Home competition discipline Australia out to nab 29th Davis Cup trophy in finals against Italy

Australia out to nab 29th Davis Cup trophy in finals against Italy

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Australia will be going for their 29th Davis Cup trophy in Sunday’s final in Malaga, Spain, after they reached the tournament decider for a second year in succession.

Australia captain Lleyton Hewitt celebrates during a Davis Cup match against Belgium in September. Picture: REUTERS, Yves Herman

AUSTRALIA will be going for their 29th Davis Cup trophy in Sunday’s final in Malaga, Spain, after they reached the tournament decider for a second year in succession.

Alex de Minaur overpowered Emil Ruusuvuori 6-4 6-3 after Alexei Popyrin beat Otto Virtanen 7-6(5) 6-2 to earn the 28-time champions a 2-0 win over Finland on Friday.

In the 2022 final, Lleyton Hewitt’s team lost to Canada and missed the opportunity to close in on 32-time champions the United States.

Giant-killers Finland were the only country left in the last four in Malaga to have not won a Davis Cup crown after the Netherlands lost to Italy, but their quest to make a first final in the elite men’s team competition ended with a whimper.

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De Minaur, who sparked Australia’s comeback victory in their quarter-final against the Czech Republic, left the Finns with an uphill task as he showed his resolve to recover from an early break against Ruusuvuori and take the first set.

Ruusuvuori showed little sign of the shoulder problem that kept him out of Finland’s stunning win over champions Canada in the last eight and played aggressively in the second set, but De Minaur held firm.

“Extremely proud moment, but I could have not done it without these guys,” De Minaur said, pointing to his team.“Alexei hasn’t played for Australia in a very long time and had a massive match. He played a very high quality opponent and dug super deep. He won us the tie.

World No.171 Virtanen earlier served with venom and let rip a blistering array of groundstrokes in a tight first set, but came unstuck towards the end as Popyrin saved a set point and pounced in the tiebreak.

Popyrin, a late switch for the injured Thanasi Kokkinakis, grabbed the first break in the second set when Virtanen hit two successive double faults as Australia sensed an opportunity.

The 40th-ranked Popyrin closed out the win and silenced a huge crowd of boisterous Finnish supporters who have made the nearby town of Fuengirola their home.

“It’s nerves that I’ve never experienced before in my life, the nerves playing the first tie, the first rubber of a Davis Cup, winning my first live rubber of a Davis Cup.

De Minaur said Australia would be tricky opponents for any team in the final, and tipped the doubles duo of Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell to play a vital role.

“We’re a solid squad. We’ve got a lot of depth in every position. If we get ourselves to a doubles we’ve got an unbelievable pairing.”

Reuters

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