Australia have advanced to the Davis Cup finals in November after a stunning 3-0 clean-sweep against Switzerland. Lleyton Hewitt's team knew they could punch their ticket to the finals in Malaga with a whitewash of the Swiss on Saturday night, and Thanasi Kokkinakis, Alex de Minaur, Matt Ebden and Max Purcell produced the goods.
After copping some flak for opting to play Kokkinakis in Australia's first tie against Great Britain, Hewitt went with the South Australian again on Saturday after he preferred Purcell in the singles against France. Kokkinakis lost to Jack Draper in the first tie, before he was replaced by Purcell in the second.
'MAKES NO SENSE': Tennis world baffled by 'worst ever' women's farce
But Hewitt showed faith in the man who helped the Aussies make it all the way to the final last year, and Kokkinakis repaid that faith in spades. The World No.74 defeated Dominic Stricker 6-3 7-5 in the opening rubber, snapping a run of three-consecutive Davis Cup defeats.
De Minaur then continued his proud record in the green and gold, outplaying Marc-Andrea Huesler 6-4 6-3 to seal Australia's second victory of the week following their 2-1 win over France. Huesler was preferred to three-time grand slam champion Stan Wawrinka, who watched on from the bench.
The Aussies then completed the 3-0 sweep as Ebden and Purcell remained undefeated this week by beating Stricker and Huesler 6-2 6-4 in the doubles. Kokkinakis, who is ranked lower than teammates Purcell and Jordan Thompson (as well as Australia's reserve player Alexei Popyrin), admitted to suffering from nerves earlier in the week when he lost to British newcomer Draper after serving for the match.
"Relief, honestly, after the other day, just pure relief," Kokkinakis said after this key victory. "I'm not going to lie, I was fighting some demons there towards the end. If you lose, you feel like you've let everyone down so it's tough, I'm not going to lie."
World No.12 and Aussie No.1 De Minaur suffered a rude shock when he was broken in the opening game by World No.101 Huesler. But he took back control of the match by breaking in the sixth game, and went on to seal his ninth Davis Cup singles victory in his last 11 rubbers.
Ebden and Purcell, who won the Wimbledon doubles title in 2022, have gone their separate ways this season, with Purcell deciding to concentrate more on his singles career. But they didn't miss a beat as they won all three of the doubles rubbers this week to send the Aussies into the finals - which will take place in Malaga in November.
Australia joins Finland and Canada in Davis Cup finals
Hewitt's side will be looking to go one better than last year's extraordinary effort of making the final, where they lost to Canada. Hewitt was still playing the last time Australia won the Davis Cup 20 years ago.
"Who knows?" Hewitt said about whether or not his side could go all the way this time. "We gave ourselves a great opportunity last year and the boys got a taste for it. We want to try and push a little bit harder and see if we can climb that mountain and I feel like I've got the boys that are able to do that."
— 😻🌻🚩Graça 🎾🏀🏐🏌️🏄 (@graciiiinha) September 16, 2023
Elsewhere on Saturday, Finland stunned 32-time champions the United States to seal their place in the finals for the first time, while the Czech Republic, Canada and Serbia also advanced. Otto Virtanen beat Mackenzie McDonald 7-6 (7-5) 1-6 7-6 (9-7), before Emil Ruusuvuori sent Finland into the last eight with a hard-fought 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 win over Tommy Paul in Split.
"It means a lot for the whole country and for tennis in Finland," Ruusuvuori said. "It's a huge thing and once again we proved how strong this team is. We're going to Malaga."
This is one of the biggest upsets I can remember in Davis Cup. Wow 🔥😨 https://t.co/7ZAa9ABCI0
— José Morgado (@josemorgado) September 16, 2023
Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.