Australia beats Canada to move atop Group F at ATP Cup

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Firefighters drag their water hose after putting out a spot fire near Moruya, Australia, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
Firefighters drag their water hose after putting out a spot fire near Moruya, Australia, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

Brisbane, Australia (AP) — John Millman got a late call to fill in for Nick Kyrgios and got Australia off to a winning start on his home court against Canada.

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Alex de Minaur secured the match when he rallied from a set and a break down to beat Denis Shapovalov 6-7 (6), 6-4, 6-2 later Sunday at Pat Rafter Arena.

And with that, Australia moved atop Group F at 2-0 in the new ATP Cup, a 24-team tournament that is kicking off the southern summer for the first time. Canada, which beat Australia in the Davis Cup quarterfinals in Madrid last November after Kyrgios withdrew injured, was 1-1 after opening with victory over Greece.

The six group winners and the two best second-place teams advance to the playoffs in Sydney next week, and Australia is a good shot of making it.

That would be a boost for sports lovers in a country experiencing its worst wildfire season in recorded history, which has already left 24 dead, 2,000 homes destroyed and burned through large swathes of Australia.

Two days after launching his cash for aces plan to raise funds for the national wildfire recovery effort, Kyrgios pulled out of his scheduled match against Felix Auger-Aliassime in Brisbane because of a sore back. No. 48-ranked Millman stepped in to win 6-4, 6-2.

Kyrgios pledged to donate 200 Australian dollars ($140) for every ace he serves this month. He hit 20 in his opening win and promising more.

Other athletes and celebrities have also pledged to donate to the cause. Organizers of the ATP Cup are also pledging donations per ace in the competition, and Australian Open organizers are planning a major fundraising event in Melbourne on Jan. 15, five days before the season’s first Grand Slam tournament begins.

In Sydney on Sunday, Bulgaria made it two wins from two in Group C, following up its opening 2-1 win over Britain with a more comfortable result against Moldova.

Grigor Dimitrov had a 6-2, 6-3 win over Radu Albot to secure an unbeatable 2-0 lead after Dimitar Kuzmanov beat Alexander Cozbinov 6-1, 7-5. Albot led Moldova to a 6-4, 7-6 (4) win in the doubles to make the final margin 2-1.

Italy and Norway were meeting in the day session in Perth. The night session was set to feature the United States against Russia in Perth, Greece against Germany in Brisbane and Belgium against Britain in Sydney.

Alex de Minaur of Australia reacts after he won his match against Denis Shapovalov of Canada at the ATP Cup tennis tournament in Brisbane, Australia, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Tertius Pickard)
Alex de Minaur of Australia reacts after he won his match against Denis Shapovalov of Canada at the ATP Cup tennis tournament in Brisbane, Australia, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Tertius Pickard)