Davis Cup: Australia face battle to reach final eight after defeats to Great Britain | Tennis

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Alex de Minaur and Thanasi Kokkinakis have both succumbed in the dramatic “tennis Ashes” as an inspired British team swept to victory over Australia in their Davis Cup finals group stage clash.

Cheered on by their home fans in Manchester on Wednesday, exciting new boy Jack Draper first outstayed Kokkinakis 6-7 (6-8) 6-3 7-6 (7-4) in a classic big-hitting duel before Dan Evans repelled a stirring comeback from Australian ace Alex de Minaur to prevail 6-1 2-6 6-4.

The victory puts huge pressure on Lleyton Hewitt’s team to now qualify for the tournament’s final eight stage in Malaga as they have to finish in the top two in this week’s group stage if they are to make it there.

With every game, set and match result counting, Max Purcell and Matt Ebden, the 2022 Wimbledon champions, were set for a key doubles match, needing a victory to avoid a 3-0 opening whitewash from GB.

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Last year’s runners-up, the Australians almost certainly will not make it to Spain in November unless they quickly lick their wounds and back up strongly to defeat France in Thursday’s tie (played on Friday morning AEST). The French won their opening tie against Switzerland 3-0.

The hosts, playing in front of a partisan 9,000 crowd in the AO Arena on Wednesday, caused a surprise by dropping their No1 Cameron Norrie and all-time great Andy Murray but were left hailing their fresh prince in 21-year-old Draper after Kokkinakis had served for the match in the final set of the opening rubber.

Draper also then roared back from 4-2 down in the match-deciding tiebreak – the first he had ever played at tour level – as he finally prevailed after 2 hours 50 minutes.

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It was a high-quality and exhilarating opening contest between two heavy hitters but Draper, who had just returned from a magnificent breakthrough US Open where he reached the last 16, proved just too good for the Adelaide man, who’d been trusted by Hewitt to play the key starter role despite a disappointing display in last year’s Malaga finals.

Kokkinakis emerged triumphant in a 63-minute opening stanza during which he saved a set point but then couldn’t crack the exciting left-hander’s serve until the ninth game of the decider. Draper then bounced back and went on to seal victory with a glorious backhand clincher down the line.

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It was down to De Minaur, who had won seven of his last eight Davis Cup singles and was playing his first match as a world top-12 player, to save the day, but he started slowly against the attacking Evans before his familiar never-say-die excellence belatedly began to wear down the Briton, who’d won their only two previous meetings.

But Evans powered away to a 4-0 lead in the decider and, despite struggling slightly with injury, still managed to hold off De Minaur’s familiar battling response, even though he reduced the arrears to 4-3, as he sealed the British triumph after two hours and nine minutes.

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