Australia’s Davis Cup men now know their destiny lies in their own hands as they target a whitewash victory against Switzerland to guarantee their place in the finals in Malaga.
After two nail-biting ties already in Manchester this week, Lleyton Hewitt’s battlers are buoyed with confidence they can produce their very best to seal the result they need against a resurgent Stan Wawrinka and his brilliant new Swiss sidekick Leandro Riedi.
Following Great Britain’s 2-1 victory over the Swiss at the AO Arena on Friday (Saturday AEST), Australia got a clearer idea of what’s needed for them to gain the top-two finish required to progress from their round-robin group.
Two wins from two for the hosts means GB are on pole to make November’s knock-out finals, but the Aussies now also know a 3-0 win on Saturday (Sunday AEST) over Switzerland, who have lost both their ties, will be enough to guarantee their ticket to Spain.
A defeat will probably, but not definitively, mean the end of Australia’s hopes and even a 2-1 win would still leave their fate up in the air, with both Britain and France also both able to end up with two wins apiece as they meet in Sunday’s (Monday AEST) final tie.
It could all come down to sets and even games won, but the bottom line is only a win for Australia will do, and their aces in the pack could well end up being doubles stars Matt Ebden and Max Purcell, who won both their rubbers in the 2-1 defeat to GB and the 2-1 win over France.
Purcell, their No.2 singles player, says: “With Demon (singles No.1 Alex de Minaur) playing as well as he is, with our different options for the number two spot and with Matt and I coming in for doubles, I feel like we’re a team that no-one wants to play against.
“So anytime whenever we have a live doubles to play, I feel like it’s almost game over for us.”
Ebden, fresh from reaching the US Open men’s doubles final, is also bullish about the team, declaring them to be an improved outfit from the one that reached the tournament final for the first time in 19 years in 2022.
“We’re super-confident together, we believe in ourselves incredibly, and we believe in this team, our fighting spirit. We came close to winning the whole thing last year and I feel like we’ve all improved since then actually.
“We had to fight our guts out (against France) to keep our chance alive – and we have to do it again on Saturday.”
It won’t be easy with the Swiss having unearthed a fine debutant in 21-year-old Riedi, who gave former world No.1 Andy Murray all the trouble he could handle with his extravagant and fearless shot-making in a 6-7 (7-9) 6-4 6-4 defeat.
It was an emotional day for Murray, who broke down in tears afterwards as he revealed his grandmother’s funeral had also been taking place in Scotland and declared: “Gran, this one’s for you.”
Wawrinka then showed his resurgent form by beating British No.1 Cameron Norrie in straight sets, before losing in the deciding doubles with Dominic Stricker, who’s their third dangerous singles option.
Hewitt’s key decision will be which of his team should play in the critical opening singles rubber after both Thanasi Kokkinakis and Purcell lost in the previous ties. The third possibility is Jordan Thompson, another Sydney fighter who’s seen no action at all so far.