Lleyton Hewitt’s spirit inspires Australia’s fighting comeback in Davis Cup semi-finals |  Sport

Lleyton Hewitt’s spirit inspires Australia’s fighting comeback in Davis Cup semi-finals | Sport

Jordan Thompson and Alex de Minaur have taken a leaf out of their captain Lleyton Hewitt’s book, winning brilliant back-to-the-wall singles to propel Australia to the semi-finals of the Davis Cup in Malaga.

Thompson justified Hewitt’s difficult decision to pick him ahead of Thanasi Kokkinakis for Tuesday’s quarterfinal opening singles match against the Netherlands by beating Tallon Grecope 4-6 7-5 6-3.

De Minaur then continued his remarkable run of success in the Men’s Team Tennis World Cup in an equally riveting match, winning his ninth singles rubber in his last 10 appearances, also rallying to beat Dutch No. 1 Botic van de Zandschulp with 5 -7 to beat. 6-3 6-4.

It sealed Australia’s 2-0 triumph without needing Wimbledon champions Max Purcell and Matt Ebden to win a decisive doubles match, securing their first last four Davis Cup game in five years as they aim for a 29th title – 19 years since they last won in 2003.

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

Brought in late by Hewitt, Thompson turned in a combat performance that earned him a big hug from his captain — and he admitted that his skipper’s presence on the team bench felt inspiring.

“Of course I had missed the Davis Cup and I was very honored (to hear that I had been selected). I would do anything to win in the green and gold and I hadn’t played since March 2020,” explained Thompson.

“Me and Alex, we looked up to Lleyton. I think probably for both of us, (he was) our tennis idol. So to see him on the side of the field and have that same fighting spirit is something I’m sure he loves to see. When he is on the sidelines, I can no longer feel comfortable.”

Thompson was apparently regarded by Hewitt as a better bet than Kokkinakis, who has played just 10 singles matches since the beginning of July and is 11 places below Sydney’s No. 84.

Still, it was Grecian track who brought the game to 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.

But as the Greek track began to tire visibly in an epic 80-minute set with one match lasting almost 15 minutes, there was a crisis point for Thompson as the Dutchman earned a break point at 5-5, which may have felt like a match point if he felt had converted.

But when Thompson held on and then won the set with a flashy backhand pass, he was in control – and a break in the decider’s fifth game proved crucial, as he triumphed after a nearly three-hour dogfight.

De Minaur was just as indomitable, showing his best tennis in a crucial penultimate game, littered with eye-watering winners from both players.

But after missing a breaking point, Van de Zandschulp’s courage seemed to sink as he then coughed up a double foul en route to broken love.

“It feels great. It was a great fight,” said the Minaur. “Jordan played his heart out and it 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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