Thanasi Kokkinakis’ revival continues with the born-again baseliner earning the green light as Lleyton Hewitt’s No. 2 singles choice for the Davis Cup qualifier between Australia and Hungary at Sidney.
Back in the Cup fold for the first time in almost seven years, Kokkinakis will face Hungarian spearhead Marton Fucsovics in Friday night’s second singles match under the closed roof of the Ken Rosewall Arena.
Australian number 1 Alex de Minaur will face Zsombor Piros in the opener before Kokkinakis tries to continue his sizzling summer form after finally regaining his full form.
The 26-year-old won his long-awaited maiden ATP title in his hometown of Adelaide in January before teaming up with Nick Kyrgios to claim the Australian Open doubles crown.
It’s no wonder Hewitt backed Kokkinakis to challenge his status as world No. 99 and upset the tie with a win over 35th-ranked Fucsovics.
The Australia captain said he would have been equally confident in Alexei Popyrin but felt Kokkinakis’ claims were irresistible.
“He deserves this opportunity tomorrow night to have a chance with his No.1 player,” said the Australia captain.
“The way Thanasi performed in Australia and the way his body held up is a credit to him.
“The form he was producing over the summer, but also the way he hit it this week, we’re confident he can really try to break that tie for us.”
Kokkinakis has not played in the Davis Cup since Australia’s semi-final loss to Great Britain in 2015 in Glasgow.
“It’s a pretty cool feeling. It’s been, what, six or seven years now. Glad to get the call from Lleyton,” he said.
“I hope I can play well. I had a close game with (Fucsovics) last year (in Miami), which could have gone either way.
“So I’m going to go out there and compete hard and hopefully it gets done.”
De Minaur, playing the Davis Cup for the first time at his beloved home ground in Sydney’s Olympic Park, is a strong favorite to score the first blow for Australia against Piros.
But Hungary’s world No. 240 shocked John Millman in last year’s final in Turin in November, leaving de Minaur to save Australia with a hard-earned third-set win over Fucsovics to keep that tie alive.
“Anything can happen in the Davis Cup,” Piros said.
John Peers will partner Cup debutant Luke Saville in Saturday’s critical doubles tie against Fucsovics and Fabian Marozsan after teaming up with Alex Bolt to claim a 2-1 win over Hungary in this latest recent outing.
De Minaur and Fucsovics are set to face off in Saturday’s first reverse singles match, with Kokkinakis and Piros scheduled for the final match.
But both captains have the option to change their rosters after Friday night’s results.
The winning team will advance to the 2022 Davis Cup Finals in September.
AUSTRALIA’S DAVIS CUP QUALIFIER DRAW AGAINST HUNGARY AT THE KEN ROSEWALL ARENA IN SYDNEY:
Friday Singles, from 1700 AEDT
Alex de Minaur (AUS) against Zsombor Piros (HUN)
Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS) against Marton Fucsovics (HUN)
Saturday doubles, from 1300 ADT
John Peers and Luke Saville (AUS) against Fucsovics and Fabian Marozsan (HUN)
Saturday’s Reverse Singles
De Minaur (AUS) vs Fucsovics (HUN)
Kokkinakis (AUS) vs Piros (HUN)
Australian Associated Press