Australian tennis has had enough of its bad boys, but Sam Groth believes he can give it a `Mr Likeable’ to crow about this summer.
Groth, crowned the John Newcombe Medallist ahead of Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic last month, says he’s ready to make the most of his heart-warming rise from battling journeyman to tournament contender.
No longer content to make up the numbers, the big-serving 28-year-old is backing himself to start the season on fire by shaking up the Brisbane International, starting on Sunday.
Any home pressure from becoming a Davis Cup hero and Wimbledon surprise-packet in 2015 is only a positive in Groth’s eyes.
“I’m at the age when I can embrace that,” the world No.60 said. “I’ve gone through my time at the lower levels and I’ve put in the hard yards to get where I am.
“I like being at this level and being with expectation. I see it more as support – the crowd and the public getting behind me.
“I’m a likeable guy so I like to play for them at home.”
Rather than use the season-opening Brisbane tournament as an Australian Open preparation, Groth is adamant he can do real damage at Pat Rafter Arena to go far into a main draw headlined by Roger Federer.
“For me I’m not seeded in Melbourne so I could play Novak (Djokovic) or Stan (Wawrinka) or Roger first round,” he said. “I come to this tournament and conditions really suit me, the court plays fast and it’s a small-feeling court.
“I seem to serve quite well out here. I’ve played some of my best matches here.”
Among those was a first-round upset of Lleyton Hewitt 12 months ago when he blew the defending champion off the court with 14 aces.
“That was a real confidence springboard for me last year,” said Groth, whose groundstrokes have improved markedly since.
“I’ve made quarters here the last two years but I feel like I’m a much better player even from last January.
“I’m a much better all-round player.
“Guys don’t want to play me. I bring something very different.
“I mean guys have no rhythm, guys have no time – I’m coming in, I’m staying back.”