SYDNEY (Reuters) – Untested Australia doubles pairing Alex De Minaur and Nick Kyrgios saved four match points before sealing a nail-biting win in the deciding match of their quarter-final clash with Great Britain at the inaugural ATP Cup team event 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 doubles specialists Jamie Murray and Joe Salisbury 3-6 6-3 18-16 to set 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 Kyrgios fell to the ground in a celebratory embrace after edging 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 the teams split the two singles matches, a decision he attributed to Kyrgios’ irresistible form.
While Kyrgios’ on-court behaviour often raised hackles, few handle pressure moments as well as he did on Thursday. Facing a match point in the doubles tiebreak, he ripped a backhand winner off a serve down a narrow gap.
Earlier, Kyrgios was too strong for London-based left-hander Cameron Norrie, winning 6-2 6-2, while Britain’s Dan Evans then outlasted the top 20-ranked De Minaur 6-7(4) 6-4 7-6(2).
Kyrgios said after his comfortable victory that he wasn’t happy with his serving rhythm, although he did successfully use an underarm serve that 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.
Krygios has previously employed the obscure but long-used tactic, notably against Nadal, the world’s top player, who has criticised the Australian’s on-court behaviour.
“If it gets in Rafa’s head, then it’s a success,” Kyrgios said after Thursday’s match.
De Minaur and Evans split the opening sets, setting up a third set contest that went to a tiebreak. Britain’s top player used his all-court game to press his younger opponent, and successfully employed serve-and-volley tactics at key moments.
De Minaur saved four match points before Evans eventually secured a morale-boosting victory weeks out from the Australian Open.
Hewitt then made the prescient call to put the 20-year-old immediately back out on court, partnered with Kyrgios, instead of doubles specialists.
“You have five minutes to decide after the second singles,” said Hewitt, who added that Kyrgios’ form was too good to leave him out of the deciding match.
Reporting by Jonathan Barrett in Sydney; editing by John Stonestreet