Rubber #1 - Alexei Popyrin vs Matteo Arnaldi
After a significant victory in Friday’s semi-final, Lleyton Hewitt again turned to Alexei Popyrin to open the tie for Australia and face Italian world number 44 Matteo Arnaldi.
Following an inspiring walk-on with both teams entering through their respective support bays as opposed to the usual tunnel, the adrenaline and nerves would no doubt have been flowing.
And after an early exchange of service holds, the Italian struck first, breaking Popyrin with a series of forehand return winners.
But a poor game from Arnaldi gifted the Aussie three immediate chances to break back – the first of which he took with an aggressive point off his forehand wing.
After a further series of holds, Popyrin had 15-40 at 5-5, but strong serving from Arnaldi helped him regain the lead at 5-6.
Appearing to be heading for a tiebreak, a little pressure quickly became deuce, then advantage Italy and the Aussie found himself down a set to love.
A mental reset and words from Hewitt on the bench saw the 24-year-old come out firing in the second, striking two backhand winners to put immediate pressure on the Arnaldi serve – ultimately breaking and consolidating for a 2-0 lead.
Multiple double faults from the Italian gifted Popyrin another look at deuce which he leapt at, with two massive forehand returns to break again – before comfortably serving out the set to force a crucial third.
A difficult decider saw Popyrin create a host of break point opportunities but was unable to take them – ceasing his first seven across three Arnaldi service games to remain on serve at 4-4.
After letting one final break point slip in the ninth game, two loose forehand errors gave Arnaldi a match point, which he converted with a down the line backhand passing shot to steal the rubber 7-5, 2-6, 6-4.
“I felt like I was in control from the second set onwards. So, for me, it's heartbreaking,” Popyrin said post-match.
Rubber #2 - Alex de Minaur vs Jannik Sinner
Coming out in a must-win scenario against the most in-form player on the planet made it more than an uphill battle for the ‘Demon’.
As we’ve come to expect, the Aussie began full of energy, holding to love in his opening service game and taking Sinner’s to deuce minutes later.
But from there on, it was close to one-way traffic as the Italian rose to another level, firing his forehand with ridiculous power and painting the lines in all areas of the indoor court.
The world number four took the opening set 6-3 before lifting again in the second, hitting thirteen winners and just three unforced errors to take it 6-0.
“Jannik is riding this amazing wave of confidence. He's seriously impressive the level he's showing”, de Minaur told the media.
“Today I just didn't have enough, and, you know, [I’m] disappointed I wasn't able to give the boys a chance to play the doubles yet another year. That's probably the biggest disappointment.”
Sitting in the post-tie press conference, the despondency was evident amongst the entire team, including Matt Ebden – who alongside Max Purcell – would naturally have loved a chance to contest the deciding doubles.
“[We were] probably one point away (in the Popyrin match) from being in the live doubles and were pretty confident going into that”, Ebden said.
“Of course, we're all incredibly upset with that, but that's tennis. That's life. We left everything out there the whole year again.”
It ends another brilliant campaign for the Aussies, falling at the final hurdle for a second straight year.