Demon delight, rules over Rafa
FOR the first time in his ATP Tour career, Australian Alex de Minaur got the better of 22-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal to help the green and gold remain in contention to win a United Cup match. Though both Australia and Spain lost to Great Britain – and therefore could not advance to the Sydney final – there was certainly no holding back from the passionate Aussie, who needed three sets to overcome Nadal.
The match lasted two hours and 44 minutes, with Nadal winning the first set 6-3 and looking likely to increase the two’s head-to-head at 4-0, but the Australian world number 24 was not going to give in easy. He broke several times in the second set as Nadal did not quite look 100 per cent, and in the warm conditions, de Minaur thrived.
Under the bright lights of Ken Rosewall Arena, de Minaur answered every challenge, and came away with the biggest win of his career, defeating a world number two for the first time. In winning 3-6 6-1 7-5, de Minaur gave the underdogs an early 1-0 lead.
“I think it’s definitely up there [as one of my best wins],” de Minaur said. “It’s one of those achievements that you have unlocked in your career. But also, it’s a big win for myself, one that I really needed. I’m gonna cherish and use, take all the confidence from this and be able to hopefully take it to have a good Aussie summer.
“It’s always a surreal experience playing here. Just walking out there and hearing the support I get on that court is pretty special. No secret [that] it is my favourite court to play on in front of friends and family. I’ve had so many great memories, and I’ve been able to add another one to it. I’m extremely stoked.”
Luckily for Nadal, his compatriot Nuria Parrizas Diaz was on hand to make up the deficit, showcasing her experience over Australian Maddison Inglis in the second match. Controlling the game off her racquet, Parrizas Diaz cruised to a 6-1 6-3 victory by punishing Inglis off her second serve. The tie, now level at 1-1, will have to more reverse singles today followed by a mixed doubles.
AROUND THE COURTS
The United States qualified for the Sydney final after jumping out to a 2-0 lead against Germany on day five. Only needing to win two matches in order to secure the qualification, they did just that, winning the second women’s singles, and the number one men’s singles. Madison Keys proved too strong for German Jule Niemeier in the opening match, winning 6-2 6-4, before top ranked male Taylor Fritz took full advantage of a rusty Alexander Zverev in what was Zverev’s second singles match in more than six months, to win 6-1 6-4.
A more delicately poised contest in Brisbane, Poland and Switzerland were 1-1 after day four, in the winner-takes-all clash. The two higher ranked players won their respective contests as world number one, Iga Swiatek defeated Belinda Bencic in a blockbuster clash, 6-3 7-6. Able to bounce back with a win for Switzerland, Marc-Andrea Huesler defeated Pole Daniel Michalski, 6-3 6-2.
Italy got past Norway in both matches as expected, though received more than they might have bargained for given the huge difference between their respective rankings. Lorenzo Musetti did defeat Viktor Durasovic is straight sets, but it went to 9-7 in the first set tiebreak before closing the contest out, 7-6 6-3. Martina Trevisan had a far tougher contest against lowly ranked Malene Helgo, needing a nail-biting three set slog to overcome her before advancing 7-5 3-6 6-4. Italy need just one more win today to book its spot in the Brisbane final.
Greece is one win away from advancing to the Perth final after grabbing the number one men’s singles match against Belgium. Stefanos Tsitsipas took care of David Goffin in straight sets 6-3 6-2, before Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck ground out a win 7-5 2-6 6-3 in a more difficult than expected contest with Greek second ranked woman, Despina Papamichail. Top ranked Greek star Maria Sakkari can seal Greece’s spot in the next round with a victory today.
After both sides did not lose a match in their respective Group F ties against Argentina, Croatia jumped out of the block by winning both day five matches against France. Top ranked male, Borna Coric had to go to back-to-back tiebreakers but got it done against Arthur Rinderknech, winning them 7-1 7-2 for a 7-6 7-6 victory. Second ranked Croatian woman Donna Vekic had a little easier job, taking out Alize Cornet in an impressive 6-4 6-3 contest to move one win away from advancing to the final.