Alex de Minaur
Alex de Minaur put Australia on course for the United Cup last eight by crushing Taylor Fritz. Image by Richard Wainwright/AAP PHOTOS
  • tennis

Australia through to United Cup quarter-finals

Justin Chadwick January 2, 2024

Lleyton Hewitt has heaped praise on his team’s never-give-up attitude after Australia escaped the group of death at the United Cup to secure a quarter-final berth.

Alex de Minaur kicked off Monday night’s tie against defending champions Team USA with a crushing 6-4 6-2 win over world No.10 Taylor Fritz.

Ajla Tomljanovic’s 7-6 (8-6) 6-3 loss to world No.5 Jessica Pegula levelled proceedings, meaning it all came down to the mixed doubles.

Complicating matters for Australia was the fact they needed to win the mixed doubles in straight sets in order to top their group, which also featured Great Britain.

Gun doubles pairing Matt Ebden and Storm Hunter got the job done, defeating Pegula and Rajeev Ram 6-3 6-1.

Australia’s hopes of a quarter-final berth looked shot after losing to Great Britain 2-1 on Friday.

But their against-the-odds victory against the US left team captain Hewitt beaming with pride.

“They played fantastic, it was great,” Hewitt said.

“I’m very proud. It was backs against the wall after our first match.

“They left everything out there. It bodes well for Wednesday night.”

Fritz was a hero of America’s United Cup triumph last summer, recording four wins from his five singles matches, including impressive triumphs over grand slam finalists Alexander Zverev and Matteo Berrettini.

But he was simply no match against de Minaur, who registered 28 winners to 19 in the 89-minute rout.

Fritz threw his racquet across the court in disgust early in the second set after de Minaur pulled off a crazy winner to secure a crucial break.

On another occasion, Fritz rested his head on the net in defeat following yet another sizzling winner from de Minaur.

“Today was a little bit of a new year, new me type of thing,” said de Minaur, who was defeated in three sets by Cameron Norrie on Friday night.

“I was in a great head space. I played the type of tennis I wanted to play, so I’m very happy with that.

“I’ve played Taylor plenty of times. He’s got some explosive firepower, and you have to try to not to let him dictate play.

“I tried to be aggressive. I was able to execute. I’m very happy with that.”

De Minaur’s on-court movement throughout the match was superb, and his sliced backhand also proved to be a major weapon.

“I’m just trying to show out there that I can do a lot more things than just run side to side,” de Minaur said.

“I’ve got a couple of things up my pocket. I have to try to bring them out more.”

Returning star Tomljanovic was broken early in the women’s singles encounter, but she rebounded strongly and was on the cusp of winning the first set.

Pegula kept her nerve to fend off three set points, and she took her own chances when they presented by converting four of her six break-point chances.

In contrast, Tomljanovic only converted three of 11 break-points.

Despite not getting the win, it was a much better performance from Tomljanovic compared to her 6-2 6-4 loss to Katie Boulter on Friday night. 

“I’m not going to lie, Friday really kind of put me down,” Tomljanovic said.

“I really thought my level wasn’t there. 

“But coming out today and putting up a good fight, and even though I didn’t win, I felt like I had so many chances.”

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