Australia’s Davis Cup dreams hang on Bernard Tomic after Lleyton Hewitt’s comeback fell just short against the United States.
Australia is banking on Tomic continuing his impressive Davis Cup record of 16 wins and three losses, to keep alive their hopes of a victory at Kooyong.
Tomic will take on top-ranked American John Isner on Sunday, with Australia trailing 2-1 after the USA won the doubles in their World Group first round tie on Saturday.
The appearance of team captain Hewitt – out of his short-lived retirement – wasn’t enough to lift Australia to a win over 16-time grand slam champion twins Mike and Bob Bryan.
Hewitt replaced Sam Groth to partner doubles specialist, debutant John Peers.
The new duo pushed the Americans to five sets before falling 6-3 6-3 4-6 4-6 6-3.
Retiring after the Australian Open in January, Hewitt looked like he’d never left the court.
Australia’s most successful Davis Cup player, admitted he was a chance to play in the fifth rubber against Jack Sock instead of Groth if required.
For that to come into play the home side needs Tomic to upset world No.11 Isner.
“It’s pretty simple, we need Bernie to win,” Hewitt said.
“He’s our No.1 player and the leader of the team and he played awfully well on Friday and we’re going to need that out of him again tomorrow.”
Tomic, ranked world No.20, beat Sock in four sets as he found his groove on the Kooyong grass.
The big-serving Isner will be a step up and Hewitt said Tomic must serve well to give himself a chance.
“John’s going to serve well so he’s going to have to serve well,” Hewitt said.
“Bernie plays a totally different game to what Grothy gave Isner but Bernie backs himself over five sets and I think he will play well.”
Tomic lost to Isner in their only meeting, although that was back in 2012 when he was only a teenager.
He said the win over Sock had given him confidence.
“This is my surface where I can beat him on and I’m just going to fight every point and focus on my service games and that’s going to give me the biggest chance to win against John,” Tomic said.
While Hewitt impressed, Peers looked right at home in his first Davis Cup appearance.
He was the better of the pair in the opening two sets before Hewitt lifted in the next two.
“It felt amazing out there but unfortunately we couldn’t quite get it over the line,” said Peers, who is a two-time grand slam doubles finalist.
“Playing for the green and gold is something I will cherish and something I’ve wanted to do for a really long time.”