Lleyton Hewitt’s Australian side will face either Italy or Canada if they qualify for their first Davis Cup final in 19 years.
As the Aussies trained for Friday’s semi-final against Croatia at Palacio de Deportes Jose Maria Martin Carpena, the Italians cruised to a surprise 2-1 win over the United States to stay on course for their maiden triumph in competition for 46 years.
Then the Canadians rallied with opening singles player Denis Shapovalov recouping his early loss by playing inspirational tricks in a late-night deciding doubles to oust Germany 2-1 in the final quarter-final.
The Australians, who initially have their work cut out for them to master Croatia – perhaps the strongest team in the competition with Marin Cilic, Borna Coric and doubles stars Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic – now know that life won’t get any easier if they make it to the final. .
A potential showdown against Italy, who are deprived of their two best players, looks more inviting than an outing against Canada’s dynamic duo of Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime, who fell at the last hurdle ago three years.
The Italians were without Matteo Berrettini and Jannik Sinner, but still found a capable assistant in world No. 45 Lorenzo Sonego, who opened the game with a shock 6-3 7-6 win 9-7) over Frances Tiafoe, 19th in the standings. .
Although Taylor Fritz brought the 32-time champions back to the draw, beating youngster Lorenzo Musetti 7-6 (10-8) 6-3, it was the veteran pairing of Simone Bolelli, 37, and Fabio, 35 . Fognini who imposed himself immaculately in the decision of the double.
They outscored Tommy Paul and Jack Sock 6-4 6-4 to ensure the Italians reached the last four for the first time since 2014.
The Canadians’ in-form totem Auger-Aliassime, the highest-ranked player in Malaga this week at No.6, helped shape their rescue act after Shapovalov surprisingly lost a thriller to Jan-Lennard Struff.
Struff, who fell to 152nd in the standings but never lost his big serve danger, finally fended off resistance from the Canadian after Shapovalov saved two match points, winning 6-3 4-6 7 -6 (7-2).
But Auger-Aliassime beat Oscar Otte 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 to give Shapovalov a quick chance for redemption, which he took alongside Vasek Pospisil.
The pair fought back after a set to defeat the undefeated Cup duo of Kevin Krawietz and Tim Puetz 2-6 6-3 6-3, Shapovalov giving the last backhand winner as the clock had just struck midnight.
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