Australia are eyeing an unlikely semi-final berth at the ATP Cup after Alex de Minaur downed Wimbledon runner-up Matteo Berrettini to spark a 2-1 comeback win.
De Minaur bounced back from a 2021 season interrupted by Covid-19 in emphatic style on Sunday, defeating world No 7 Berrettini 6-3 7-6 (7-4).
Next up on Tuesday, the Australian men’s No 1 will tackle US Open champion Daniil Medvedev in a battle against Davis Cup champions Russia.
Drawn in the tournament’s strongest group alongside Italy, France and Russia, John Peers and Luke Saville sealed the upset victory with a 6-3 7-5 win over Simone Bolelli and Berrettini in the doubles at Ken Rosewall Arena.
Australia’s Max Purcell had been comfortably beaten by classy world No 10 Jannik Sinner 6-1 6-3 in the opening singles game.
“This is what you work hard for, to play on your home court in front of your friends and family playing for Australia,” said an emotional de Minaur, who has dropped to No 34 in the world after reaching a career-high 15 during last year’s grass-court season.
“There’s no greater honour and it brings out the best in me. It’s not about how many times you get knocked down, it’s about how many times you get knocked down and get back up again.
“That’s what I want to keep doing. I didn’t have the best year [in 2021]. I had some setbacks, unlucky events and Covid, but I’m back and I’m ready to have a big year.
“I want to bring it to these top guys and really own the court, but playing in front of a home crowd is an amazing atmosphere. That court gives me amazing memories. It’s definitely my favourite court to play on.
“I’ve had an amazing pre-season and I’ve been hitting the ball really well and it’s great to be able to go out there and perform. I’m feeling in the best shape of my life and I’m going to cherish that and carry that onto the court with me and be ready for every challenge that’s thrown at me.”
Victory against Russia would put Australia in the box seat for a finals berth ahead of a clash against France on Thursday.
They expect world No 2 Medvedev to pose a sterner challenge than the one he offered on Sunday, when he was shocked by France’s Ugo Humbert in the singles before he teamed up with Roman Safiullin to seal a 2-1 victory.
“They did extremely well to get through their match today, especially with Medvedev losing, which not a lot of people would have predicted,” said Australian captain Lleyton Hewitt.
“We’ve got to do the right thing and recover. We’ll have a light day tomorrow [Monday] and then give ourselves the best opportunity in a couple of nights time. It’s going to be at the other arena which will be slightly different, but we’ll put our best foot forward but we look forward to these opportunities against the very best sides.”