Alex de Minaur and Thanasi Kokkinakis both lost in the dramatic ‘Tennis Ashes’ as an inspired British team claimed victory over Australia in the group stage clash of the Davis Cup final.
The Aussies were responsible late for a crucial one-two from Matt Ebden and Max Purcell that reduced the final deficit to 2-1 and captain Lleyton Hewitt still believed his team – even though they had fallen behind – would make it to the final November can do.
Cheered on by his home fans on Wednesday in Manchester, the exciting new signing Jack Draper first prevailed against Kokkinakis 6:7 (6:8), 6:3, 7:6 (7:4) in a classic duel, before Dan Evans fended off a stirring comeback from Australian star De Minaur, who prevailed 6-1, 2-6, 6-4.
As last year’s runners-up, the Australians will almost certainly not be coming to Spain in November unless they quickly lick their wounds and come back strongly to beat France in Thursday’s game (played on Friday morning AEST). The French won their opening game against Switzerland 3-0.
The hosts, playing in front of 9,000 spectators at the AO Arena on Wednesday, caused a surprise by dropping their No.1 Cameron Norrie and the great Andy Murray, but were able to delight in their new prince in 21-year-old Draper , after Kokkinakis served for the match in the final set of the opening game.
Draper then recovered from a 4-2 deficit in the game-winning tiebreaker – the first he had ever played at tour level – to ultimately prevail after two hours and 50 minutes.
It was a quality and exciting opening clash between two strong batsmen but Draper, fresh from a great breakthrough at the US Open where he reached the last 16, proved just too good for the trusted Adelaide man Despite a disappointing performance in last year’s final in Málaga, Hewitt will play a key role in the starting XI.
Kokkinakis emerged victorious in a 63-minute opening stanza in which he saved a set point but was unable to break the exciting left-hander’s serve until the ninth game of the decider. Then Draper recovered and sealed the win with a glorious backhand down the line.
It was up to De Minaur – who had won seven of his last eight Davis Cup singles and was playing his first match as a top 12 player in the world – to save the day, but he started slowly against the charging Evans before his usual never- The outstanding performance belatedly began to wear down the Brit, who had won his only two previous meetings.
However, Evans took a 4-0 lead in the decider and, despite minor injury problems, managed to hold off De Minaur’s usual fighting response, although he reduced the deficit to 4-3, sealing the British triumph after two hours and nine minutes.
2022 Wimbledon doubles champions Ebden and Purcell then rekindled their old partnership, defeating Evans and Neal Skupski 7-6 (7-5), 6-4 as they reached their first final since 2003 and finally by Canada were defeated.
While every game, every set and every result counted throughout the week, the “M&M” team knew that their double victory could still prove decisive for the Australians.
“Obviously GB won the day but we knew a win in that last game could make the difference at the end of the week so we really had to do it,” said Ebden, who had just returned from the US Open doubles final.