Win or lose against Great Britain, Thanasi Kokkinakis is indebted to Lleyton Hewitt for giving him a shot at Davis Cup redemption.
Kokkinakis says Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic also owe Hewitt and Sam Groth big time for “bailing out” Australia’s faltering young guns on a fateful weekend in July.
The night after Kokkinakis and Kyrgios suffered shock first-day singles losses to leave Australia trailing Kazakhstan 2-0 in Darwin, the suspended Tomic was having his mug shot taken in a Miami police station after upsetting authorities at a house party.
It was Hewitt and Groth to the rescue, the pair pulling off Australia’s first comeback from such a grim deficit in 76 years with victories in the doubles and reverse singles rubbers.
The epic triumph propelled Australia to its first Davis Cup semi-final since 2006 and left Kokkinakis and the recalled Tomic with the opportunity to repay Groth and Hewitt, who dreams of raising the coveted trophy one last time before retiring in January.
“They definitely bailed us out. We had a shocker, not going to lie there,” Kokkinakis said after being handed a crack at British No.1 Andy Murray in Friday’s opening singles match in Glasgow.
“Leyton’s been huge for tennis in Australia, always coming back and playing those five-setters.
“So for him to win it in that fifth rubber just speaks volumes about his professionalism, to show he’s always ready.
“He bailed us out and killed the fifth rubber. That was huge for us and we wouldn’t be here without Lleyton and Sam.
“I thank the guys again for picking me.”
Tomic, with an otherwise superb 14-2 Davis Cup record for Australia, is also grateful for his second chance after serving his ban and replacing Kyrgios for the indoor hardcourt tie against the Brits.
“I’m happy to be on the team. At the time, in June and July, it was a bit of a disappointment,” he said.
“But it’s great to be back.”
For Hewitt, the feeling is mutual.
The veteran warrior is an unabashed admirer of his young proteges and says Kokkinakis’s attitude and commitment is symbolic of the spirit in the new-era Australian team.
“This competition obviously means a lot to me,” he said.
“In my last year playing, it’s a great opportunity. With my experience and the other boys’ youth out there, we’ve really mixed it up out there.
“We’ve had some pretty tough ties and have been able to find a way to get the three rubbers we’ve needed.
“As a team, we’ve got stronger.”
Groth makes no secret that the inspirational Hewitt, the country’s longest-serving and most prolific Davis Cup performer, is quietly driving Australia’s title push.
“Obviously we’ve got the goal as a team, but to have Lleyton in the team with the opportunity we have got now in the semi-final in his last year, we are all aware,” Groth said.
“It’s not really something that’s spoken about, but we are all definitely aware of the history that he has playing Davis Cup for Australia.
“For me, what an honour it is to play on the same team as him.”