Aussies surge into Davis Cup final

IT was a green and gold celebration in Malaga, as Australia produced a remarkable win for the ages against Croatia to book its spot in the 2022 Davis Cup final. Missing Nick Kyrgios from its best possible side, his close mate Thanasi Kokkinakis stepped in, and while his singles did not go to plan, a stunning victory from Alex de Minaur followed by a massive upset in the doubles, steered the Aussies to the decider.

Though Australia is technically ranked higher, Croatia has the more balanced lineup, and one of the world’s best doubles pairings. On that alone, nations need to win both singles matches. So when Kokkinakis suffered a straight sets lost to the talented Borna Coric, things did not look good for the Aussies. The Spanish crowd has adopted Australia as its second side, and though Croatia has plenty of support wherever it plays, the Malaga atmosphere was electic.

Coric took 92 minutes to defeat Kokkinakis 6-4 6-3, handing Croatia the early 1-0 lead in the tie. Though the Croatians took the early lead, de Minaur took it upon himself to produce another stellar effort in the green and gold, this time against veteran Croatian Marin Cilic. The Australian won 6-2 6-2 in an hour and 35 minutes to level the tie, and throw the decider to the doubles pairing who would need to cause an almighty upset.

“I’m just happy to give our country a chance,” de Minaur said after his match. “Very happy with my performance. We play with passion, we play with pride and I know our doubles guys will leave it all out there.”

The Australians had a huge issue on their hands, with Matthew Ebden a late out from the doubles due to injury. The world number 26 doubles player was replaced by Thompson who was a seldom doubles talent, ranked at 466th in the world. He teamed up with Max Purcell (33rd) with the hopes of a nation on their shoulders. By comparison, Mate Pavic and Nikola Mektic were both ranked inside the Top 10 and were coming off a runner-up finish at the ATP Finals.

Despite the odds against them, the Australian pair managed to grind out a memorable victory, coming back from dropping the first set in a tiebreaker, before winning 6-7 7-5 6-4. After being at 3-3 in the third set, the Australians stepped up to win a break, and won three of the last four games to salute in two hour and 15 minutes to send the Aussies into the final.

Captain Lleyton Hewitt said he could not be more proud of his side who just fought to the very end and did not let anything distract them from victory.

“We had a small injury concern for one of our players but I had no concerns about the chemistry of these two [Thompson and Purcell],” Hewitt said. 

“It’s been a long time. We’re a very proud Davis Cup nation and I’m very proud of these guys. They deserve to be in the final and in with a chance of winning this thing.”

Australia will now take on the winner of tomorrow’s semi-final between Italy and Canada to determine their opponents in the final.

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