BRISBANE • John Millman yesterday got a late call to fill in for Nick Kyrgios, who had to withdraw from his ATP Cup match owing to back soreness.
But, despite the short notice, he had no trouble accounting for the higher-ranked Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4, 6-2, getting Australia off to a winning start against Canada in the maiden 24-team event.
Alex de Minaur then secured the match when he rallied from a set and a break down to beat Denis Shapovalov 6-7 (6-8), 6-4, 6-2 at the Pat Rafter Arena, giving the hosts two wins from two in Group F and ensuring the leaders progressed to Thurday's quarter-finals in Sydney, the first team to do so.
Millman revealed he had no nerves taking on an opponent ranked 27 places above him as the world No. 48 claimed the blistering conditions suited his game and he knew he would be backed by "a vocal crowd in your corner".
"I was pretty prepared - it's always difficult, but it doesn't get much easier than when you get to play here in Brisbane, a place where you're familiar with the court and the surroundings," he said.
"Those conditions, what they do is the humidity actually creates heavier conditions. They're the conditions I really like to play in and it's no surprise - it's what I grew up in."
De Minaur did not take to the conditions as well as Millman, but again showed the fighting qualities for which he is renowned.
"I would love to take care of things a bit easier, but you kind of got to play the cards you're dealt," said the world No. 18, who did an on-court gig to celebrate his win.
In the other Group F tie, Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas dismissed world No. 7 Alexander Zverev 6-1, 6-4 for his fifth straight wins over the German. But the sixth-ranked ATP Finals champion's victory was to no avail as his team suffered their second successive Cup defeat, going down 2-1 after losing in the deciding doubles.
FINDING WAYS TO BE OF SERVICE
Well guys, you know I love Australia, but you also know I don't hit too many aces... Sooo I want to help and my pledge is this... every time I give @darren_cahill a hard time in my box during all my matches in Aus, I will donate A$200. This way I will raise alot more money.
SIMONA HALEP, the world No. 4, tweeting about her plans to help bush-fire victims.
Last week, Kyrgios pledged to donate A$200 (S$188) for every ace he serves this month and, while other players have followed his lead, Simona Halep has devised her own way to support bush-fire victims.
Noting that serving was not her strength, the Wimbledon champion yesterday tweeted: "Well guys, you know I love Australia, but you also know I don't hit too many aces.
"I want to help and my pledge is this, every time I give (coach) Darren Cahill a hard time in my box during all my matches in Australia, I will donate A$200. This way I will raise a lot more money."
Women's world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty yesterday also announced she would donate all of her prize money from the Brisbane International to the Red Cross Fire Appeal.
The winner of this week's tournament will earn more than US$250,000 (S$337,300), but should the French Open champion claim the title, she is hoping the prize can ease the pain of her fellow Australians.
"It's been really terrible, it really has," she said. "Obviously, the worst of it is still out there at the moment. Now it's not just the wildlife, it's also affected Australians with their lives and their homes."
Seven-time Australian Open winner Novak Djokovic is among several players who have raised the issue about the possible effects of the bush fires on the upcoming Major, calling for its start to be delayed if the air quality around Melbourne takes a turn for the worse.
"It's tough for (organisers) because... there are a lot of different things involved," the world No. 2 added. "But health concern is a health concern for me and for anybody."
Barty agreed with the Serb, saying: "What matters is that Australians stay safe and we kind of sort out the bigger issues."
ASSOCIATED PRESS, REUTERS
Day 4: Singtel TV Ch115 & StarHub Ch209, 7am