SYDNEY (Reuters) – Untested doubles pairing Alex De Minaur and Nick Kyrgios sealed a nail-biting 3-6 6-3 18-16 victory for Australia in the deciding match of their quarter-final clash with Great Britain at the inaugural ATP Cup team event in Sydney on Thursday.
Tennis – ATP Cup – Ken Rosewall Arena, Sydney, Australia – January 9, 2020 Australia’s Alex de Minaur and Nick Kyrgios celebrate during their Quarter Final doubles match against Britain’s Jamie Murray and Joe Salisbury REUTERS/Ciro De Luca
The Australian duo, better known for their singles play, defeated Britain’s doubles specialists Jamie Murray and Joe Salisbury, setting up a semi-final against either Rafael Nadal-led Spain or David Goffin’s Belgium.
In something resembling both a hug and a wrestle, De Minaur and Nick Kyrgios fell to the ground in relief and celebration after winning the half hour-long extended tiebreak, used in place of a deciding third set.
“That was the most stressful tie-breaker I’ve ever been involved in,” Kyrgios said in an on-court interview after the match. “I’ll definitely be having a couple of red wines tonight.”
The pair were subbed in by team captain Lleyton Hewitt at the last moment after Australia and Great Britain split the singles results.
Earlier in the day, Kyrgios was too strong for London-based left-hander Cameron Norrie, winning 6-2 6-2, while Great Britain’s Dan Evans then outlasted the top 20-ranked De Minaur 6-7(4) 6-4 7-6(2).
Despite rarely being tested on his own service games, Kyrgios was broken late in the match for the first time this tournament. He quickly recovered and picked up the pace on his serve to secure the win.
The 24-year-old said after the match that he wasn’t happy with his serving rhythm, although he did successfully use an underarm serve which appeared to confuse his British opponent, who was looking out for the tactic to be redeployed throughout the match.
“Anytime in a match where the opponent stops thinking about what he needs to do … I think I have an edge straight away,” said Kyrgios.
The obscure, but long-used tennis tactic has attracted controversy in recent years.
De Minaur started fastest in his match against Evans, securing an early break in the first set before Britain’s top player had a chance to compose himself.
Evans used his all-court game to press his younger opponent, securing a break back and then pushing the first set into a tiebreak, which he won.
The second set followed a similar trajectory, although this time De Minaur was able to hold off a late challenge from Evans, who was playing with more aggression as the match progressed and using serve-and-volley tactics at key moments.
In the third set, Evans pressed De Minaur at every opportunity, and he eventually secured the deciding tiebreak after the Australian was unable to stave off a fifth match point.
Hewitt then made the prescient call to use the untested doubles pairing of De Minaur and Kyrgios instead of doubles specialists.
Reporting by Jonathan Barrett in Sydney; editing by John Stonestreet