ATP Cup Dream Over For Aussies As De Minaur Falls Just Short
Alex de Minaur came within a whisker of defeating Rafael Nadal but it wasn't to be as Australia went down to Spain in the ATP Cup semi-final.
De Minaur lost a thrilling 4-6 7-5 6-1 match to Nadal, as the Australians bounced out at the semi-final stage with Nick Kyrgios earlier delivering his poorest match of the tournament in going down to Roberto Bautista Agut.
Spain will play the Novak Djokovic-led Serbia in Sunday night's final after the Serbs beat Russia 3-0 in the first semi-final.
Kyrgios's defeat had left de Minaur needing an unlikely victory to push the match to a deciding doubles clash.
But 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.
Earlier, the Kyrgios steam train was derailed by Bautista Agut.
A shadow of the player who had racked up a 3-0 singles record and a decisive doubles win at the teams tournament, Kyrgios struggled from the outset and never recovered.
Down 5-0 in the opener, the best the world No.29 could do was hold serve to ensure he could start up the second with ball in hand.
A tighter contest ensued early in the second but, when Kyrgios coughed up a break after an ill-advised trip to the net off a second serve, the match was as good as done.
Still, it has been a good Australian Open tune-up for Kyrgios, who had logged an impressive win against world No.6 Stefanos Tsitsipas and a heroic doubles win with de Minaur over Great Britain during the tournament.