Wally Masur’s decision to rest his ‘Special Ks’ proved a masterstroke as Sam Groth and Lleyton Hewitt powered Australia to Davis Cup success in their quarterfinal showdown against Kazakhstan.
Trailing 2-1 in the tie, Australia had no room for error in Sunday’s reverse singles.
Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis both flopped in their singles matches on Friday, convincing Masur to axe them for Sunday’s action.
Groth levelled the tie at 2-2 with a hard-fought 6-3 7-6 (8-6) 4-6 7-6 (8-6) win over Kazakhstan’s top-ranked player, world No.63 Mikhail Kukushkin.
And Hewitt sealed the tie win with a 7-6 (7-2) 6-2 6-3 triumph over Aleksandr Nedovyesov.
“This is what dreams are made of,” Hewitt told the Seven Network after the win.
“I love the back against the wall situation, and that’s what we had after day one.
“We rallied together and found a way to win.
“We didn’t panic when we were 2-0 down. We’re united for the one goal. It’s been a lot of fun.”
The triumph capped a rollercoaster week for Australian tennis, which had to contend with Bernard Tomic’s arrest in Miami.
Tomic, the world No.25, would have been a lock to play in both singles matches in Darwin.
But his verbal tirade against Tennis Australia earlier this month meant the governing body had little choice but to suspend him for the crucial tie.
At 2-0 down after Friday’s singles matches, Australia were in a big hole, with the Tomic party saga in the US making the headache even worse.
Groth and Hewitt combined for a win in the doubles to give their country a glimmer of hope, and they elevated themselves to hero status on Sunday with gutsy performances in the singles.
Kyrgios entered the tie as Australia’s spearhead.
But he was reduced to the role of a spectator by the end of the weekend following his shock four-sets loss to Nedovyesov on Friday.
After that match, Kyrgios admitted he was mentally drained following a big month on and off the court, forcing Davis Cup captain Masur to consider his other options.
Masur consulted with Josh Eagle and Tony Roche about what combination to use for Sunday’s singles matches.
The decision wasn’t unanimous, but in the end it proved fruitful as Groth and Hewitt secured famous victories.
Hewitt had never won a live fifth rubber in a World Group match.
But with his country’s Davis Cup title hopes on the line, the 34-year-old was never looked like losing.
Spurred on by a parochial home crowd, Hewitt wound back the clock with some sizzling ground strokes to secure victory in straight sets.
Groth’s efforts in rescuing Australia were also crucial.
The 27-year-old fired down 29 aces against Kukushkin, with his powerful serve helping him save nine of 10 break points.
“This is the most amazing thing I’ve ever had in tennis. It’s unbelievable,” Groth said after his singles win.”