Alex de Minaur suffered an excruciating defeat on Thursday in the Final Eight of the ATP Cup, losing to Briton Daniel Evans in the longest match of the tournament, which lasted three hours and 24 minutes.
But the beauty of the ATP Cup is that when you lose one match, you don’t go home. It’s all about the team and representing your country, and De Minaur got another crack at glory, partnering Nick Kyrgios past Jamie Murray and Joe Salisbury 3-6, 6-3, 18-16, saving four match points to help Australia reach the semi-finals.
“After I got called up for the doubles, I had already forgotten about the singles,” De Minaur said. “With the doubles win, it’s one of the best days of my life. Not gonna lie.”
Throughout the deciding doubles match, De Minaur and Kyrgios fired up themselves with chest bumps and enthusiastic high fives with their countrymen in the Australian Team Zone. After Salisbury missed a return on match point, the close friends fell to the court and rolled around embracing one another. And when they got up, Kyrgios picked up De Minaur and put the 20-year-old over his shoulder.
“It was unreal. The adrenaline has kind of worn off and I’m exhausted after that match,” Kyrgios said. “It was awesome. Today was probably one of the best moments in my career, definitely. Just making it through to the semi-final, the first-ever ATP Cup in that type of fashion, was pretty special. The whole team, we genuinely care for each other, and they were genuinely just so ecstatic to get through.”
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All the players on the court — those competing, and those in their respective Team Zones — were emotionally invested in the match. The likes of Evans, John Millman, and captains Lleyton Hewitt and Tim Henman were on their feet every point, screaming at the top of their lungs in support of their countrymen.
“Players want to play for their country. There is no doubt about that. Tennis is such an individual sport throughout the year,” Hewitt said. “So for these guys to get the opportunity to play for their country, it’s pretty special for these guys. I said before we started this event we are very fortunate and lucky that it’s in our backyard, and we get the opportunity to play as a team for our country on our home courts. We feel privileged to be able to do that.”
There was news before the match started, as Hewitt made the decision to change his doubles line-up, swapping Chris Guccione and John Peers for De Minaur and Kyrgios. De Minaur had just lost a heartbreaker, and Guccione and Peers learned they would not be playing in the tie. But everyone chipped in to a memorable moment that will go down in ATP Cup history.
“I’m going to do anything for the team. I mean, I knew that if I was going to step out on the doubles court, then I was going to make sure that I was going to be fired up, ready to go, and full of energy,” De Minaur said. “It’s just amazing to see what Nick just brings day after day. He’s come back from an epic win against Stefanos, and today he just played clinical in the singles and doubles. I had a match that didn’t go my way, but still, I couldn’t have had a more supportive person after the match and even on the doubles court. So it was great to be on the same side of the court as Nick, and hopefully there is plenty of more times.”
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Kyrgios constantly speaks about how much he enjoys the team environment. After his singles win to start the day against Cameron Norrie, Kyrgios was back in Australia’s Team Zone cheering on De Minaur by the end of the first set. After every great shot in the doubles, Kyrgios waved at the crowd to get them involved.
“It was so much going on. The crowd was amazing. The atmosphere. There was so much going on. I just tried to stay in the moment,” Kyrgios said. “We had a match point, and we didn’t take it, and I didn’t even bother thinking about that again. It was just such an epic match that I was just always thinking of the next point. The stars aligned on that doubles for us. I thought Evo got pretty lucky in some cases in their singles match. Some luck had to go in our way in that doubles.”
All of this happened as the players were competing for more than themselves. Throughout the year when a player loses, they disappoint themselves. At the ATP Cup, they play for the love of country. De Minaur and Kyrgios certainly embraced that on Ken Rosewall Arena.
“When you’re playing for your country, you’ve always got those added nerves. And it’s tougher when things don’t go your way. I was just incredibly proud of the whole team, and everyone out there had my back for the whole match and even after the match,” De Minaur said. “[John] Peersy and [Chris] Gucc[ione], they were coaching us on the bench, telling us what to expect and what to be ready for, and what happened today was just completely a team effort. We couldn’t have done it with anybody else.”