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Davis Cup heavyweights Australia, Spain and France into finals

Australian Open doubles champion Thanasi Kokkinakis won a decisive singles rubber to power 28-time winners Australia through to the next stage of the Davis Cup Saturday where they were joined by fellow multiple champions Spain and France.

Lleyton Hewitt’s Australians went into day two tied 1-1 with Hungary and were fighting an uphill battle after Fabian Marozsan and Mate Valkusz upset John Peers and Luke Saville to clinch the doubles 6-4, 6-4.

That left world number 30 Alex de Minaur needing to win against 35th-ranked Marton Fucsovics to keep the clash alive— and backed by a rowdy crowd at Sydney’s Ken Rosewall Arena he battled through 7-6 (7/4), 6-4.

Kokkinakis last played in the Davis Cup seven years ago, but was recalled after claiming a first ATP singles title in Adelaide this year, then winning the Australian Open doubles crown with Nick Kyrgios.

With the tie on the line, he repaid skipper Hewitt’s faith with a gutsy 6-4, 6-4 win over young Hungarian number two Zsombor Piros.

“Thank you Lleyton for trusting me, it’s been a long time since I played and to play a fifth rubber at home has been incredible,” he said.

Spain, France win

Six-time champions Spain, playing without Rafael Nadal, advanced after world number 15 Roberto Bautista Agut gave his team an unassailable 3-1 lead over Romania with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Marius Copil.

After losing their two opening singles matches on Friday, Romania kept their hopes alive by winning the doubles rubber, Copil and Horia Tecau defeating Alejandro Davidovich and Pedro Martinez 7-6 (7/2), 6-4 in Marbella.

But world number 261 Copil was unable to overcome the impressive Bautista Agut, who faced only two break points in the match and closed out after an hour and 28 minutes to send Spain through.

Carlos Alcaraz was therefore spared his second singles match against Gabi Adrian Boitan. The 18-year-old had marked his Davis Cup debut with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Copil on Friday.

France, 10-time Davis Cup champions, were also untroubled as Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut defeated Gonzalo Escobar and Diego Hidalgo 6-3, 7-5 in Pau for a 3-0 win over Ecuador. 

Argentina, champions in 2016, wrapped up a 3-0 win over three-time winners Czech Republic in Buenos Aires when Horacio Zeballos and Maximo Gonzalez defeated rookies Jiri Lehecka and Thomas Machac 6-4, 6-4.

The Netherlands exploited the weaknesses of a Canada side missing top 15 stars Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov to coast to victory, secured by Robin Haase who racked up the 32nd Davis Cup singles win of his career courtesy of a 6-1, 6-2 victory against Steven Diez.

In Seoul, 65th-ranked Kwon Soon-woo steered South Korea over the line with a hard-fought 7-5, 7-5 victory over Austria’s 143-ranked Dennis Novak.

They had also entered day two tied 1-1, with Nam Ji-sung partnering Song Min-kyu to outlast Alexander Erler and Lucas Miedler 6-4, 6-3 in the doubles to give Kwon the platform he needed to finish it off.

The twelve Davis Cup qualifiers are all being decided on Saturday, with the winners progressing to the finals, the first stage of which will be played at a yet-to-be-determined location in September with 16 teams involved.

Croatia, Great Britain and Serbia are already through, with Davis Cup chiefs to decide next week who will replace defending champions Russia after they were axed over the invasion of Ukraine.

Those 16 will be whittled down to eight for the quarter-finals in November.

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