Alex de Miñaur of Australia bounced back from a disjointed 2021 and threw the glove ahead of the Australian Open against impressive World No. 7 Matteo Berrettini of Italy in straight sets, 6-3, 7-6, at the Sydney ATP Cup. .
The victory at De Minaur’s spiritual home, Ken Rosewall Arena, inspired Australia to an impressive 2-1 victory in Group B over the Italians, who are among the favorites to win the entire tournament.
Before a ball had even been served, the Australians faced him.
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Within hours of Australia’s first game of the team tournament that kicks off the men’s calendar, James Duckworth was ruled out with a hip injury.
De Minaur (world No. 34) was left with all the pressure on his shoulders and none of the tipsters on his side as the Australians hoped to keep in touch with a best-of-three victory.
Winning would have been equaling the biggest win of his career in the rankings, and not only that, he was going to have to do it against last year’s Wimbledon finalist, who edged out players like Dominic Thiem, Gael Monfils and Roberto Bautista. Agut on his way to last year’s ATP Cup final.
So when the hometown hero opened up a comfortable lead in the first set, the Sydney spectators were understandably excited.
They exploded when he pulled the first set, 6-3, as a just reward for keeping his foot on the gas while the game lasted up to that point.
The second set seemed destined for a tie-break from the start, with each man taking turns hitting the other.
With every game he claimed, De Miñaur was no less exultant in his celebrations than a young Lleyton Hewitt, who sat yards away as captain of the Australian team on Sunday night.
More than a foot missing left the Italian shaken, before the match progressed to the tiebreaker of the second set that he so much deserved.
With the home crowd increasing with every point, the 22-year-old Sydneysider sent a ripple through the tennis world by eliminating the tiebreaker 7-4 and thus the match.
De Miñaur endured his share of setbacks last year, the most notable of which was a coronavirus outbreak that forced him to leave the Tokyo Games.
But the Australian seemed sure he had put Olympic anguish behind him.
“It’s not about how many times you get knocked down … it’s about how many times you get knocked down and you get back up,” he said.
“I’m in the best shape of my life and I’m ready to have a great year.”
It was the fifth time De Miñaur had beaten a top 10 player, but the first since January 2020, according to tennis journalist Val Febbo.
Perhaps driven by the heroism of their compatriot, Australians Luke Saville and John Peers sealed the tie victory by dusting off Italians Simone Bolelli and Berrettini in the doubles match.
Berrettini was a late inclusion in place of Fabio Fognini, who was replaced for tactical reasons.
After dominating the first set, the two Australians found their momentum slipping in the second before beating their rivals in a tie-break to claim victory in straight sets, 6-3, 7-5.