Australia are poised to retain a place among the Davis Cup elite, with Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic giving the hosts a commanding 2-0 lead over Slovakia in their World Group playoff in Sydney.
Kyrgios crushed world No.127 Andrej Martin 6-3 6-2 6-4 in Friday’s opening singles rubber before Tomic outclassed 123rd-ranked Jozef Kovalik 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 6-4 at Ken Rosewall Arena.
The twin wins give Sam Groth and John Peers the chance to wrap up the best-of-five-match tie with a victory over Martin and Igor Zelenay in Saturday’s doubles.
“A perfect start,” said Australian captain Lleyton Hewitt.
“We know it’s not over quite yet but the boys did really well today.
“They were obviously big favourites coming into both singles but you can’t take anything for granted in Davis Cup.
“There’s a lot more pressure on as well and sometimes it’s tougher when you are a lot more fancied chance to go out there and get the job done. The underdog comes out swinging and it can turn into a dogfight.”
Making his first Davis Cup appearance since a forgettable performance in last year’s quarter-final win over Kazakhstan in Darwin, Kyrgios was more inconvenienced by a nose bleed than his lowly ranked opponent.
The world No.15 spent much of the final set with a tissue up his left nostril and admitted to relief at overcoming the irritation to collect his first Davis Cup point for Australia in two years.
“It was a bit of a hassle,” Kyrgios said.
“Everyone expects me to go out there and towel the guy but it’s never as easy as that.
“I thought he played some great tennis today. He actually adapted really well to the grass. He was slicing and was very comfortable on it and that third set definitely wasn’t easy.”
After suffering a shock loss to world No.115 Aleksandr Nedovyesov in Darwin, then-Australian captain Wally Masur replaced the temperamental youngster with Sam Groth for the must-win reverse singles.
Kyrgios was then overlooked for Australia’s semi-final loss to Great Britain last year following his infamous sledging of Stan Wawrinka, before missing the first-round defeat to the US at Kooyong in March with a virus.
But the 21-year-old made a welcome – and incident-free – return to national service on Friday to give Australia the early ascendancy in their bid to retain their place in the 16-team World Group for 2017.
Tomic was equally impressive in improving his Cup record to 17-4 in singles, surpassing the winning tally of the legendary Rod Laver in the 116-year competition.