Australia reached their first Davis Cup final since 2003 on Friday when they bounced back to defeat last year’s runners-up Croatia 2-1.
Max Purcell and Jordan Thompson stunned 2021 Wimbledon champions Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic 6-7 (3/7), 7-5, 6-4 in the doubles decider, with Australia playing either Canada or Italy on Sunday.
The win was a reward for the decision by Australian skipper Lleyton Hewitt, who played on the team that won the title in 2003, to pair Thompson with Purcell.
Matthew Ebden, who was Purcell’s partner in that year’s Wimbledon win, had to play in the deciding rubber before the late shift.
“That was a long time ago,” Hewitt said. “We are very proud of the Davis Cup and I am very proud of these guys. They deserve to be in the final and have a chance to win this thing.”
Hewitt acknowledged that Ebden had “little misgivings about the injury”.
“But I didn’t care about the chemistry of those two[Purcell and Thompson].”
After Mektić and Pavić won the 53-minute opening set in a tiebreak, pushing Croatia closer to their fourth Davis Cup final in six years, the Australian pair hit back.
They broke in the 11th game of the second set to level and then broke again in the seventh decisive game en route to victory two hours and 14 minutes later.
Previously, Alex de Minaur beat former US Open champion Marin Cilic 6-2, 6-2 to rise to the level of the 28-time Australian champion after Borna Coric gave Croatia a 6-4, 6 win in the semi-finals :3. over Thanasi Kokkinakis.
Cilic, ranked 17th in the world rankings, fell short due to 23 unforced errors, while De Minaur, ranked 24th in the world, avenged a loss to the Croat when the two countries met in last year’s tournament.
– “Intensity” –
“Marin is a hell of a competitive player, a veteran of our sport who has achieved amazing results. I knew what to expect, so I knew it would never be easy,” De Minaur said.
“I knew I had to put in the best effort I could, be as hard as I could and try to be hard but aggressive at the same time.”
World No. 26 Coric took the win over No. 95 Kokkinakis in 92 minutes thanks to six aces and 18 winners as the two-time champions set their sights on a return to the final after losing to Russia in the 2021 title match.
“It means a lot to me,” said Coric, who resurrected his career in 2022 without playing for 12 months until March this year after undergoing surgery on his right shoulder.
“I watched the guys play in the Davis Cup when I was injured and in rehab. Playing for Croatia is an amazing feeling for me.”
Canada and Italy will meet on Saturday in the second semi-final.