Nick Kyrgios and Alex de Minaur assured Australia of a semi-final place at the ATP Cup on Thursday as the pair led a 2-1 defeat of Britain.
The Sydney success came as the 24-nation event began the knockout stage after preliminaries in Perth, Brisbane and also Sydney over the past six days.
Kyrgios, whose attitude snaps to attention when he plays a team event, won his singles rubber 6-2, 6-2 over Cameron Norrie and combined in a last-chance pairing made by captain Lleyton Hewitt to edge out victory by defeating the experienced pair of two-time Grand Slam doubles winner Jamie Murray and outsider Joe Salisbury 6-3, 3-6, 18-16.
De Minaur lost his singles – but not through lack of trying as Brit Dan Evans stopped the Spanish-trained Aussie 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(2) in nearly three and a half hours.
Hewitt scrapped his original pairing comprising out-of-retirement Chris Guccione and John Peers to go with his two best overall performers, with the bet paying off big-time.
Australia will aim for the finals at the inaugural edition of the $15 million event by playing the winner from Rafael Nadal’s Spain and Canada clash on Saturday.
Kyrgios lost a service for the first time in ATP Cup singles play in his victory over former US college player Norrie.
“I actually thought I served really awful today, to be brutally honest with you. I wasn’t feeling my serve at all,” the 24-year-old Kyrgios said. “It was probably the worst service performance I have had in the Aussie summer by far.
“But I was playing really well from the back, returning really well today. I tightened up a little bit, but, I responded well.
“I obviously broke the next game, but I just felt today I wasn’t serving my best. I don’t know what it was, but I’m just glad I got the job done.”
Kyrgios, playing out an ATP disciplinary threat after a serious blow-up on court last summer in the US which earned a record fine of $115,000 and a suspension if he goes off again, was a model citizen during the quarter-final victory.
He and De Minaur have jelled nicely into a unit which Hewitt hopes to be able to count on in the future.
“I kind of look at (Alex) as my little brother in a way. I just try and be a good influence on him whenever I can when I’m around him,’ Kyrgios said.
“I think he feeds off my energy a little bit. He had a great year last year, and I think it’s only going to get better for him.
“The things he can do in this sport are pretty special, I think.”