Lleyton Hewitt’s Australian team got off to a miserable start in their quest to bring home the Davis Cup after Marin Cilic beat a brave Alex de Minaur in a standout competition to seal Croatia’s victory in the opening group game in Turin .
Australia’s Alexei Popyrin 7-6 (7/5) at the end of a shock, 7-5 loss to Borna Gojo – more than 200 places behind – saw Australia’s number one de Minaur excelled back by old foe Cilic on Thursday The comeback attempt blocked 6-1, 5-7, 6-4.
They sealed the Croatians’ 2-0 win with the Australians so desperate to get something from the draw that they then, after a short hiatus, threw de Minaur into the remaining doubles to give them more chances to reach the quarterfinals. -finals.
Croatia won the draw as Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic captured Minaur and John Peers 6-3 and 6-1 in doubles, but the gamble did not work.
The task of making the last eight was made much more difficult at Pala Alpitour arena, as even the emotional encouragement of captain Hewitt on the sidelines was not enough to lift his two best players as they inspiringly sprint to their opponents.
All is not lost but Australia will likely have to beat Hungary by a 3-0 margin on Saturday to give them a chance to stay in the last eight.
De Minaur had to unleash some of the magic that saw him go undefeated in singles in the final edition of the men’s world tennis cup two years ago, and did just that while battling an astonishing 6- out for a while. It’s 1.3-1 down to get their compelling tires on a decision maker.
But 33-year-old Cilic, who also defeated Minaur in a US Open thriller three years ago, reinvented the irresistible opening set to take down Sydneysider in a 130-minute event.
“Alex is such a great fighter and it’s not the first time he’s been back in a game like this,” said Cilic, praising the 22-year-old opponent who knocked him down on the Queen’s Club turf earlier this year. said.
World number 61 Popyrin had previously been expected to give the team a quick start against the exhausted Croatians who put Gojo no.
Still, the great-serving backup that replaced injured armature Borna Coric produced the performance of a lifetime at over an hour and 49 minutes.
“I had good luck in the first and second sets, but I made some mistakes in important points and that disappointed me.”
Popyrin had beaten Gojo in a tight triple set in Melbourne in February and was the obvious choice for Hewitt as the second-ranked singles player in the absence of third-placed Nick Kyrgios in Australia.
He started his second game in the Davis Cup in a confident style, but his failure to convert came back to haunt him after Gojo scored five timeouts in Croatia’s big deliveries in his first three serve matches.
Popyrin played a bad opening set tiebreak and made a series of non-essential errors that gave him a four-pointer, but was not remotely threatened on serve until Game 11 of the second set, despite making 27 non-essential errors throughout the game.
A nervous double error and a stray backhand gave Gojo the chance to serve in the 23-year-old’s cold-blooded match.
Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz out of Davis Cup with COVID
Carlos Alcaraz, the teenager touted as Rafael Nadal’s heir and the biggest name in Spain’s team at the Davis Cup finals, tested positive for the coronavirus and was dropped from the squad on Thursday.
The 18-year-old Alcaraz, who was going to make his first Davis Cup appearance, said on social media he was sad to miss out on “such an important and special tournament like the Davis Cup”.
“I was very excited to be able to play and represent my country here in Madrid in front of our fans,” he said. “But sometimes things don’t go how we want them to go and you have to overcome that. It’s a very tough blow but you have to pick yourself up and come out stronger.”
Alcaraz was expected to play in the Group A meeting with Ecuador.
The International Tennis Federation earlier said a member of Spain’s team had tested positive for the coronavirus and was put in isolation, but did not name the player. The rest of the Spanish team members took a new PCR test.
The 32nd-ranked Alcaraz, coming off a title at the Next Gen ATP Finals, will be replaced by world number 60 Pedro Martínez.
The other members of the Spanish squad are Pablo Carreno Busta, Alberto Ramos-Vinolas, Feliciano López and Marcel Granollers. The team captain is Sergi Bruguera.
Spain was already without Nadal because of an injury, and it lost number 19 Roberto Bautista Agut earlier this week because of an abdominal injury.
Spain is the defending champion at the Davis Cup Finals that are being played in Madrid, Innsbruck and Turin. Thursday was the first day of competition in all three cities.
The matches in Austria are being played without fans because of the coronavirus pandemic. Capacity is at 60 per cent in Turin and 75 per cent in Madrid.