John Millman stepped up when Nick Kyrgios fell victim to a sudden back injury with the No, 48 paving the way for a 2-0 Australia defeat of Canada on Sunday at the ATP Cup in Brisbane.
The result means that Australia can qualify into the quarter-finals in Sydney if Germany defeat Greece in a later Brisbane tie.
Kyrgios, whose fitness can be patchy no matter what the season or surface, informed captain Lleyton Hewitt that he would be unable to take to the court.
Hewitt calmly substituted Millman, who came through with a defeat of teenaged opponent Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4, 6-2.
Alex de Minaur finished the job for the Aussies in the second singles to earn the unbeatable scoreline with his 6-7(6), 6-4, 6-2 defeat of Denis Shapovalov, a repeat of a November Davis Cup quarter-final win for the local..
Millman, a Brisbane native, eagerly sprang into action when he got the late call.
“You always have to be ready to play, I learned that in Davis Cup,” he said.
“That’s why you put in a really good pre-season. I felt like I was pretty prepared. A late call-up is always difficult.
“But I’m familiar with the court and the surroundings here and you know that you’re going to have a vocal crowd in your corner.”
Di Minaur went past Shapo in just over three hours, with the winner overcoming nine aces from the Canadian while breaking five times and pulling out of a mini-slump.
“Obviously, I would love to have taken care of things a bit easier, but you play the cards you’re dealt,” Spain-based Di Minaur said.
“I had chances in the first set. I probably didn’t do too well mentally after that. I went through a little bit of a rough patch where I was a bit too focused on the past.
“I managed to turn things around, get back into a positive mindset, get my energy back and able to turn it around again.”
The untried combo of out-of-retirement Chris Guccione and john Peers completed a clean sweep for Oz, beating Felix Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov 3-6, 7-6(3), 10-8.
Hewitt was pleased with his side’s effort. “Confidence and belief, that’s the biggest thing,” the captain said. “To go out there and beat quality players..
“Both (singles) wins are fantastic. At the start, John was able to weather the storm early (from Auger-Aliassime), and then he was able to turn it around.
“I had full confidence once he was out there. I knew what we were going to get out of him, he handled the situation perfectly.”
And for protege De Minaur: “For Alex, it was going to be a really tough match, Denis is an absolute quality and these boys have grown up together.
“They played a lot in juniors and know each other’s games. I’m so proud of how he came back and hung in there and found a
Casper Ruud clocked a personal tennis best on Sunday with his 6-2, 6-2 hammering of world No. 12 Fabio Fognini. But the singles effort was not enough to prevent a 2-1 loss to Italy on Sunday at the ATP Cup in Perth.
The upset victory marked the second defeat of a Top 20 player in three days for the 21-year-old Norwegian who is playing the best tennis of his career as the 2020 campaign gets started.
On Friday the No. 54 knocked off American John Isner as the Scandinavians beat the US 2-1 on opening day of the 24-nation competition being played simultaneously in Perth, Brisbane and Sydney.
“I’m very, very happy and excited about beating another top-20 player and the way I did it also,” Ruud said, “I played a very good match.
“The score was more comfortable than against Isner. It was a long match against John. But today the score was a little bit more comfortable.
“That was also very exciting for me.”
Ruud will get another supreme test on Tuesday in the final group tie for his nation when he takes on Russia’s ATP No. 5 Daniil Medvedev, the US Open finalist.
“That would be a great start of the year if I would be able to. He’s in great shape. He just came off his best year last year.
“I’m sure he’s playing well and he’s eager to get the season going again.
“It will be a very tough challenge for me, but I think there are chances. It will be one of my toughest challenges in my career so far.”
But the confident Norwegian added; “Coming out here, beating two top 20 players at the beginning of the year gives a great confidence.
“Maybe (it shows) I belong in this level and I belong around these guys.”
While Ruud earned his point for Norway, inexperienced teammate Viktor Durasovic was taken down 6-1, 6-1 by Italian Stefano Travaglia; Italy won a tight doubles rubber through Fognini and Simone Bolelli 6-3, 7-6(3).