Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt has a bigger battle on his hands than trying to keep Australia in the World Group as he bids to quell a potential feud between Bernard Tomic and Nick Kyrgios.
Australia will face a play-off later this year to stay in the top league after falling 3-1 to a John Isner-led United States in Melbourne.
The big-serving world No.11 rolled Tomic 6-4 6-4 5-7 7-6 (7-4) to give his team an unbeatable lead on the Kooyong grass on Sunday.
Tomic said he was troubled by an ongoing wrist problem and would have withdrawn from any other tournament.
But a bigger fight is brewing in Australia’s tennis ranks with Tomic turning on Kyrgios for sitting out the tie with a virus.
“Nick’s sitting down in Canberra. Bulls**t he’s sick. Two times Nick’s done it,” Tomic was heard muttering to Hewitt during his loss to Isner.
Tomic didn’t back away from his comments at the post-match press conference, questioning how Kyrgios could be fit to play in this week’s ATP tournament in Indian Wells, California.
The Australian No.1 said a similar situation happened last February when Kyrgios withdrew from the Davis Cup against the Czech Republic.
“He didn’t come to Czech and had stress fractures and somehow played Indian Wells and felt good,” Tomic said.
“He said he’s `still sick but I’m going to be better tomorrow’ – so it’s just weird for me.
“If he plays Indian Wells, then he’s definitely lost a little bit of my respect.”
Tomic said he spoke to Kyrgios after the match and the pair still had a good relationship.
“We’re pretty open with each other and that’s a good thing,” he said.
“He’s a good guy; he’s got his own personality and I have mine.”
Hewitt sat stony-faced while Tomic questioned the legitimacy of Kyrgios’ commitment to Davis Cup.
While Tomic boasts a 16-4 win-loss record, Kyrgios hasn’t won a single point for Australia over the past two years.
After missing last year’s first-round win over the Czech Republic, he was dropped for the reverse singles against Kazakhstan after losing to lowly-ranked Aleksandr Nedovyesov on day one in Darwin.
Kyrgios was then omitted from the semi-final against Great Britain in Glasgow following a turbulent month in the US punctuated by his unsavoury sledging of French Open champion Stan Wawrinka.
Hewitt said he didn’t doubt that Kyrgios was ill and he was ruled out by team’s medical staff.
“Nick came down here and gave everything he had to try to be available and there’s absolutely no doubt he was sick,” Hewitt said.
He said Tomic’s comments came in the heat of the moment and in frustration about his own injury.
Hewitt also showed his support for Tomic.
“Bernie’s come here and he wasn’t 100 per cent and he hasn’t been for the last few weeks and he came out and gave absolutely 100 per cent in his matches here and did exactly what I asked him to do ever since he stepped off the plane,” Hewitt said.
“For me, both boys did exactly what I asked them to do.”
After splitting the opening day’s singles, American twins Bob and Mike Bryan beat Hewitt and John Peers in the doubles to take a 2-1 lead into Sunday’s reverse singles.
Isner fired 49 aces, including 253km/hr rocket – the third-fastest serve ever record – to end Australia’s hopes.
It’s the first time since 1979 that the United States have beaten Australia on grass and their first win in the great rivalry on any surface since 1997.
The Americans will now host either Croatia or Belgium in the quarter-finals.