added Vekic, who was ranked No. 29 on the time of her operation however has a career-high of No. 19 within the Hologic WTA Rankings. “With my knee surgical procedure, his shoulder surgical procedure. It was nice to have one another throughout that point, and now we’re again collectively taking part in and that’s much more fulfilling.”

There have been many highlights throughout Coric’s barnstorming run in Cincinnati, the place he defeated 5 Prime 20 gamers in a row, together with Rafael Nadal, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Stefanos Tsitsipas en path to the title. Vekic was within the stands supporting her countryman throughout his second-round triumph in opposition to Nadal, though her abiding reminiscence of the weather-affected match has little to do with Coric’s on-court exploits.

“I used to be tremendous aggravated with that rain delay, I needed to return and sleep!” joked Vekic. “However it was an incredible victory for him, yeah.”

These optimistic vibes seem to have carried over into the 2023 season, as Coric and Vekic put together to spearhead Staff Croatia’s United Cup bid alongside WTA No. 38 Petra Martic. On Saturday, Vekic will meet Staff Argentina’s Maria Carle whereas Coric takes on Francisco Cerundolo of their nation’s first tie in Group F.

“We really feel nice right here,” mentioned Vekic. “The ambiance is wonderful. I used to be in Perth as soon as 10 years in the past and I’m actually completely happy to be again. Hopefully we will undergo the group stage.

The duo can be slated to staff up in Sunday’s mixed-doubles rubber at RAC Area, though Coric admitted that some exhausting work on the apply court docket is required to make sure their on-court mixture is prepared.

“We’ll go to the apply court docket proper now and we have to play some doubles, as a result of I haven’t performed any doubles for a really very long time,” he mentioned. “I feel it’s the identical for her [Vekic] to be trustworthy… Perhaps we performed doubles [together] a few instances, once we had been 16 or 17, however we didn’t play collectively for a really very long time, so it’s going to be very fascinating if we go on the court docket and have to play.”

Ought to Coric and Vekic associate in Sunday’s doubles conflict they’ll actually hope their respective video games are extra in synch than their sense of vogue. The pair just lately exchanged light-hearted photographs on the subject on Twitter.

“I’m in a secure zone this week,” mentioned Coric, referring to the standardised Staff Croatia equipment. “I can’t miss, so she can’t say any unhealthy issues.”

“I can nonetheless make enjoyable of his hair!” retorted a laughing Vekic, a risk Coric appeared to have already ready for.

“That’s why I’ll [keep] my hat on!” he mentioned.

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