De Minaur snaps Djokovic streak as Tomljanovic seals Australia’s win
Storm Hunter and Matt Ebden have completed a 3-0 sweep against Serbia in the United Cup quarterfinals.
Australia has sailed into the United Cup semifinals following Alex de Minaur’s straight-sets triumph over Novak Djokovic – his first over a world No.1 – before Ajla Tomljanovic’s maiden win of the campaign.
World No.12 de Minaur stunned Djokovic 6-4 6-4 to put the hosts on the front foot against Serbia before Tomljanovic sealed Australia’s place in the last four 6-1 6-1 over Natalija Stevanovic, a late replacement for a fatigued Olga Danilovic.
Before a raucous Perth crowd at RAC Arena, De Minaur snapped Djokovic’s 43-match streak on Australian soil, which dated back to his 2018 fourth-round defeat to Hyeon Chung at Melbourne Park.
“It feels amazing. Yeah, it’s hard to put into words. It’s a very good feeling. Everything that could have gone well went well today,” De Minaur said. “I’m happy that I can say I got a win over the GOAT.”
Djokovic conceded a wrist injury he picked up while warming up for Serbia’s triumph over China on Wednesday had bothered him on the forehand and serve, but despite being below his best the 36-year-old had only praise for his opponent’s performance.
“He was very solid from the beginning. He just played a great match. Deserved to win,” Djokovic said. “I was not on my level, but, you know, it was just one of these days where you didn’t feel your best, I guess, on the court, and your opponent played very well. That’s all I can say.
“I have, I think, enough time to get myself in the right shape for Australian Open, and that’s what matters the most at this point.”
De Minaur’s 94-minute victory came in stark contrast to the routing Djokovic dished out in the fourth round of last year’s Australian Open, where the Serbian conceded just four games.
In their second meeting, De Minaur was not overawed as he mixed heavy backhand slices with all-out baseline aggression. He lost just one of 34 first-serve points.
It deemed it a triumph to silence his critics.
“It’s something I’ve heard my whole career. I’m not big enough, I’m not strong enough, I’m a pusher, don’t have the firepower. Never going to be a top player,” De Minaur said.
“But, you know, I hear this week in, week out. The only thing that does is give me more fire and adds more gasoline to this engine that’s ready to do everything in its power to prove people wrong.”
Tomljanovic’s 66-minute victory over world No.184 Stojanovic was her first in Australia in almost two years after she missed the entire last summer due to a knee injury.
The 30-year-old ensured her nation’s passage to a showdown with Greece or Germany in Sydney.
“Coming into the match tonight, it really felt, not deserved, but I did feel like it was due a little bit,” Tomljanovic said. “But still really pleased that I got it done because it’s never easy to finish off matches when you haven’t played a while.”
Team captain Lleyton Hewitt hailed his team’s combined effort to rebound following an opening defeat to Great Britain.
“Really proud of the whole team. Alex obviously came out and had to play the best player going around… Just thrilled for Alex and that obviously gave us an unbelievable start,” Hewitt said.
“Then Ajla has gotten better and better with each match she’s played. For her to get the win tonight was very well deserved. She’s been fantastic around the team all week.
“Then obviously the mixed doubles team, pretty special for them to go 3-0 here in Perth in their hometown.”
Storm Hunter and Matt Ebden completed the clean sweep with their third straight United Cup mixed doubles win.
The West Australian duo saw off Dejana Radanovic and Nikola Cacic 6-3 6-3.
“Super nice to come out after we already won after an incredible performances by these two,” Ebden said. “Made our job really easy.”
Australia’s semifinal opponent will be decided on Friday when Group B winner Greece meets best-placed runner-up Germany.
“We want to keep going, and obviously going to Sydney we have a few days to reset, get there, get ready for Saturday,” Hunter said.
“I love these environments. I think I play my best tennis in these team kind of situations… We will be ready on Saturday if it comes down to it.”