A dynamic Nick Kyrgios and dogged Alex de Minaur yesterday powered Australia into the ATP Cup semi-finals with an epic 2-1 win against Tim Henman-led Britain, where they were joined by Russia, who overpowered Argentina.
The hosts clinched the tie after an 18-16 third-set tiebreaker in the doubles to set up a potential blockbuster last-four clash against Rafael Nadal’s Davis Cup-winning Spain, who are to face Belgium today.
Russia, spearheaded by world No. 5 Daniil Medvedev, won both their singles to sweep past Argentina.
Their reward is a semi-final against either Novak Djokovic’s Serbia or Canada.
Kyrgios crushed Cameron Norrie in the opening singles 6-2, 6-2 before Dan Evans came through a memorable showdown against De Minaur 7-6 (7/4), 4-6, 7-6 (7/2) to set up the decisive, winner-takes-all doubles match.
Australia captain Lleyton Hewitt took a huge gamble by dropping regular doubles pair John Peers and Chris Guccione in favor of Kyrgios and De Minaur, and it looked a poor decision when they lost the first set 6-3.
However, spurred by Kyrgios’ booming serve, they took the next set 6-3 before a nail-biting tiebreaker that lasted more than a half-hour.
Jamie Murray and Joe Salisbury had four match points, which were all saved, with Australia finally converting on their fifth match point, sparking jubilant scenes.
“That was incredible tennis. All three matches today everyone gave 100 percent and left it all out on the court,” Hewitt said.
“Really proud of the boys, the way they were able to turn it around... It could have gone either way,” he added.
In the second quarter-final, Karen Khachanov continued his hot run of form and got the ball rolling for Russia by beating an out-of-sorts Guido Pella 6-2, 7-6 (7/4).
The world No. 17 has won all four of his matches this season and was in control throughout against the Argentine, who appeared on the verge of tears in the opening set.
Medvedev, also unbeaten, quickly took charge of his showdown with world No. 13 Diego Schwartzman, but lost focus in the second and was slapped with a point penalty for twice smashing his racket into the umpire’s chair during an argument with the official.
He regrouped to race through the third set for a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win.
“The second set and third one [of Medvedev’s match] was high-class tennis from both sides,” Russia captain Marat Safin said, adding that he was “very proud” of his team.
“It was important for him [Medvedev] to stay mentally strong, maintain his calm and see what’s going to come,” he said.
The Australia-Britain tie was notable for Evans’ clash with world No. 18 De Minaur, a three-hour, 23-minute contest that is a contender for match of the tournament.
After Evans took the opening set in a tense tiebreaker, De Minaur fought back to grab the second.
He went 4-2 behind in a see-saw third, but rallied again as they exchanged service breaks, with the Australian showing nerves of steel to save four match points and take it to another tiebreak — which the exhausted Briton finally won.
“That’s about as good as I’ve got really, and I only got through by the skin of my teeth,” said Evans, ranked 42.
A composed Kyrgios on Tuesday beat world No. 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas and carried that momentum into his clash against Norrie.
The mercurial Australian has been a model of concentration and focus at the ATP Cup, thriving in the team environment.
It is partly due to having a six-month suspended ban hanging over him, imposed in September last year for calling an Irish umpire a “potato” and a “tool” in Cincinnati, Ohio.
He also accused the ATP of being corrupt before backtracking on the allegation.
“I love the team event,” Kyrgios said. “Rusty [Hewitt] is the best captain, the teammates have been supporting each other, being there for each other, and that’s paid off.”
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker found himself in need of an assist to help the state fight the COVID-19 pandemic. He called on the New England Patriots. One of the team’s private airplanes on Thursday evening landed in Boston after returning from China carrying more than 1 million masks critical to healthcare providers fighting to control the spread of the coronavirus. Members of the Massachusetts National Guard met the airplane and offloaded the containers of masks onto waiting trucks for transport to warehouses for distribution. Baker secured the N95 masks from Chinese manufacturers, but had no way of getting them to the US. He
WAIT AND SEE: The estimated cost of postponement started at US$2 billion and has kept rising, but the IOC has yet to say whether it would help pay for the extra expenses Postponing the Tokyo Olympics to next year would make the event more costly for all parties, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) acknowledged on Thursday, although it offered few details on what the final bill might be. Four directors of the Olympic body held a conference call three days after Tokyo’s new dates were finalized, with the Games pushed back to July 23 to Aug. 8 next year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the new dates cleared up any uncertainty about the event’s future, there are still plenty of question marks as the committee begins to work with Tokyo organizers and the
MEDIA RUMORS? With no pay agreement secured and players’ representatives calling for more financial information ahead of talks, the sport had another week of bad press Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle could be sacked in a matter of days, media reported yesterday, as the embattled governing body struggles to deal with a financial crisis compounded by a shutdown amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Castle this week took a 50 percent pay cut and laid off 75 percent of Rugby Australia (RA) staff members, saying that the body would face losses of up to A$120 million (US$71.95 million) if no more rugby was played this year. With no pay agreement secured with the players and their representatives calling on RA to provide more financial information ahead of negotiations, the
OLYMPICS Delay pushes rower to retire British rowing gold medalist Tom Ransley on Friday announced his retirement after deciding that the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games to next year was a step too far. The 34-year-old was part of the men’s eight who won gold in the 2016 Rio Olympics and also a bronze in the 2012 London Games. “I have used up everything I had and I know that to get myself in the necessary condition to compete for a seat in 2021 is a step too far,” he told the BBC. The years of early starts, of three training