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By Richard Pagliaro | Friday, November 25, 2022


Max Purcell and Jordan Thompson rallied past Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic 6-7(3), 7-5, 6-4 to clinch Australia's trip to the Davis Cup final with a 2-1 victory over Croatia.

Photo credit: Getty

Playing with its collective back to the wall, Australia answered with rousing comeback.

A defiant Demon and spirited Sydney buddies carried Australia into the Davis Cup final.

More: Nick Bollettieri Tribute

Max Purcell and Jordan Thompson rallied past Croatians Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic 6-7(3), 7-5, 6-4 to clinch Australia's trip to the Davis Cup final with a dramatic 2-1 victory over Croatia in Malaga, Spain today.

Elevating under extreme pressure, Purcell and Thompson landed the green-and-gold a spot in its first Davis Cup final in 19 years—and soared for a Bryan brothers-style chest bump to celebrate the moment.

"There's nothing f--king like it mate," a pumped Purcell told Lee Goodall in his on-court interview immediately afterward. "Honestly, nothing like it.

"That's the best thing I've ever experienced, ever. Yeah, anything for the green and gold."

Australia, a 28-time Davis Cup champion, which is second only to the United States on the champions list, will play either Canada or Italy in Sunday's Davis Cup final.

Tennis Express

Alex de Minaur solidified his status as a supreme Davis Cup competitor dismantling Marin Cilic 6-2, 6-2 to level the tie and force the decisive doubles.

A razor-sharp De Minaur improved his Davis Cup hard-court singles record to 10-1 to set the stage for Purcell and Thompson's heroics.

"I have had a couple instances when I have, you know, been in this position and I feel like my back's against the wall, and there is only one way to break through, and that's going forward full steam ahead and just going after every single point," de Minaur said. "You know, I knew what my job was.

"My job was to keep us alive, and happy to do anything I can for my country."

Initially, the Sydney buddies weren't captain Lleyton Hewitt's first choice for the decisive doubles. That's because he has the reigning Wimbledon doubles champions on his side.

Australian veteran Matthew Ebden was scheduled to partner Purcell and reprise their winning Wimbledon pairing, but his injury—and the Sydney synergy at work—compelled Hewitt to start Thompson.

The pair rewarded their captain's confidence: Purcell and Thompson combined for 13 aces against no double faults and did not drop serve in a confident two hour, 14-minute triumph.

"We had a small injury concerning one of our other players and these two know each other extremely well," Hewitt said. "They're both from Sydney, hit, trained a lot together.  

"I felt really comfortable with the chemistry. That's one of the biggest things about playing for your country and having that chemistry on court and I knew they were going to play well out there. First set they played really well, unlucky not to win it but then they just got better and better as the match went on. Just really proud."

Doubles has played a crucial role in the Davis Cup quarterfinals.

Denis Shapovalov and Vasek Pospisil scored a three-set win yesterday to complete Canada's 2-1 conquest of Germany. The Italian team of Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini defeated Americans Tommy Paul and Jack Sock to clinch Italy's 2-1 quarterfinal victory over the United States.

Had Australia been at full strength, it's quite likely Hewitt would have started a doubles team of Australian Open doubles champions Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis. Kyrgios ruled himself out of the Davis Cup final and Hewitt started Kokkinakis in the opening singles today hoping his bigger serve and more explosive game might pose more problems for a red-hot Croatian Borna Coric than the steady Thompson.

Cincinnati champion Coric did not drop serve, defeating Kokkinakis 6-4, 6-3 to stake Croatia to a 1-0 lead.

Thirty-two minutes into the match, Coric applied pressure, moving out to a love-30 lead. Kokkinakis answered by smacking a forehand winner and swatting an ace before tripping a forehand off the tape to face break point.  Kokkinakis saved break point with an inside-out forehand then thumped heavy serves to even after eight games.

A 20-shot rally ended with Kokkinakis knocking a backhand into net to face double set point in the 10th game. Kokkinakis saved both set points. Exploiting a mid-court ball, Coric followed a drive down the line forward drawing a netted pass for a third set point.

Cornering the Aussie on his backhand wing, Coric amped up his grunt, stepped around his backhand and rapped a clean forehand strike down the line breaking for a one-set lead after 50 minutes.

Coric served 76 percent, won all six points played on his second serve and did not face a break point in the opening set.  

An improved transition game helped Coric capture the Cincinnati championship in August. Coric showed his net skills following a short forehand forward and lifting a soft backhand volley winner breaking for a 4-2 second-set lead. Coric closed in style slamming his sixth ace.

All the pressure was on de Minaur's shoulders and he wore it well with a commanding performance.

Bursting out of the blocks with the opening-game break, de Minaur won eight of his first nine service points building a 3-1 lead.  

In a brilliant ball-control attack, de Minaur repeatedly pushed the 2014 US Open champion into the corners, drawing 23 unforced errors from Cilic, who betrayed his cause with nine double faults.

  It all added up to a 44-minute win, according to official Davis Cup stats, which left de Minaur in disbelief.

"I know my role. My role is to be tough as nails and be that guy that's just hopefully going to be getting those tough wins," de Minaur said. "You know, I have been doing that well for a while, so very happy with that. Very proud of myself."

Playing with pride and conviction, Australia rode timely strikes from Thompson down the stretch to create separation.

The bearded Thompson torched a two-handed return down the line to break Croatia and give Australia a 4-3 lead in the final set. The Aussie side leapt from the bench in support while Thompson celebrated throwing the viche at captain Hewitt.

Aussie fans were chanting as Thompson bolted another backhand down the line backing up the break with a commanding love hold for 5-3. Purcell served it with confidence.

Captain Hewitt, who was waving his arms exhorting Aussie fans down the stretch, starred alongside Mark Philippoussis and the Woodies to lead Australia to its last Davis Cup championship with a 3-1 win over Spain, led by Carlos Moya and Juan Carlos Ferrero, in the 2003 final on grass in Melbourne.

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Now Hewitt is relishing his squad's shot of reclaiming the Cup.

"I was quietly confident coming into the [de Minaur] match," Hewitt said. "I felt like he's done all the right preparation. He's trying to peak for this particular event and he deserves to play a match in the final.

"It's been a long time. We're a very proud Davis Cup nation. I'm just thrilled for these boys. They deserve to go out there and play the final for the Davis Cup and now it's gonna happen on Sunday."


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