Turin, Italy, 26 November 2021 | Leigh Rogers

Australia’s hopes of claiming a 29th Davis Cup title have been struck an early blow, losing its opening round-robin tie at the 2021 finals.

Croatia powered to a 3-0 victory against the Australian team in Turin today.

“It’s obviously disappointing,” said Australian captain Lleyton Hewitt. “Not the way we would have liked to have started the campaign, but Croatia played extremely well in all three matches, to be honest.”

World No.276 Borna Gojo stunned Australia’s Alexei Popyrin in the opening rubber, firing eight aces in a 7-6(5) 7-5 victory.

There was only a single break in the one-hour and 49-minute battle, with Gojo striking late in the match on his first break point opportunity.

The 22-year-old Popyrin, on the other hand, was left ruing missed opportunities. The world No.61 had five break point opportunities during the match, but was unable to convert any.

“I would say this is probably the most painful loss I have had,” Popyrin conceded. “I had chances.”

It is only the second top-100 win of 23-year-old Gojo’s career and first since 2017.

“He’s a good player, and his ranking doesn’t really justify his level. I think he plays above his ranking,” said Popyrin.

Former world No.3 Marin Cilic then secured Croatia’s victory, recording a 6-1 5-7 6-4 win against Australian No.1 Alex de Minaur.

The US Open 2014 champion had too much firepower in the one-hour and 58-minute clash, striking 29 winners to De Minaur’s nine.

De Minaur showed his fighting spirit to recover from a 1-3 deficit in the second set. The world No.34 won a run of three consecutive games to regain the lead and then broke the three-time Grand Slam finalist again late in the set to level the match.

“I managed to dig in, dig deep, find something out there to try to fight my way and claw my way back into the match,” De Minaur said.

But world No.30 Cilic confidently withstood the spirited challenge, recovering from 0-2 in the deciding set to win the next four games and wrest back control.

Croatian duo Mate Pavic and Nikola Mektic, who finished the 2021 season as the world’s top-ranked doubles team, completed Croatia’s victory with a dominant performance against Australia’s John Peers and De Minaur.

The reigning Wimbledon and Olympic Games champions posted a 6-3 6-1 win in the doubles rubber.

Australia will face Hungary in its final round-robin tie on Saturday from 8pm AEDT.

The top team from each of the six round-robin groups progresses to the knockout quarterfinals, along with the next two best-performing teams.

“It’s mathematically possible,” Hewitt said of Australia’s chances of progressing to the quarterfinals.

“So for us, we get the opportunity to play another match for Australia and wear the green and gold. It doesn’t matter if we can make it or not, we’re going to go out and leave absolutely everything on the court.”

Davis Cup Finals – Turin, Italy

CROATIA d AUSTRALIA 3-0
Borna Gojo (CRO) d Alexei Popyrin (AUS) 7-6(5) 7-5
Marin Cilic (CRO) d Alex de Minaur (AUS) 6-1 5-7 6-4
Nikola Mektic/Mate Pavic (CRO) d John Peers/Alex de Minaur (AUS) 6-3 6-1