SYDNEY (Reuters) – Nick Kyrgios’ late withdrawal due to a back problem did not stop Australia from defeating Canada in their ATP Cup tie on Sunday as the hosts strengthened their bid for a quarter-final spot with their second 3-0 win in the inaugural team event.

The hosts had blanked Germany in their opening tie and will qualify for the Final Eight stage in Sydney as the Group F winner if Germany beat Greece in the evening session on Sunday.

Grigor Dimitrov also led Bulgaria to their second win of the $15 million ATP Cup, which features 24 nations competing in Perth, Brisbane and Sydney over 10 days with most top players using it as a platform to prepare for the Australian Open.

The year’s first Grand Slam starts in Melbourne on Jan. 20 and the only one missing at the ATP Cup from the top seven men’s players in the world rankings is Swiss great Roger Federer, who withdrew to spend more time with his family.

The mercurial Kyrgios had to pull out from the opening singles in Brisbane because of a bad back, paving the way for hometown favorite John Millman to take down Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4 6-2 at the Pat Rafter Arena.

“Certainly precaution today. He was a bit stiff yesterday afternoon but also this morning,” Australia team captain Lleyton Hewitt said of Kyrgios in a courtside interview.

Alex de Minaur rallied from a set and a break down against fellow 20-year-old Denis Shapovalov to triumph in the battle of next generation stars to seal the tie for Australia.

Egged on by raucous support from the home crowd, De Minaur showed the same determination and never-say-die attitude that helped him beat world No. 7 Alexander Zverev from a set down in Australia’s opening tie on Friday.

From 4-2 down in the second set, De Minaur won six straight games, leading 2-0 in the deciding set and ultimately winning 6-7(6) 6-4 6-2 against the Canadian, who had helped his team reach the Davis Cup finals in Spain in November.

“I managed to turn things around, get back into a positive mindset, get my energy back,” De Minaur said.

Dimitrov beat Moldova’s Radu Albot 6-2, 6-3 in Sydney to seal the tie in favor of Bulgaria, who defeated Great Britain in a thriller on Friday.

Italy needed all the experience from Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini in Perth in their deciding doubles rubber against Norway for their first win in the event.

The pair beat Casper Ruud and Viktor Durasovic 6-3 7-6(3) to secure a 2-1 win Italy, who had lost 0-3 to Russia in their opening tie.

(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Gerry Doyle)

tagreuters.com2020binary_LYNXMPEG0406B-BASEIMAGE