Australia was eliminated from the ATP Cup by Spain after both Nick Kyrgios and Alex de Minaur fell in their respective singles matches on Saturday.
De Minaur played some of the best tennis of his young career as he tried to keep his nation alive against Rafael Nadal, but was ultimately overrun by the world No. 1, who gave Spain an unassailable 2-0 lead in the semi-final tie.
Nadal, who was largely outplayed, had his first break and set point of the match in the second set. After taking it, he went on to complete the come-from-behind victory 4-6 7-5 6-1 in Sydney.
Spain went on to take the tie 3-0, and will play the Novak Djokovic-led Serbia in Sunday night’s final.
Kyrgios cut a frustrated figure as the Spaniard found the answer to his big serve and took out the singles showdown 6-1 6-4.
The Australian never gave in, putting his body on the line at times, but just couldn’t figure out the tricky Bautista Agut, who barely put a foot wrong in 81 minutes.
Kyrgios’s defeat had left de Minaur needing an unlikely victory to push the match to a deciding doubles clash.
Adopting a similarly aggressive game plan to Belgium’s David Goffin, who downed Nadal on Friday night, de Minaur was outstanding, hitting winner after winner to put the 19-time grand slam champion on the back foot.
Breaking Nadal on his first service game, he held firm to take the opening set and went toe-to-toe with the Spaniard for much of the second. After a break-point chance at 5-5 to serve for the match, things started to unravel for de Minaur who’d lost in straight sets to Nadal in their two previous encounters.
Nadal snatched the set with his only opportunity as part of a run of six consecutive games to effectively seal the match.
The irrepressible de Minaur pinched a break back but it wasn’t enough as Nadal avoided losses in back-to-back matches for the first time since October 2016.
ATP CUP SEMI-FINAL RESULTS
AUSTRALIA v Spain
No. 2 singles: Nick Kyrgios (AUS) def by. Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) 1-6 4-6
No. 1 singles: Alex de Minaur (AUS) def by. Rafael Nadal (ESP) 6-4 5-7 1-6
Doubles: Chris Guccione and John Peers (AUS) def. Pablo Carreno Busta and Feliciano Lopez (ESP) 2-6 7-6 4-10