‘Nothing compares to this’: Demon delivers as Australia power into Davis Cup final

Alex de Minaur has delivered once more for Australia, guiding Lleyton Hewitt’s team with panache past Finland and into another Davis Cup final in Malaga.

The nation’s top player, inspirational all week at the Spanish resort, sealed victory in their semi-final on Friday (Saturday AEDT) by defeating Emil Ruusuvuori 6-4 6-3.

It followed a superb win from teammate Alexei Popyrin, who defied jangling nerves in the opening singles to earn a 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 straight-sets victory over Otto Virtanen.

It meant the Aussies’ crack doubles team of Max Purcell and Matt Ebden weren’t even needed as Hewitt’s close-knit crew set up a final on Sunday against either Novak Djokovic’s Serbia or Jannik Sinner’s Italy, who meet in Saturday’s (Sunday AEDT) second semi-final.

It will be a tall order on the fast-paced hard court at the Palacio de deportes Martin Carpena against a team lead by world No.1 Djokovic or No.4 Sinner.

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But Hewitt has the inspirational de Minaur, a man who just keeps growing in stature in the gold-and-green, to call on as Australia seek a first win in the World Cup of men’s tennis for the first time in 20 years.

Asked to take on the troublesome ‘second singles’ role by captain Hewitt, Popyrin, only a late replacement in the squad, also rose to the initial challenge superbly.

Playing with what he admitted were “nerves I’ve never experienced before”, Popyrin managed to deliver a rock solid game, making only 11 unforced errors to his erratic opponent’s 25, to prevail in just under an hour-and-a-half.

“It was probably the biggest win of my career,” admitted Popyrin. “To come out and play for your country, and win a match that means so much to us, it’s an honour and something I’ll never forget. 

“Nothing compares to this. 

“I thought I was ready but when I came out and heard the two sets of fans chanting so hard, but it was nerves that I’ve never experienced before.

“So for me to come out and steady my head, focus on my serve and capitalise on the chances I had, it was really good.”

His effort helped silence a noisy contingent of Finnish fans, who were hoping to cheer their underdog outfit to their first-ever final in the world men’s team competition. 

Instead, de Minaur, who’d pulled an extraordinary triumph out of the fire in the quarter-final win over the Czech Republic, proved just too relentless with his flat hitting.

He overcame the loss of the first two games to dominate the contest against Finland’s only top-100 ranked player Ruusuvuori, who was passed fit to play after missing their sensational quarter-final win over champions Canada on Tuesday.

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