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By Alberto Amalfi | Thursday, September 14, 2017

 
Australia, Belgium

John Millman has replaced Thanasi Kokkinakis as a starter for Australia in the Davis Cup semifinals.

Photo credit: Philippe Buissin/Davis Cup Facebook

The biggest shot in advance of the Davis Cup semifinals was fired by Lleyton Hewitt.

The Australian captain benched scheduled starter Thanasi Kokkinakis in favor of John Millman for this weekend’s semifinal tie against host Belgium.

Watch: Top US Open Disappointments

The 28-year-old Millman will be put to the test immediately facing Belgian No. 1 David Goffin in tomorrow’s opening match on the red clay of the Palais 12 in Brussels.

Goffin owns a 17-3 Davis Cup singles record and has not lost a Davis Cup singles match since bowing to Andy Murray in Belgium’s 3-1 loss to Great Britain in the 2015 Davis Cup final.




Millman, who defeated teammate Nick Kyrgios en route to the US Open third round, will make his Davis Cup debut. He’s currently ranked No. 185, but reached a career-high rank of No. 60 before undergoing surgery to repair a torn tendon in his groin, which sidelined him for the first four months of the season.

The 213th-ranked Kokkinakis, who defeated Taylor Fritz and Tomas Berdych back-to-back to reach his first ATP final in Los Cabos last month, was expected to play his first Davis Cup match since 2015, but captain Hewitt has opted for Millman.

Tomorrow’s second singles rubber pits Kyrgios against Belgian veteran Steve Darcis in their first meeting. Both men are coming off US Open opening-round losses.

Australia’s John Peers and Jordan Thompson are scheduled to play Ruben Bemelmans and Arthur De Greef in Saturday’s doubles though both team captains could call in substitutes.

Sunday’s reverse singles opens with Kyrgios against Goffin in what could be the marquee match of the weekend.

The 20th-ranked Kyrgios is 3-0 lifetime vs. Goffin, including a 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 victory in the Tokyo final last year. This will be their first clash on red clay.

Millman is set to play Darcis in the fifth and final rubber on Sunday.

Belgium is bidding to reach its second Davis Cup final in the last three years.

The two nations have split their four prior Davis Cup ties with Belgium winning their last two meetings in the decisive fifth match, in the 2007 World Group opening-round in Liege and in the 2010 World Group playoffs contested in Cairns.

Host France is heavily favored over Serbia, which is without injured former No. 1 Novak Djokovic, in its semifinal staged on red clay at the Stade Pierre Mauroy in Lille, France.




Lucas Pouille opens for France against Dusan Lajovic with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga taking on Laslo Djere in the second singles rubber.




Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicols Mahut, the 2016 Wimbledon doubles champions, will face Serbia’s Filip Krajinovic and Nenad Zimonjic in Saturday’s doubles.

Tsonga takes on Lajovic and Pouille is scheduled to play Djere in Sunday’s reverse singles.




The France vs. Serbia semifinal is a rematch of the 2010 Davis Cup final that saw Viktor Troicki sweep Michael Llodra in straight sets to clinch Serbia’s first Davis Cup championship with a 3-2 triumph in Belgrade.


 

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