Dynamic Demon delivers for Aussies
ALEX de Minaur staged a remarkable comeback at Pat Rafter Arena on Friday night to seal Australia's ATP Cup Group F win over Germany.
Up 1-0 after a powerful Nick Kyrgios had earlier beaten Jan Lennard-Struff 6-4 7-6, Australia secured the tie with de Minaur's fighting 4-6 7-6 6-2 victory over a temperamental Alexander Zverev.
World No.7 Zverev seemed in total control and on his way to levelling the tie at 1-1 when he was up a set and a break. But from 3-4 down in the second set, de Minaur was unstoppable.
Breaking back to make it 4-4, Australia's world No.18 remain composed as the set went to a tie-breaker.
His emotions were in stark contrast to those of Zverev who smashed his racquet to bits after losing the tie-breaker 7-3.
With an energised crowd lifting him, de Minaur rammed home his advantage, spanking the demoralised Zverev in the third set to give Australia an unbeatable 2-0 lead heading into the doubles rubber.
The win was also sweet revenge for the Aussies, who were beaten by Germany at the same venue in a first-round Davis Cup tie in February 2018.
De Minaur rated the win as one of the most important victories of his career.
"At the start I was getting outplayed," he said.
"All of a sudden at the end of that first set things started to change ... slowly I managed to keep that pressure and eventually things turned around.
"What I'm proud of today is finding a way to win."
"He had my number until now ... this is about getting in my head that I'm good enough to match it with these guys and every top-10 win I get is a bit more confidence in myself.
De Minaur's victory follows Davis Cup wins for Australia against David Goffin and Denis Shapovalov, who he will play again when the hosts meet Canada on Sunday.
It's going to be popcorn match after popcorn match," de Minaur said of Australia's tough pool.
"I'm extremely proud of today ... hopefully come Sunday I'll be ready to do it all again."
The Germans had boasted before the ATP Cup how comfortable they were playing again at Pat Rafter Arena after their success there almost two years ago.
But Kyrgios had warned Germany, and particularly Zverev, that de Minaur was a much better player now and that the Davis Cup result meant nothing.
Kyrgios took great delight in watching de Minaur turn the tables on Zverev, doing a set of push-ups in Australia's courtside bench every time the German served a double fault, of which there were 14.
In contrast, de Minaur had no double faults in a controlled yet gritty 164-minute display that helped put Australia in a good position to qualify for the Cup quarter-finals.
Australia made it a clean sweep of the tie with victory in the doubles.
Veteran Chris Guccione and John Peers beat German pair Andreas Mies and Kevin Krawietz 6-3 6.4.
The Australians meet Canada on Sunday. The Canadians disposed of Greece 3-0 in Friday's other Group F tie at the Queensland Tennis Centre.
CANADA DOWNS GREECE
Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime won their singles matches against Stefanos Tsitsipas and Michail Pervolarakis to give Canada victory over Greece.
The Canadians then later took the doubles to secure an impressive 3-0 win.
Shapolvalov held off No.6-ranked Tsitsipas 7-6 (6) 7-6 (4) in just over two hours after 19-year-old Auger-Aliassime needed only 69 minutes for a 6-1 6-3 win over Pervolarakis, the Greek No.2 who finished last season at No.487 in the rankings.
"It's always amazing to be part of the team and have kind of a team feeling - it's pretty rare on the tour, so I definitely love it and I always feel like I thrive off that atmosphere," Shapovalov said.
"So, yeah, I'm really happy, happy with the result today."
No. 15-ranked Shapovalov now has a 3-1 lead in career meetings over ATP Finals champion Tsitsipas, who was unable to convert his breakpoint chances in the 7th and 11th games of the second set and then had a double fault on match point.
"It's definitely a huge win for me. Obviously, he had an unbelievable end to the season and he's definitely one of the top players in the world right now," Shapovalov said.
"He's got a great game. So to beat a guy like this first match of the year, it's really special for me. It means a lot."