Aussie tennis stars Alex de Minaur and James Duckworth ready for ATP Cup challenge

Newly seeded James Duckworth will introduce himself to Australian tennis this weekend, while the country’s top seed Alex de Minaur will learn exactly how to track him, against two of the world’s top 10 players on a challenging mission at the ATP Cup in Sydney.

Duckworth jumped from 105 to 49 in the world rankings this year, storming the charts to become the second best man in Australia.

Beating fellow top 100 talents Alexei Popyrin, John Millman, Jordan Thompson and Nick Kyrgios on Lleyton Hewitt’s squad, it’s the 29-year-old’s moment in the spotlight after years of suffering injuries and near misses.

“No, I didn’t think I’d be here (a year ago) but I’ve had a good year,” Duckworth said of his ATP Cup berth.

“I came home in the middle of the year after Miami, had a great deal of training with coach Wayne Arthurs, really explained my game style and it took me two months to gain some confidence, play hard and the results keep improving.”

Duckworth dominated the Challenger level and then took that level higher, reaching the ATP Finals and losing the Paris Masters quarter-finals to world number nine Hubert Hurkacz.

“He’s always had setbacks throughout his career: Continuing to bounce back and respond is something we’re all proud of,” Hewitt said.

“He’s doing everything just right and it’s great that he’s had success now…Now, it’s just about cementing this spot in the top 50 list.”

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The Sydney-based tournament kicks off on Saturday, but Australia will start their campaign against Italy on Sunday before facing off with Russia and France, who have replaced Austria.

Italy boasts world number 7 Matteo Berrettini and world number 10 Yannick Sener, 20, while Lorenzo Sonego (27) and Fabio Fognini (37) have wrapped up what Hewitt considers to be the deepest team in the event.

Russia is headed by US Open champion Daniil Medvedev while France’s Ugo Humbert is one place below De Minaur at 35th in the world.

“That’s the beauty of the ATP Cup…I’ve experienced it before and it’s a great way to find out what I’m into and a huge challenge,” de Minaur said.

“Hopefully some fans are packed, I’m eager to get back and compete.

“It’s just a great opportunity for me, to test myself against these great players.”

Worried about De Minaur, Berrettini holds memories of when he pushed fearless speed driver Rafael Nadal to the limits of “crazy” at the event two years ago.

“This atmosphere makes him play his best tennis, so it’s going to be a very tough match,” he said.

“But I like this kind of thing: crowded stadiums and people cheering for you or against you. I’m really looking forward to this match.”

Saturday work

Today’s session

  • Chile – Spain (Ken Roswal Arena)
  • Argentina – Georgia (Qudos Bank Arena)

night session

  • Serbia – Norway (Ken Roswal Arena)
  • Greece – Poland (Qudos Bank Arena)

AAP

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