It was far from a perfect start to Australia’s 2023 Davis Cup Finals campaign, with Great Britain claiming two hard-fought, three-set singles victories – before the Aussies rallied for a point in the doubles.
All the action took place in front of a near-capacity crowd at the AO Arena in Manchester – no doubt helping their home team secure a 2-1 victory in the tie.
Rubber #1 – Jack Draper (GB) vs Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS)
Lleyton Hewitt chose Thanasi Kokkinakis (#77) to open proceedings for Australia – ahead of the higher ranked Alexei Popyrin (#40) and Max Purcell (#47).
The 27-year-old Aussie took on Jack Draper, who was given an opportunity by Great Britain
captain Leon Smith over Cam Norrie and Andy Murray.
After Kokkinakis came from 6-5 down in the tiebreak to take a tight opening set, Draper began to play more freely and fought back to force a decider.
A seesawing final set saw the Australian unable to serve it out from a 5-4 lead and again from 4-2 in the tiebreak, as Draper held his nerve to give Great Britain the perfect start to the tie.
“It’s disappointing, very tough. It was a tight match throughout, but I had golden opportunities…and just let my nerves get to me a little”, Kokkinakis told the media post-match.
Great Britain 1-0 Australia - Draper def Kokkinakis 6-7(6), 6-3, 7-6(4).
Rubber #2 – Dan Evans (GB) vs Alex de Minaur (AUS)
Australia’s chances at victory slipped further away as Alex de Minaur quickly found himself a set behind against Dan Evans.
The Brit instantly looked to draw energy from all 9000 fans inside AO Arena, using it to catch De Minaur slightly off guard and aggressively race to a 6-1 opening set.
Regaining control in the second, the ‘Demon’ seemed poised to draw Australia level at 1-1, but a stirring fightback from the world number 27 saw him take a 4-0 lead in the decider – one which the Aussie was unable to overcome.
“Today was one of those days. I lost to the better man”, De Minaur said post-match.
Great Britain 2-0 Australia - Evans def De Minaur 6-1, 2-6, 6-4.
Rubber #3 - Dan Evans/Neal Skupski (GB) vs Matt Ebden/Max Purcell (AUS)
Despite Australia having lost the tie, there was still a point to play for in the doubles rubber (which may be used to separate teams at the completion of the week) and both teams made no changes to their line-ups.
The 2022 Wimbledon champions in Matt Ebden and Max Purcell took an even first set and carried that momentum into the second, ultimately remaining unbroken for the match.
Team Captain Lleyton Hewitt revealed his satisfaction with the pair’s victory, after a long wait for their match to get underway.
“I’m really proud of the doubles boys. Even though they’ve sat through the two very-tight, three-setters, for them to come out and play that level of tennis was a big effort.”
Great Britain 2-1 Australia – Ebden/Purcell def Evans/Skupski 7-6(5), 6-4.
Australia will now have just 16 hours to prepare for France tomorrow, where they will need a victory to remain in the race to Malaga.