Australians are ready to fight, says Lleyton

Tennis legend Lleyton Hewitt said the Australian team’s shock victory over Italy proves they now have “a fighting chance” to continue breaking expectations and winning the ATP Cup in Sydney.

Even the most ardent Australian tennis fans would have been nervous when Australia were drawn in the same pool as the Italians and Russians, whose respective squads include 2021 Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini and world number 2 Daniil. Medvedev.

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But on Sunday night, Australian world No.34 Alex de Minaur defied the odds to defeat No.7 Berrettini in straight sets and tie the biggest win of his career.

From there, the Australian doubles team froze the Italians to seal an unlikely 2-1 tie victory at Ken Rosewall Arena.

LLeyton Hewitt watches the Australians triumph at the Ken Rosewall Arena. Photo: Mark Evans / Getty Images

“Alex played fantastic,” said Hewitt, who is Australia’s captain of the Sydney-based tag team tournament.

“He had a really big preseason. He came over there and held the game from the start.

“It’s a hell of a victory for him to start the season on the right track. That then gave us the opportunity for the boys to go over there and play doubles.

“I think the two (Australian doubles Luke Saville and John Peers) played a fantastic game.

“It’s good that we always have a chance to fight.”

De Minaur suffered his fair share of setbacks in 2021, including a coronavirus episode that excluded him from the Tokyo Olympics.

But the 22-year-old Sydney native said he put the tough year behind him and is ready to make a splash in 2022.

“I’ve been hitting the ball really well in practice the last few weeks, and it’s great to be able to go out there and perform,” he said.

“I feel in the best shape I have felt in my entire life, so I’m going to really cherish this, carry that on the pitch every time I go out and be ready to take on any challenges that are thrown at me.”

Some of Alex de Minaur's celebrations reminded one of a young Hewitt.  Photo: Mark Evans / Getty Images
Some of Alex de Minaur’s celebrations reminded one of a young Hewitt. Photo: Mark Evans / Getty Images

Hewitt said the Australian squad would enjoy the first of those challenges – meeting Russia on Tuesday night at Qudos Bank Arena.

He’s the brightest star in the ATP Cup, but Medvedev has already been brought back to earth once in this year’s tournament – Frenchman Ugo Humbert came from a set to knock out 2021 US Open champion in of the day session Sunday.

Medvedev recovered from the defeat by teaming up with compatriot Roman Safiullin to win the double and avoid what would have been a catastrophic result for the Russians.

“They did extremely well in their game, especially with Medvedev losing, which few would have predicted,” Hewitt said.

Hewitt said his troops would be delighted to be able to compete with the reigning ATP Cup champions.

“It will be over in the other arena (Qudos Bank Arena), which will be slightly different for the boys,” Hewitt said.

“We’re going to do our best and give ourselves a chance.

“We look forward to these tough chances and opportunities against the best players.”

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