Tennis

Hewitt makes history as young Australians win Davis Cup thriller | Tennis

Alex de Minaur and Thanasi Kokkanikis led Australia into the group stage of the Davis Cup Finals after a thrilling 3-2 qualifying win over Hungary in Sydney. The no-nonsense Hungarians had taken a shocking 2-1 lead with a stunning doubles victory on Saturday before De Minaur and Kokkinakis embarked on a steely rescue mission at the Ken Rosewall Arena.

In the end, Kokkinakis sealed the tie for Australia with a 6-4, 6-4 triumph over Zsombor Piros after De Minaur emerged victorious in the marquee match between the two nations’ No.1s with an electrifying 7 -6 (4), Victory 6-4 over Marton Fucsovics. The Great Escape marks only the third time this century that the Aussies have overturned a 2-1 Davis Cup deficit.

Australia captain Lleyton Hewitt has featured in both previous comebacks, beating Roger Federer in the fourth game in Zurich in 2000 before Mark Philippoussis beat George Bastl to clinch the tie. Hewitt and Sam Groth also saved Australia on the final day of the 2015 quarter-final against Kazakhstan in Darwin after Nick Kyrgios lost to world number 115 Aleksandr Nedovyesov and sadly said: “I don’t want to be here. “

There was no such theater from De Minaur and Kokkinakis on Saturday, but no less tension either as the pair delivered for Hewitt and their country under untold pressure. Mate Valkusz and Fabian Marozsan’s 6-4, 6-4 doubles loss to John Peers and Davis Cup debutant Luke Saville had Australia staring in the barrel of an inglorious exit from the competition.

Hungary captain Zoltan Nagy drafted only Valkusz – ranked 1,312 in doubles and world number 439 in singles – as a last-minute replacement for Fuscovics. But the captain’s call paid unexpected dividends. “It’s crazy,” Valkusz said after winning his first-ever Davis Cup match.

Fucsovics rested after digging deep to beat Kokkinakis 7-6(4), 1-6, 6-3 in Friday night’s second singles match to level at 1-1 after De Minaur gave the initiative to Australia with a 7-5 win over Piros 6-2. But although Hungary lightened Fucsovics’ workload, De Minaur carried the world number 35 in the sapping humidity under the closed roof of the arena, rallying 3-0 and 4-2 in the break. crucial tie in the first set. He then held off a fierce response from Fuscovics in the second set to finally seal the inescapable showdown on his fourth match point.

“This Australian team will do everything to leave everything on the pitch,” said De Minaur. “We have immense pride, immense passion and one thing you can count on from Australia’s Davis Cup team is that we will never give up.”

No one could accuse Kokkinakis of ever giving up. An injury catalog had sidelined the 25-year-old from the Davis Cup since 2015, but his straight-set win over Piros completed a memorable hat-trick for the born-again baseliner. The Adelaide boy won his first ATP singles title in his hometown in January and then teamed up with Nick Kyrgios to claim the Australian Open doubles. He has now captained his country to the group stage of the Davis Cup Finals in September.

The full line-up of the 16-team group stage, which will be played at European venues yet to be determined, will be decided after the other 11 qualifying fixtures at the weekend have been completed.