De Minaur, Tomljanovic fall short in United Cup opener
Hunter and Ebden have salvaged a mixed doubles win for Australia as the team's focus shifts to a showdown against the United States.
Australia will set its sights on an upset of the defending United Cup champion, Team USA, to keep its campaign alive after succumbing to Great Britain 2-1 before a packed RAC Arena crowd at Perth on Friday night.
World No.11 Alex de Minaur rebounded from a slow start against Cameron Norrie to force a deciding set but fell narrowly shy after he faded in the deciding tiebreak 6-4 2-6 7-6(2).
Ajla Tomljanovic had hoped to build on a 1-0 head-to-head record against 56th-ranked Katie Boulter to force a deciding mixed doubles but the 30-year-old – on the comeback from an injury-marred season – fell 6-2 6-4.
Storm Hunter and Matt Ebden later salvaged a 6-3 7-6(5) victory over Boulter and Neal Skupski.
De Minaur conceded it was a tough match to start Australia’s campaign and was left to rue missed opportunities in the third set of the two-hour, 23-minute affair.
“I think it’s no secret I had a horrible first game and it ended up costing me in the set,” De Minaur said.
“Yeah, I didn’t feel my best out there, comfortable… It’s the first match of a new season.
“It’s been a quick turnaround, and I wasn’t as sharp as I could have been, but I’m happy I was able to turn that around, play some good stuff throughout that match. Yeah, it didn’t go my way, but it happens.”
De Minaur said team captain Lleyton Hewitt helped lift spirits following the letdown of the opening set.
Hewitt urged his charge to trusting himself throughout and it almost paid off.
“I think he knew I wasn’t bringing my best level, and it was just about fighting and staying positive and telling myself that I was going to find it at some stage or the other,” De Minaur said.
“I managed to do that, and I managed to turn it around and give myself a lot of chances to win that match.”
While rust was to be expected from Tomljanovic, having played a limited schedule last season, she conceded her opponent played lights out.
“I was surprised because I’ve played her in the past and she can play big tennis, but it’s never that consistent over two sets… it’s so aggressive and it’s not stopping,” Tomljanovic said.
“I could have maybe pushed more at a higher level but it just wasn’t easy to do that from my side.”
Australia next meets a Jessica Pegula and Taylor Fritz-led USA on Monday night, needing victory to keep hopes of advancing to the knockout stage alive.