Kyrgios, de Minaur get Australia into ATP Cup semifinals

AP Photo

SYDNEY — A euphoric Nick Kyrgios lifted Alex de Minaur over his shoulder and carried him off the court

Fair enough. The 20-year-old de Minaur spent five hours on court in back-to-back matches for Australia, saving four match points before losing his singles to Dan Evans in a 3-hour, 23-minute encounter, and then saving four match points before winning the deciding doubles in a super tiebreaker against Britain at the ATP Cup.

The 2-1 victory gave host Australia the first spot in the semifinals of the new international team event. The victories are coming at a time when Australia needs some good news, amid catastrophic wildfires that have claimed at least 26 lives since September, killed millions of animals and destroyed more than 2,000 homes.

Residents were being evacuated in towns south of Sydney as the ATP Cup quarterfinal match was being played Thursday.

At Ken Rosewall Arena at Sydney’s Olympic Park, it was like a soccer stadium full of noise and chanting for the home team.

Kyrgios gave Australia the lead with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Cam Norrie in the opening singles. De Minaur lost 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-6 (2) to Evans, meaning the result would hinge on the doubles.

Australia captain Lleyton Hewitt gambled on sending his two singles players back out for the doubles against the established British team of Jamie Murray, a winner of two major doubles titles, and Joe Salisbury. It paid off after a seesawing 3-6, 6-3, 18-16 victory, sealed in a gripping match tiebreaker.

After the match, Kyrgios told the TV audience he would celebrate with a red wine.

A little later, in a post-match news conference, he was still in a buoyant mood, clearly thriving in the team environment – and being in the rare position in his career of being the calmer, senior member of the team.

“It was unreal. You know, the adrenaline has kind of worn off and I’m exhausted,” Kyrgios said in a post-match press conference. after that match. “But it was awesome. It was honestly — today was one of the best moments in my career, definitely.”

De Minaur and Kyrgios, who had 34 doubles matches between them in 2019 – and not once together – were preferred to Chris Guccione and John Peers, who were unbeaten in three matches in the ATP Cup’s group stage.

“Just making it through to the semifinal, the first-ever ATP Cup in that type of fashion, was pretty special,” Kyrgios said. “The whole team was – we genuinely care for each other, and (Guccione, Peers and John Millman) were genuinely just so ecstatic to get through.”

Hewitt said the decision was in the best interests of the team, explaining that he couldn’t leave Kyrgios on the bench because of the way he’d been serving, and he knew de Minaur would respond positively in the doubles.

His hunch paid off. Hewitt, who played doubles with de Minaur at the Brisbane International last year, a week before de Minaur won his first singles title at the elite level by claiming the trophy in Sydney, said the high-pressure moment experience of his two singles players was an advantage.

“Tell you what, after I got called up for the doubles, I had already forgotten about the singles,” de Minaur said. “And with the doubles win, I mean, it’s one of the best days of my life. I’m not going to lie.”

The Australians will play the winner of Friday’s quarterfinal between Belgium and Rafael Nadal’s Spain. Nadal was on the practice courts adjacent to Ken Rosewall Arena practicing after Australia had won the first of the quarterfinals and Russia met Argentina in the second.

Britain captain Tim Henman said he was proud of his team, which did almost everything on court except win it.

Australia needed five match points in the match tiebreaker to clinch it, Britain had four chances.

The one that Murray won’t forget in a long time was at 11-10, when he an almost open court in front of him but somehow sent a backhand long in response to a reflex shot from Kyrgios.

“I missed that shot basically on top of the net, which was ridiculous,” Murray said later. “We hung in and we did well. We just couldn’t quite get the last point.

“But, yeah, that will hurt. Should have never missed that shot, and I’ll probably never miss it again in my career. But today I missed it, and that cost us.”

Alycia Parks reaches 1st WTA quarterfinal in Ostrava

alycia parks
Robert Prange/Getty Images

OSTRAVA, Czech Republic — American qualifier Alycia Parks is having quite the breakthrough tournament in Ostrava.

The 21-year-old Parks earned her first win against a top-10 ranked opponent by beating fourth-seeded Maria Sakkari 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 at the Agel Open on Thursday to reach her first WTA Tour quarterfinal.

The 144th-ranked Parks ousted former No. 1 Karolina Pliskova in the opening round – her first win against a top-20 opponent – and showed off her power by hitting 59 winners against Sakkari, compared to just nine for her opponent.

“I came out here not expecting anything, just playing my game, and it got me through the match,” Parks said.

Parks will next face former French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, who advanced via walkover when Belinda Bencic withdrew with a left foot injury.

Caty McNally, another American qualifier who is playing doubles with Parks in Ostrava, also reached the last eight by beating wild-card entry Karolina Muchova 6-1, 3-6, 6-1. McNally is also into her first WTA quarterfinal and will face top-ranked Iga Swiatek, who advanced Wednesday.

Djokovic beats Van de Zandschulp to reach Astana quarters

novak djokovic
Nir Keidar/Getty Images
1 Comment

ASTANA, Kazakhstan — Add Botic van de Zandschulp to the long list of players to have been schooled by Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic eased past Van de Zandschulp 6-3, 6-1 on Thursday in his first career meeting with the 27-year-old Dutchman to reach the quarterfinals of the Astana Open.

Van de Zandschulp earned one break point in each set but couldn’t seriously threaten Djokovic, who is looking for a second straight indoor hardcourt title after winning in Tel Aviv last week.

“(In the) second set I think I started to read his serve better and just started swinging through the court more,” Djokovic said. “Botic is a quality tennis player. When he has time, he can hurt you, so I tried to take away that time from him and I’m very pleased with the way I played, particularly in the second.”

Djokovic will next face Karen Khachanov, who rallied to beat Marin Cilic 2-6, 6-3, 6-3. If the 21-time Grand Slam champion gets past that one, he could come up against fellow former No. 1 Daniil Medvedev. The second-seeded Russian beat Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland 6-3, 6-2 to move one match away from a potential rematch of last year’s U.S. Open final, when Medvedev beat Djokovic to deny his attempt at a calendar-year Grand Slam.

Medvedev will first have to beat Roberto Bautista Agut, who advanced Wednesday.