In a battle between the two nations who pulled off wins in their opening ties, it was Australia, playing in front of a home crowd in Brisbane, who ended the day top of Group F to virtually guarantee themselves a place in the knockout stage.
It’s just not over until the last point Alex de Minaur
Alex de Minaur came back from a set and a break down to defeat world No.15 Denis Shapovalov after three hours, 6-7(6) 6-4 6-2.
“Not too sure really (how I did it). Yet again, an amazing team effort. I had the whole team behind me. Even when things weren’t going my way. It’s just not over until the last point,” a smiling De Minaur said, adding: “I like to get as much on court time in front of this amazing crowd (smiling).”
The win put Team Australia in an unassailable 2-0 wining position over Canada.
Earlier, the local hero John Millman, replacing Nick Kyrgios who was kept on the bench by a back injury as a precautionary measure by captain Lleyton Hewitt, was given the task of getting the Aussie challenge under way and he rose to the occasion by defeating the talented youngster Felix Auger-Alliasime, the world No.21, 6-4 6-2 at the Pat Rafter Arena.
“It’s never easy when you’re not totally expecting to play, but any opportunity to come here and play in front of a home crowd — I’ve been lucky to play on all courts in all venues all around the world, and there’s no place like home. I love playing here in front of the Queensland crowd,” Millman said following his win.
Chris Guccione and John Peers grabbed the doubles point to ensure Australia completed a second 3-0 clean sweep following their shut out of Germany on Day 1, with 3-6 7-6(3) 10-8 victory over Auger Aliassime and Adil Shamasdin.
Meanwhile in Sydney, Bulgaria went to the top of Group C as they built on their 2-1 opening tie victory over GB by defeating Moldova by the same scoreline.
Grigor Dimitrov had a 6-2 6-3 win over Radu Albot to secure an unbeatable 2-0 lead after Dimitar Kuzmanov beat Alexander Cozbinov 6-1 7-5.
Following his victory, the Bulgarian number one commented that the air in the stadium was a bit ’foggier’ than previously.
“Obviously I’ve seen it a little bit more now [after the match] – it’s definitely not pleasant,” he said. “I even noticed [the smoke haze] this morning when we were going to warm-up, the court was a little more dustier than it was the previous days. It is what it is … we can control only what we can.”
The air quality was reported to be at its worst during the doubles match, with the nearest monitoring site to Sydney Olympic Park, recording at 3.pm local time, a 150 AQI (air quality index), a level considered to be “unhealthy for sensitive groups”, with the advice being that outdoor exercise is unsuitable.
That didn’t bother the doubles players as Albot, with partner Alexander Cosbinov, then led Moldova to a 6-4 7-6(4) for a compensation point for his team.
Over in Perth Italy became the third nation in Group D to score a win when they beat Norway, surprise winners over the USA in their opening tie, 2-1.
The win was claimed in the doubles when the experienced pairing of Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini powered their way past Casper Ruud and Viktor Durasovic 6-3 7-6(3) to clinch the tie after 90-minutes.
Earlier in the day Stefano Travaglia claimed the first singles rubber with a comfortable 6-1 6-1 win over Durasovic only for Ruud to level the tie when he beat beat Fognini 6-2 6-2.
“We won a very tough tie today, and Norway’s playing very good,” said Bolelli. “It was a very important point for Italy to stay alive in the competition. We are confident, we are still in, and now we have to prepare the match against the United States.”
He added, “It was a very tough doubles.”