Lleyton Hewitt’s Davis Cup side, based on his own fighting style, recovered from the brink of elimination to keep their hopes alive with a 2-1 comeback triumph over France in Manchester.
Not for the first time, their final saviors were Alex de Minaur, who saw off Ugo Humbert in his decisive singles, and doubles maestros Matt Ebden and Max Purcell, who won in a decisive final game for the second year in a row.
Their triumph on Thursday (in the early hours of Friday AEST) at the AO Arena now gives the Australians more than just a fighting chance of reaching the final in Málaga again in November.
Defeat would almost certainly have condemned last year’s finalists to an early exit in this week’s round-robin group stage at the English venue, but Purcell, who lost the opening throw to Adrian Mannarino on his Cup singles debut, bounced back with his impeccable style former Wimbledon winning partner from 2022 in the decider.
The old “M&M” doubles outclassed the French veterans Nicolas Mahut and Édouard Roger-Vasselin 7:5 and 6:3 and gave the Australians a 2-1 victory, which now leaves their group of four completely open and only the top two qualify can for the final in Spain.
Australia, Great Britain and France have each claimed a win, with Hewitt’s team still in a potentially strong position to qualify if they can beat Switzerland, who lost their opening game to the French, in the final clash on Saturday.
With every game and every set won counting, a 3-0 victory over Stan Wawrinka and his Swiss colleagues would likely secure their trip to Spain.
For Australian No. 2 Purcell, frustrated at losing to veteran southpaw Mannarino 7-6 (7-4), 6-4 in singles, there was an air of both relief and ecstasy as he and Ebden Combined confidently for a decisive victory, they triumphed and always looked under control, just like the evening before against the Brits Dan Evans and Neal Skupski.
And De Minaur also felt he had earned “compensation” after his Wednesday loss to Evans, when he put in a far superior performance to tame Humbert 7-6 (7-2), 6-3 for his eighth win in rubbers achieved in his last ten Davis Cup singles.
De Minaur, by then the best No. 12 in the world, knew that a loss to Humbert, who had beaten him on a hard court in Atlanta in July, would be the end of the road for the team, and the pressure produced an inspiring spell him at the end of the opening set, when he won 11 of 13 points and came from 5-6 down to reach a comfortable tie-break winner.
Then, cheered on by the passionate Hewitt side of the court, he stepped up a gear at the start of the second period and took a 3-0 lead as southpaw Humbert, who was the better player for much of the opening stanza, became increasingly erratic and frustrated the difference in quality became apparent.