Aussies battle into Davis Cup semi-finals

Lleyton Hewitt has hailed his Davis Cup warriors as both Jordan Thompson and Alex de Minaur offered steely impressions of their captain with never-say-die triumphs that bundled Australia into the semi-finals.

De Minaur continued his breathtaking recent win record in Cup singles as he wrapped up the 2-0 victory over the Netherlands in Tuesday's opening quarter-final tie in Malaga with some dazzling fare that downed rising Dutchman Botic van de Zandschulp 5-7 6-3 6-4.

Yet after his ninth win in his last 10 singles rubbers, Australia's No.1 said he'd only taken his lead from battling lead-off man Jordan Thompson, Hewitt's surprise choice who prevailed in another compelling marathon with Tallon Griekspoor 4-6 7-5 6-3.

"I think it was just incredible what Jordan was able to do today. The fight, the passion, the heart that he showed, just to dig really, really deep and get through that one was a huge inspiration to me," de Minaur said.

"It's great for us Sydneysiders, an honour to be part of this team," the 23-year-old added, after booking a date on Friday with either hosts Spain or Croatia in Australia's first semi-final for five years.

Australia haven't won the World Cup of men's tennis since 2003, when Hewitt was playing in the winning team - but after the opening day of the week-long finals in the Spanish seaside resort, de Minaur was adamant: "We're in it to win it!"

The team had a practice camp in Paris last week, and Hewitt was so impressed by Thompson's form and attitude there that he chose him as the opener rather than Thanasi Kokkinakis, who was short of singles play and had struggled last week with Nick Kyrgios in the ATP Finals doubles.

"Of course, I'd missed the Davis Cup, and was extremely honoured (to learn I'd been picked)," said Thompson, who'd not played in the competition since March 2020 but has a fine singles record [now 5-2].

"Me and Alex, we looked up to Lleyton. I think probably for both of us, our tennis idol.

"So to see him on the side of the court and having his same fighting spirit is something I'm sure he loves to see. When he's on the sideline, I couldn't feel more comfortable."

Hewitt did love to see it, for Thompson vindicated his call, shutting out the noise from the Dutch orange army of fans while basically outlasting and outfighting Griekspoor after he'd flirted with defeat at a set and break point down at 5-5 in the second stanza.

With his opponent flagging physically in the near three-hour dogfight, Thompson's superior fitness told as he demonstrated afterwards by flashing his flexed right bicep to the crowd, adorned with its patriotic tattoos.

De Minaur was just as indomitable in another tight, high-quality contest with the more powerful world No.35 van de Zandschulp, coming up with some truly remarkable, Djokovic-like tennis in a crucial penultimate game hold littered with fabulous winners from both players.

After missing out on a break point in that key game, the Dutchman's spirit faded as he then coughed up a double fault en route to being broken to love, leaving de Minaur's mum Esther to sob with joy at courtside.

Hewitt reckoned he could not have been more proud too.

"They love wearing the green and gold, they can go to another level - and both those boys did tonight."