DAVIS CUP: U.S. HANGS ON TO BEAT AUSTRALIA
Goes up 2-1 after Bryans hold off Hewitt & Peers in 5-set thriller
By Junior Williams
(March 5, 2016) MELBOURNE, Australia – Bob and Mike Bryan fought off a comeback attempt by Lleyton Hewitt and John Peers to give the U.S. a 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3 victory over Australia at Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club, putting the Americans up 2-1 against the home team in their Davis Cup World Group First Round tie.
Australian Davis Cup Captain, the recently retired Lleyton Hewitt, inserted himself into Saturday’s line-up.
“Yeah we made the decision last night,” said Hewitt, making his debut as Davis Cup Captain. “Just, you know, sharing the workload really. You know, that was the determining factor. We thought whatever pair we went with had an outside chance of going well. But, you know, that was probably the determining factor in the end.”
The Bryans raced out to a two sets to none lead by breaking the Aussies three times — twice on team captain Hewitt’s serve. But Australia began to rally after breaking the U.S. to go up 4-3 in the third set – Hewitt hitting solid returns and yelling “come on” for good measure, while Peers was stellar at the net and with his ground strokes. He closed out the set with a serve and volley point.
Australia maintained its momentum buy winning the fourth set, capped by put away at the net by Hewitt which sent the crowd into a frenzy.
But in the end, the Bryans showed why they’ve won 106 titles as a doubles team. They regained their groove by going up 2-0 in the fifth set after breaking Australia at love. With strong net play and service games, the Americans remained consistent throughout the set, winning all six of their second serve points and committing no unforced errors. The final point was an overhead smash at the net, followed by the twins’ trademark celebratory chest bump. The Bryans are now 24-4 as a doubles team in Davis Cup competition.
“The level was incredible on both sides of the net,“ noted U.S. Captain Jim Courier. “Grass court doubles can sometimes be a little bit messy because it’s so quick, tough to return. But man, the level from first ball was extremely high and obviously it got very complicated there after the second set. Those guys lifted, Lleyton in particular lifted his returns and fortunately Bob and Mike did the same in the fifth set and really put a stamp on it early which was big and just held it out.
Bob Bryan was not surprised by Hewitt’s decision to take the court. “No, not at all, He said. “He was practising 10 feet from us all week, playing lots of doubles, playing lots of singles, playing more than anyone out there and, you know, the guy’s an accomplished doubles player and probably this is his best surface to play on. With that serve, you know, it slides away, those cutter serves and he can return well on anything.”
On Sunday, World No. 11 John Isner will look to clinch the tie in a reverse singles match against Australia’s Bernard Tomic. Both players won their respective Friday matches. If it comes down to a fifth and deciding rubber, it’s scheduled to be American Jack Sock versus Sam Groth, but don’t rule out the possibility of Captain Hewitt stepping in for the Aussies.
“Well, it’s going to be an exciting day for sure,” Courier said, “Bernie played awfully well yesterday, so did John. So that’s where we’ll start and it looks like it’s going to be a toasty one again, so you know, that could play a part in the match. Hopefully John has been, I would think a little fresher than Bernie given he only played three sets might be a factor. But it’s going to be exciting, the crowd’s going to be jacked up. You know, we’re going to be ready for a fifth obviously too, and at this stage we don’t know necessarily if it’s going to be Sam or Lleyton playing in that fifth. Where Lleyton played, you know, I would think he would give himself consideration should there be a live fifth match.
“So we’ll be ready for that eventuality if it comes to pass. But this is why we love this competition, you know, it’s Sunday, it’s live, it’s all on the line and energy levels are going to be extraordinary.”
As to what to expect on Sunday, Hewitt said: “We need Bernie to win, so it’s pretty simple at the moment. So, you know, that’s obviously our main focus. He’s our number one player, he’s the leader of the team and you know, he played awfully well yesterday and we’re going to need that again out of him tomorrow.”
As for the former No. 1, will he insert himself into the singles line-up? Hewitt said, “ Possibly, wait and see.”
Unlike Friday, fans and players at Kooyong received a break from severe heat. Temperatures ranged between 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, with lots of cloud cover and an occasional light breeze.
Kudos to the Aussie “Fanatics” band for their cover versions of songs including Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger,” Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” and Herbie Hancock’s “Chameleon.”
Prior to the match, a moment of silence was observed in memory of legendary tennis journalist and commentator Bud Collins, who died at the age of 86.
U.S. Davis Cup Captain Jim courier on the passing of Bud Collins: “Bud meant an immense amount to the sport of tennis and touched so many people. The things I remember about Bud were his generosity to everyone and general enthusiasm for life. Not just for tennis, but for travel and for learning and for sharing his stories. He was so kind and super positive. I had the privilege of working on television with Bud for NBC for several tournaments, so I go to know him and his lovely wife Anita very well. It is a sad day.”
Bob Bryan on the passing of Bud Collins: “It’s obviously a sad day, the guy meant a lot to tennis, he was so colorful and a positive part of our sport. We knew him pretty well and he was always so kind to us and gave us great advice, and you know, he was such a veteran and had been around this tour for so many years and he was a very familiar face at every tournament and we’ll definitely miss him.”
Junior Williams is a long-time journalist and tennis fan. At a moment’s notice he can give you a list of all the Davis Cup match-ups that would give the US home ties. He is in Melbourne covering the Davis Cup first round World Group tie between the United States and Australia.