Wally Masur’s decision to overlook his ‘Special Ks’ proved a masterstroke as Sam Groth and Lleyton Hewitt powered Australia to Davis Cup success in their quarter-final showdown against Kazakhstan.
Trailing 2-1 in the tie, Australia had no room for error in Sunday’s reverse singles in the Darwin heat.
Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis both flopped in their singles matches on Friday, convincing Masur to axe them for Sunday’s action.
Groth levelled the tie at 2-2 with a hard-fought 6-3 7-6 (8-6) 4-6 7-6 (8-6) win over Kazakhstan’s top-ranked player, world No.63 Mikhail Kukushkin.
And Hewitt sealed the tie win with a 7-6 (7-2) 6-2 6-3 triumph over Aleksandr Nedovyesov, setting up a Davis Cup semi-final against either Great Britain or France.
The triumph capped a rollercoaster week for Australian tennis, which had to contend with Bernard Tomic’s arrest in Miami.
Tomic, the world No.25, would have been a lock to play in both singles matches in Darwin.
But his verbal tirade against Tennis Australia earlier this month meant the governing body had little choice but to suspend him for the crucial tie.
Tomic’s absence resulted in Kyrgios entering the tie as Australia’s spearhead.
But the 20-year-old was reduced to the role of a spectator by the end of the weekend following his shock four-set loss to Nedovyesov on Friday.
“I hope that (Kyrgios and Kokkinakis) realise that no-one sits in judgement that they lost a tennis match,” Masur said.
“They have so long to go and have so much ability and are great kids.
“As Lleyton said, they are the next generation of our team and I just really look forward to it.”
At 2-0 down after Friday’s singles matches, Australia were in a big hole, with the Tomic party saga in the US making the headache even worse.
Groth and Hewitt combined for a win in the doubles to give their country a glimmer of hope and they elevated themselves to hero status on Sunday with gutsy performances in the singles.
Hewitt had never won a live fifth rubber in a World Group match.
But with his country’s Davis Cup title hopes on the line, the 34-year-old never looked like losing.
“This is what dreams are made of,” Hewitt said after the win.
“I love the back against the wall situation.
“We rallied together and found a way to win.
“We didn’t panic when we were 2-0 down. We’re united for the one goal. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Groth’s efforts in rescuing Australia were also crucial.
The 27-year-old fired down 29 aces against Kukushkin, with his powerful serve helping him save nine of 10 break points.
“This is the most amazing thing I’ve ever had in tennis. It’s unbelievable,” Groth said.
Kazakhstan captain Dias Doskarayev was proud of his team despite coming up short.
“Everything went (Australia’s) way,” he said.
“We lost four tiebreaks. Tiebreaks are kind of a lottery.
“So the tennis gods were on the Aussie side. That’s sport. That’s tennis.” AAP jsc/wd