Spirit of Lleyton Hewitt inspires Australia’s return to action in Davis Cup semis |  sport

Spirit of Lleyton Hewitt inspires Australia’s return to action in Davis Cup semis | sport

Jordan Thompson and Alex de Minaur pulled a leaf from their captain Lleyton Hewitt’s book, fashioning brilliant back-to-the-wall singles wins to propel Australia into the Davis Cup semi-finals in Malaga.

Thompson vindicated Hewitt’s tough call to pick him over Thanasi Kokkinakis for Tuesday’s quarter-final opener against the Netherlands by coming from a set down to defeat Tallon Griekspoor 4-6 7-5 6-3.

Then de Minaur continued his remarkable streak of success in the men’s World Cup tennis team in an equally compelling contest, winning his ninth singles rubber in his last 10 outings, also having to rally to beat the Dutchman n ° 1 Botic van de Zandschulp 5-7. 6-3 6-4.

He sealed Australia’s 2-0 triumph without Wimbledon champions Max Purcell and Matt Ebden being held to a decisive doubles, and set up their first clash in the Davis Cup last four for five years so that they were aiming for a 29th title – 19 years since they last won in 2003.

On Friday, they will face either six-time champions Spain or Croatia for a place in Sunday’s final.

Thompson, brought in late by Hewitt, produced a fighting performance that earned him a big hug from his captain – and he admitted his skipper’s presence on the team bench was inspirational.

“Of course I had missed the Davis Cup and I was extremely honored (to learn that I had been chosen). I would do anything to win in the green and the gold and I had no played since March 2020,” Thompson explained.

“Me and Alex looked up to Lleyton. I think probably for both of us, (he was) our tennis idol. So seeing him on the side of the pitch and having the same fighting spirit is something he likes to see, I’m sure. When he’s on the sidelines, I couldn’t feel more at ease.

Thompson was obviously seen by Hewitt as a better bet than Kokkinakis, who has played just 10 singles matches since early July and is ranked 11 places below world number 84 Sydney.

Still, it was Griekspoor who got the better of the Aussie, his powerful forehand giving him early control, but Thompson had more fun working the 26-year-old’s backhand in the second stanza.

Yet as Griekspoor began to visibly fatigue in an epic 80-minute set that featured a nearly quarter-hour match, there was a crisis point for Thompson when the Dutchman earned a break point at 5-5 which may have felt like match point had he converted.

But when Thompson held, then won the set with a flashing backhand pass, he was in control – and a break in the decider’s fifth game proved crucial as he went on to prevail after a fight air of nearly three hours.

De Minaur was equally indomitable, delivering his best tennis in a crucial penultimate game littered with dazzling winners from both players.

But after missing a break point, van de Zandschulp’s spirit seemed to sink as he then spat a double fault en route to being broken at love.

“He feels good. It was a hell of a fight,” de Minaur said. “Jordan played with all his heart and that really inspired me. I just fought to the end, a never say die attitude.

In the other quarter-finals, Italy will face the United States while Germany will face Canada.

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