Alex de Minaur enlivened the Brisbane crowd on Friday night, coming back from a set and a break down against World No. 7 Alexander Zverev to clinch Australia's first ATP Cup win against Germany.
De Minaur was down 6-4, 4-2 against Zverev, who had beaten him all four times they played, including in February 2018 at Pat Rafter Arena in Brisbane, the same location as their Group F tie.
But the 20-year-old Aussie, who ended 2019 at a career-best year-end FedEx ATP Ranking of No. 18, ripped back momentum in the eighth game of the second set and ran away with a season-opening win 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-2.
“This one for me was a really important match,” De Minaur said. “What I'm proud of today is about finding a way to win [against] an opponent who was hitting the ball big, was serving better. I wasn't getting a lot of free points on my serve, so I just had to try and find ways to win points out there.
“It wasn't easy and it was a very good match to start the year, start the new season. It's never easy. You got the added nerves of just a new year, and you're playing for your country, so all of that together made it a bit more nerve wracking. So I'm [glad] I was able to settle the nerves and get a win for myself and for Australia.”
De Minaur saved seven of 10 break points, and Zverev struggled to hold serve in the latter stages, hitting 14 double faults for the match. It's the fourth Top 10 win of De Minaur's career (4-13).
“Obviously, I'm not feeling my serve. That's no secret. But I think I just didn't practise enough, to be honest,” Zverev said.
Nick Kyrgios, despite playing with a heavy heart, gave Australia a 1-0 lead with a 6-4, 7-6(4) win against Jan-Lennard Struff. Kyrgios hit 20 aces and won 87 per cent (40/46) of his first-serve points.
“First match of the year is always going to be tough. To be honest, I was actually pretty happy with my performance. Obviously, I served well in crucial moments,” Kyrgios said.
With the high ace tally, Kyrgios assured donations would flow to Australian bushfire relief efforts. The ATP Tour has pledged $100 to the Australian Red Cross bushfire disaster relief and recovery efforts for every ace hit at the ATP Cup, and Kyrgios, himself, said he will donate $200 for every ace he hits.
His hometown of Canberra has been severely affected by the bushfires, with worsening air quality impacting the town where his mother still lives.
“Just seeing my hometown almost being on the alert and having, like, just the worst air quality in the world literally at the moment. It's just sad to see and it's just tough,” Kyrgios said. “It's tough to go out there and concentrate on tennis, to be honest. Every ace I was hitting that's all I was thinking about. Every time I stepped up to the line that's all I was thinking about.”
Struff evened their overall FedEx ATP Head2Head series 1-1 last year in Madrid, but Kyrgios broke once in the opening set and served out the match in the tie-break.
“It was tough to get the first points in his service games. He was always up 30-love, 15-love, pretty fast,” Struff said. “In the tie-break, I had three chances and I played three wrong balls.”
“If I win out of the three, one, I think I win the set. And then we can see for a third set. But, yeah, that was too good serving from him.”
In doubles, Aussies Chris Guccione/John Peers completed the 3-0 sweep with a 6-3, 6-4 win against Nitto ATP Finals qualifiers Andreas Mies/Kevin Krawietz.