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Davis Cup: Finland v Australia preview

Australia remain on course to repeat their run to the Davis Cup final of 12 months ago, having set up a semi-final showdown with Finland by defeating Czech Republic 2-1 in the last eight.

The Aussies appeared to be in deep trouble when Alex de Minaur trailed by a set and a break in the second singles rubber, with Jordan Thompson having been beaten by Tomas Machac in the opener.

However, De Minaur turned things around against Jiri Lehecka, before Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell won the decisive doubles rubber in straight sets.

WhatFinland v Australia, Davis Cup semi-final
WhereMartin Carpena Arena, Malaga, Spain.
WhenFrom 02:00 AEST, Saturday 25th November 2023
How to watchNine
OddsFinland 5.50, Australia 1.14

Czechs bounced out after close call

Australia were one game away from a Davis Cup exit when Lehecka served at 5-4 and a set up against De Minaur in the second match of three.

Luckily the old Aussie fighting spirit came to the fore as De Minaur broke to love and went on to seal a 4-6 7-6 7-5 victory.

De Minaur won two of his three singles matches in the final round of qualifying before the quarter-finals and remains very much the go-to player at the heart of Lleyton Hewitt's team.

Purcell and Thanasi Kokkinakis shared the opening-rubber duties in that final qualifying stage, before Thompson was called upon to open up against the Czechs.

This position is the main concern for Hewitt, with Thompson being beaten 6-4 7-5 by Machac to leave the Aussies mounting a recovery operation.

They managed to do just that as Ebden and Purcell delivered a fourth consecutive straight sets win in the tournament this season, but Hewitt now has a tough call to make.

Does he stick with Thompson to open up, or does he risk Purcell, knowing that that could upset the balance for the potentially decisive doubles clash?

Against the Finns he may be tempted to leave things as they are, with the doubles rubber looking like it will be winner-takes-all for a place in the final, although Alexei Popyrin has come into the team and could go straight into that opening slot.

Virtanen firing shock Finn success

If Australia have a rock-solid De Minaur to rely on, Finland have a similar figure in the shape of Otto Virtanen, who won all three of his singles rubbers in the final qualifying section, before downing Gabriel Diallo 6-4 7-5 in the 2-1 quarter-final win over holders Canada.

The world number 171 then teamed up with Harri Heliovaara for success in the decisive doubles match against the Canucks, with Heliovaara up at 29 in the world doubles rankings.

Virtanen always took on the opening rubber in the final qualifying round, before moving to the second slot against Canada, but he is likely to open up against the Aussies and therefore avoid a tussle with De Minaur.

Should he and De Minaur play to their potential, it seems highly likely that the doubles match-up will be decisive and that may well sway Hewitt into making sure Purcell is fresh to partner up with Ebden once again.

Finns on a flyer in 2023

Australia and Finland have never previously met in the Davis Cup, with the Scandinavians having overcome an inauspicious history in the competition to become genuine contenders this year.

They began by shocking Argentina 3-1 in Espoo in February, before wins over Croatia and the United States were enough to carry them through to the knockout stages.

They proved that their progress was no fluke by then ending the reign of holders Canada and Hewitt and his players will only be too aware that they cannot take anything for granted against this season's surprise package.

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