Unflappable duo Max Purcell and Matthew Ebden were calmness personified as they powered Australia to victory over France in what proved another spellbinding Davis Cup by Rakuten Finals Group Stage showdown in Hamburg.
Purcell and Ebden dispatched French pair Nicolas Mahut and Arthur Rinderknech 6-4, 6-4 in the decisive doubles as Australia tightened its grip on the summit of Group C and boosted hopes of reaching the competition’s Final 8.
It was a second victory of the Group Stage for the dynamic Purcell and Ebden, who were crowned men’s doubles champions at Wimbledon in July, as their stock continues to rise.
Delivering on behalf of your nation in such tight matches, when it really matters, is what it is all about
“Delivering on behalf of your nation in such tight matches, when it really matters, is what it is all about,” said Ebden. “I’ve been lucky to be around Davis Cup for 10 years now, while I’ve known Lleyton [Hewitt] since I was about 17.
“I have learnt all about Australia's Davis Cup history and these moments, performing when the pressure is on, are what it’s about. At the same time, we were spurred on by the effort of Kubs [Jason Kubler] and then Alex [De Minaur], who turned it around and gave us a shot in the doubles.
“I was so pumped and inspired by them and felt really confident to go out there and get the job done. Credit to Max, we played two really clean sets and couldn’t have asked for more. This was a big team effort, a big team big day, and it was great to finish on top.”
As Ebden alludes, the doubles were only brought into play by the heroics of Alex de Minaur who, staring down the barrel of defeat, held his nerve against Benjamin Bonzi in the second singles to haul Australia level in the tie.
De Minaur sealed a crucial break of serve to level at 4-4 in the third set, which laid the foundations for a fifth successive Davis Cup singles triumph as he defeated Benjamin Bonzi 6-3, 1-6, 6-4 to cancel out the earlier success of Richard Gasquet.
“I am very happy with getting a win for my country,” said De Minaur. “That’s all that matters at the end of the day. It doesn’t matter how you play or how you do it, as long as you find a way to get the win. That was my job today and I’m happy I was able to do that.
“I just stayed in the moment and hung in there. It wasn’t for a lack of opportunities that I was down in the match. I felt I had an immense number of opportunities and just kept telling myself, ‘hang in there’.
“At the end of the day it’s Davis Cup and anything can happen, and when you play with passion and heart there is always a chance.”
It doesn’t matter how you play or how you do it, as long as you find a way to get the win
World No.79 Gasquet had earlier defeated Jason Kubler in straight sets to hand France the perfect start to proceedings as the team fought to ignite their Group Stage campaign following Wednesday night’s agonising defeat to Germany.
Gasquet, who did not feature against Germany on Wednesday, was a late addition to the France squad but was thrust into action with his nation in need of victory and he duly delivered, dispatching Kubler 6-2, 6-4.
Kubler had enjoyed a Davis Cup debut to remember against Belgium on Tuesday when he strode out in the famous green and gold for the first time and fired Australia into the lead after overpowering Zizou Bergs.
There was to be no repeat against Gasquet, however, as the 36-year-old set the tone by breaking Kubler’s serve in the opening game of the tie before pressing home his advantage. The tide, however, was to turn.
Victory means that Australia is now likely to finish in the top two of Group C and reach the Final 8, which will be contested in Malaga from 22–27 November, while France still retains a slim chance of progressing.