Australia rallies to beat Czech Republic and reach Davis Cup semifinals

Australia came from behind to defeat the Czech Republic 2-1 and reach the last four for the second straight year on Wednesday.
Australia's Alex De Minaur plays a shot against Jiri Lehecka of the Czech Republic during a Davis Cup quarter-final tennis match. (Photo | AP)
Australia's Alex De Minaur plays a shot against Jiri Lehecka of the Czech Republic during a Davis Cup quarter-final tennis match. (Photo | AP)

MALAGA: A game away from elimination, Australia found a way to rally and make its way back to the Davis Cup semifinals.

Australia came from behind to defeat the Czech Republic 2-1 and reach the last four for the second straight year on Wednesday.

Alex de Minaur recovered from a set and a breakdown to keep the Aussies alive, then Max Purcell and Matthew Ebden won the decisive doubles match to set up a last-four encounter with Finland on Friday.

Tomas Machac defeated Jordan Thompson 6-4, 7-5 in the first singles to put the Czechs ahead, but De Minaur beat Jiri Lehecka 4-6, 7-6 (2) 7-5, and then Purcell and Ebden — the 2022 Wimbledon champions — sealed the comeback by defeating Adam Pavlasek and Lehecka 6-4, 7-5 in the doubles.

"I prided myself on a never-say-die attitude and he's certainly in the same category", Australia captain Lleyton Hewitt said of De Minaur. "For him to go out there and put the boys on his back again, we're so proud of him. He had to dig really deep and yet again he saved us."

De Minaur, the top-ranked Australian and No. 12 in the world, broke back at 3-5 down in the second set and went on to force a tiebreaker. He then broke serve at 5-5 in the final set before closing out the match with four straight points.

"It would have been quite easy for me to roll over under the circumstances, but that's just not the type of player I am," the 24-year-old De Minaur said. "I have had plenty of these types of matches in my career. It's part of my identity. I'm not going to give up. I'm going to fight until the end."

Lehecka, No. 31 in the world, finished his season early to be fully fit for the last eight in Malaga.
Machac broke Thompson's serve once in the first set and twice in the second, including at 5-5 before closing out the match in the first singles. In the doubles, Purcell and Ebden broke serve once in each set to clinch the victory.

"These two, what they just did, let's not take it for granted," Hewitt said. "That was a massive effort, not knowing if they were coming out here or not, riding the ups and downs of the first two matches and then coming out and putting on a clinic like that, it was bloody impressive."

Australia became only the second nation, after the United States, to reach 200 tie victories in the Davis Cup.

Finland upset defending champion Canada 2-1 on Tuesday. Last year, Australia lost to Canada in the final after defeating Croatia in the last four.

In Thursday's quarterfinals, Novak Djokovic's Serbia faces a Great Britain team depleted by injuries, while Italy takes on the Netherlands.

The second semifinal will be played on Saturday, with the final taking place on Sunday.

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