BRISBANE – Nick Kyrgios served 20 aces in a win that cost him $4,000 in local currency and helped set up Australia’s opening ATP Cup win over Germany.
It was all for a cause. Kyrgios, so often considered the bad boy of tennis for his emotional behavior and outbursts, promised to donate 200 Australian dollars ($140) for every ace he serves this month to go toward the recovery effort from the wildfires that have devastated parts of Australia, leaving at least 19 people dead and 1,400 homes destroyed.
He opened and closed his 6-4, 7-6 (4) win over Jan-Lennard Struff on Friday in Brisbane with booming, high-value serves — including a second-service ace down the middle to close it out.
Alex De Minaur followed that up with an upset over No. 7-ranked Alexander Zverev, trailing a set and a break before rallying to win 4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-2 on Pat Rafter Arena. Australia also won the doubles to clinch a 3-0 sweep of Germany.
Kyrgios devised the cash for aces idea earlier in the week, and inspired other fundraising efforts from other players and from organizers of the ATP Cup and the Australian Open. He said he was lifted by the crowd, and motivated by the plight of people struggling in parts of the country impacted by the fires, including his hometown of Canberra. A tournament had to be relocated from the Australian capital to Victoria state earlier Friday because of poor air quality related to the proximity of the fires.
"It’s tough,” Kyrgios said, choking back tears and wiping his face with his towel in an on-court interview. "(The money raised) is going to the families, fire fighters, animals, everyone who is losing homes, losing family - it’s a real thing. It’s bigger than tennis, you know.
"It's tough to go out there and concentrate on tennis, to be honest. Every ace I was hitting that's all I was thinking about. Every time I stepped up to the line that's all I was thinking about.”
Canada registered the first victory of the new international team tournament, and the United States went down in the first major upset despite being one point from clinching a win over Norway.
The 24-team tournament kicked off the men's tennis season for 2020, with matches Friday in Brisbane and Sydney on Australia's east coast and Perth in Western Australia state.
The Canadians swept Greece 3-0, with Denis Shapovalov holding off No. 6-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-6 (6), 7-6 (4) after 19-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime beat Michail Pervolarakis in the first singles victory of the tournament. They the combined to win the doubles.
The No. 15-ranked Shapovalov now has a 3-1 lead in career meetings over ATP Finals champion Tsitsipas, who was unable to convert his break-point chances in the seventh and 11th games of the second set and then had a double-fault on match point.
“He had an unbelievable end to the season and he's definitely one of the top players in the world right now,” Shapovalov said. “So to beat a guy like this first match of the year, it's really special for me."
In Perth, Russia beat Italy 3-0 after Norway rallied to edge the United States in Group D.
Taylor Fritz beat Viktor Durasovic 6-2, 6-2 to give the Americans the lead and John Isner had two match points in the second-set tiebreaker of the second singles match before Casper Ruud rallied to win 6-7 (3), 7-6 (10), 7-5 to level it. Ruud combined with Durasovic to beat Rajeev Ram and Austin Krajicek 4-6, 6-3, 10-5 to seal Norway's 2-1 win.
“What I need to do is really just put this match behind me as best as I can, because at times it wasn't pretty out there,” Isner said. “So hopefully I can fix some things and try to play a little bit better on Sunday.”
Fifth-ranked Daniil Medvedev gave Russia an unbeatable 2-0 lead against Italy when he beat Fabio Fognini 1-6, 6-1, 6-3 in the second singles match.
In Sydney, Belgium beat Moldova 3-0, with Steve Darcis holding off Alexander Cozbinov 6-4, 6-7 (4), 7-5 and David Goffin beating Radu Albot 6-4, 6-1. The Moldova team got a formal apology from tournament organizers after the wrong national anthem was played before the match.
And just after 2:45 a.m. local time, Bulgaria finally beat Britain 2-1 when Grigor Dimitrov and No. 477-ranked Alexander Lazarov saved two match points before finishing off a 7-6 (5), 6-7 (2), 11-9 win over Jamie Murray and Joe Salisbury in the deciding doubles match. Dimitrov had earlier beaten Dan Evans 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 in the second singles match to pull Bulgaria level at 1-1.
The winners from each of the six groups and the two best runners-up will advance to the quarterfinals, which will start in Sydney on Jan. 9.