Davis Cup shootout for Aussie tennis stars

Sam Groth and Thanasi Kokkinakis are in a four-day shootout to secure the all-important second singles spot for Australia’s Davis Cup semi-final against Great Britain.

Bernard Tomic, the country’s top-ranked player at No.23 in the world, will spearhead Australia’s assault after being recalled from suspension to the four-man team to replace Nick Kyrgios.

But with long-time leader Lleyton Hewitt to be saved for the day-two doubles rubber, almost certainly partnering Groth again, the No.2 singles spot is up for grabs.

Whoever claims it will face world No.3 Andy Murray on Friday, charged with sapping the Scot of as much energy as possible – win or lose.

Despite being ranked below Groth and losing his first-day singles match against Kazakhstan No.1 Mikhail Kukushin in Australia’s quarter-final win in Darwin, Kokkinakis is tipped to serve as Tomic’s back-up in Glasgow.

The expected slower court conditions for the indoor hardcourt tie favours the teenager, who impressed not only in his epic Cup win this year on the same surface against big-serving Czech Lukas Rosol but also in a cruel first-round US Open loss to French 12th seed Richard Gasquet.

Kokkinakis was two sets to one up against the eventual quarter-finalist before cramping and having to retire in the deciding set.

Groth has strong claims too after enjoying the finest year of his career and snaring two must-win points in singles and doubles in Australia’s mighty comeback from 2-0 down against Kazakhstan.

But with Australian captain Wally Masur openly admitting Groth and Hewitt will play doubles barring unforeseen circumstances, Kokkinakis is set to be thrown into the Davis Cup cauldron in a rare tie in Murray’s home country.

Masur says he has a fair idea who he’ll play on day one, but says the performances of his options will hinge on old-school practice sets in Glasgow this week.

“Whilst we’re talking hard court and it’s indoors, it sounds very genetic. But my understanding is that it’s going to be reasonably slow,” Masur told AAP.

“We trained in New York with the match balls and they wear out very quickly on the hard court so my thinking is it’s going to be a lot slower than what the players have been used to over the American summer.

“So the form this week of the players is hugely important, how they settle into those conditions.

“So whilst I have ideas about how I will go about it, what happens in Glasgow is vital.”

After training indoors at Wimbledon and elsewhere in London over the past few days, the Australians were scheduled to have their first work-out on the match court at Glasgow’s Emirates Stadium on Monday.

Tomic’s first-day opponent remains a mystery with Great Britain captain considering dropping the out-of-form James Ward, an heroic winner over world No.13 John Isner in the first-round victory over the USA in Glasgow.

Ward has lost eight matches in a row since reaching the third round at Wimbledon, leaving Smith likely to call-up rising youngster Kyle Edmund, a junior rival of Kyrgios.

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