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Australia cruise past Finland to reach Davis Cup final

Australia cruise past Finland to reach Davis Cup final
© Reuters
Australia reach the Davis Cup final for the second year running thanks to a 2-0 beating of first-time semi-finalists Finland in Malaga.

Australia will compete in the Davis Cup final for the second successive year thanks to their 2-0 beating of Finland in Friday's semi-final in Malaga.

The 28-time champions - who have not hoisted the trophy aloft since 2003 - had made hard work of their quarter-final win over the Czech Republic, but Friday's success was far more straightforward.

Alexei Popyrin got Australia off to a flying start with a 7-6[5] 6-2 beating of Otto Virtanen, before Alex de Minaur completed the job with a 6-4 6-3 triumph over Emil Ruusuvuori, thereby denying Finland a first-ever appearance in the Championship match.

A 131-spot chasm separated world number 40 Popyrin and his unfancied foe Virtanen in the ATP rankings heading into Friday's opening clash, although the world number 171 nearly saw his high-risk approach pay off.

Virtanen came up with more aces and winners than the Australian, but 25 unforced errors and five double faults proved to be Virtanen's downfall, which began when Popyrin held his nerve in the first-set tie-breaker.

Virtanen only had to beat away one break point in the first set and made a solid start to the second with a pair of love holds, but in the sixth game, successive double faults saw him lose serve for the first time in the match.

Serving to stay in the contest, Virtanen saved one match point to bring Popyrin back to deuce, but the Australian would not be denied a second time, leaving Lleyton Hewitt's team one match away from a spot in the final.

World number 12 De Minaur was the firm favourite to propel his nation into the final against Ruusuvuori - who sits 57 places below the Australian in the rankings - although he was given a rude awakening as he lost his serve straight away.

Ruusuvuori could not back up his early break, though, as after wasting five chances to break back straight away, De Minaur eventually got over the line on the sixth attempt, which marked the start of a five-game winning streak as Ruusuvuori lost serve twice more.

The world number 69 would earn one break back in the eighth game to spice things up before holding to 15, but De Minaur managed to serve out the set and would not relinquish an early advantage in the second either.

The 24-year-old swiftly moved into a 3-1 lead and brought up five chances to earn the double break for a 5-2 margin, but he squandered all of them as Ruusuvuori stayed alive that little bit longer.

The Scandinavian's efforts had just delayed the inevitable, though, as De Minaur fashioned two match points on the Ruusuvuori serve and sent a soaring backhand winner down the line to eliminate the first-time semi-finalists.

Hewitt's men will return to the court on Sunday to battle for glory against Serbia or Italy, who go head-to-head in the second semi-final on Saturday.

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