Thanasi Kokkinakis’s renaissance continues with the born-again baseliner winning the nod as Lleyton Hewitt’s No.2 singles choice for Australia’s Davis Cup qualifying tie against Hungary in Sydney.
Returning to the Cup fold for the first time in almost seven years, Kokkinakis will play Hungarian spearhead Marton Fucsovics in Friday night’s second singles rubber under the closed roof at Ken Rosewall Arena.
Aussie No.1 Alex de Minaur will face Zsombor Piros in the opening match before Kokkinakis bids to continue his sizzling summer form having at last returned to full fitness.
The 26-year-old broke through for his long-awaited maiden ATP title in his home city of Adelaide in January before teaming with Nick Kyrgios to capture the Australian Open doubles crown.
Little wonder Hewitt is backing Kokkinakis to defy his world No.99 status and turn the tie upset down with victory over the 35th-ranked Fucsovics.
The Australian captain said he’d have been equally confident in Alexei Popyrin but felt Kokkinakis’ claims were irresistible.
“He deserves this opportunity tomorrow night to have a crack at their No.1 player,” the Australian captain said.
“The way Thanasi performed in Australia and the way his body has been holding up is full credit to him.
“The form that he was producing over the summer but also how he’s been hitting it this week, we have full belief that he can try to really crack this tie open for us.”
Kokkinakis hasn’t played Davis Cup since Australia’s 2015 semi-final loss to Great Britain in Glasgow.
“It’s a pretty cool feeling. It’s been, what, six or seven years now. Stoked to get the call up from Lleyton,” he said.
“Hopefully I can play well. I had a tight one with (Fucsovics) last year (in Miami), which could have gone either way.
“So I’m going to go out there, compete hard and hopefully get it done.”
De Minaur, playing Davis Cup on his beloved home court at Sydney Olympic Park for the first time, is a hot favourite to strike the first blow for Australia against Piros.
But Hungary’s world No.240 did shock John Millman in last year’s Finals in Turin in November, leaving de Minaur to rescue Australia with a hard-earned third-set tiebreak win over Fucsovics to keep that tie alive.
“Anything can happen in Davis Cup,” Piros said.
John Peers will partner Cup debutant Luke Saville in Saturday’s critical doubles match against Fucsovics and Fabian Marozsan after teaming with Alex Bolt to clinch a 2-1 victory over Hungary in that last recent outing.
De Minaur and Fucsovics are slated to face off in Saturday’s first reverse singles match, with Kokkinakis and Piros scheduled for the final rubber.
But both captains have the option to change their line-ups after Friday night’s results.
The winning team will progress to the 2022 Davis Cup Finals in September.
DRAW FOR AUSTRALIA’S DAVIS CUP QUALIFYING TIE AGAINST HUNGARY AT SYDNEY’S KEN ROSEWALL ARENA:
Friday’s singles, from 1700 AEDT
Alex de Minaur (AUS) v Zsombor Piros (HUN)
Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS) v Marton Fucsovics (HUN)
Saturday’s doubles, from 1300 AEDT
John Peers and Luke Saville (AUS) v Fucsovics and Fabian Marozsan (HUN)
Saturday’s reverse singles
De Minaur (AUS) v Fucsovics (HUN)
Kokkinakis (AUS) v Piros (HUN)