Australia out of Davis Cup despite win
Australia's hopes of making the knockout stages at the Davis Cup Finals are doomed despite a courageous Alex de Minaur-inspired 2-1 victory over Hungary in Turin.
Lleyton Hewitt's side came from behind after a shock defeat for John Millman to earn the victory on Saturday that was their minimum requirement following their calamitous 3-0 loss to Croatia in their opening Group D tie on Thursday.
Yet with the Croats set to wrap up the group victory on Sunday by beating Hungary, the Australians' record of two rubbers won and four won't be enough to earn them a place in the quarter-finals, even as one of the two best group runners-up.
Hewitt accepted they'd be flying home but reckoned he was "extremely proud" of their fighting spirit.
"I guess we had a couple of days to think about it and all our focus was on today and what we could control in our destiny," he said.
"We did that by getting the win, but it probably won't be enough to get us through."
Qualification always looked wholly unlikely but nobody evidently told the never-say-die de Minaur as he pulled off a marathon victory that Hewitt described as a "great effort".
Australia's gutsy No.1 dug as deep as he always does over three exhausting hours to prevail 7-5 2-6 7-6 (7-2) against his big-hitting Hungarian counterpart Marton Fucsovics.
His win enabled the experienced John Peers and debutant Alex Bolt to then seal the tie in the decisive doubles, as they proved just a little too strong for the returning Piros and Fabian Marozsan, winning 6-3 6-7 (11-13) 6-3 in just over two hours.
Following Millman's capitulation against long-odds outsider Zsombor Piros 4-6 6-4 6-3 first up, Australia's hopes of a last-eight spot already looked shot when de Minaur took to the court.
Yet the 22-year-old Sydneysider looked Hewitt-like in his scurrying determination to ensure they didn't leave Turin empty-handed as he carried out his promise to "leave everything out there" in the Pala Alpitour.
'Demon' hasn't looked anywhere near his best since recovering from the COVID-19 infection that ruined his Olympic dream but he cast aside his indifferent form to outbattle and finally outlast Fucsovics in a high-quality slugfest on a slow court, defusing the power of a player with the more formidable weapons.
"You leave it all out there for your country, no matter what, and at the end of your match, you've got to be proud of your effort," de Minaur said after earning his first win of the week at the third attempt. "It was a brutal battle."
Ultimately, his remarkable physical conditioning helped see him through in a nerve-jangling denouement as the 29-year-old Fucsovics broke his delivery as he was serving for the rubber, saved a match point to take it into a tiebreaker, during which he then suffered cramping and finally ran out of gas.
Earlier, just as Croatia's world No.276 Borna Gojo had beaten Alexei Popyrin on Thursday, a little-known Hungarian Piros, ranked 282 globally, raised his game in a manner which seemed beyond a flat-looking Millman.
The 32-year-old Queenslander had been drafted in to replace Popyrin but could never find his stride as Piros, 10 years his junior, earned the biggest win of his career to date.
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