Sport Tennis Lleyton’s back! Veteran replaces sick Kyrgios
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Lleyton’s back! Veteran replaces sick Kyrgios

Jim Courier
Jim Courier (right) reckons the US maintains an edge over Australia. Getty
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Don’t believe this weekend’s Davis Cup draw. Lleyton Hewitt is back.

When the match-ups for the tie against the United States in Melbourne were announced, Hewitt was not listed.

Instead, Sam Groth was picked to play singles on Friday and Sunday – and doubles in between.

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Earlier on Thursday, Tennis Australia was quick to promote Hewitt’s decision to come out of retirement – and the fact he fronted a media conference to say so – means that he will be involved in a playing capacity.

The most likely scenario is that Hewitt, who quit tennis after the Australian Open in January,  will feature in the doubles alongside John Peers, as they face the formidable task of toppling the top-class Bryan brothers.

In the absence of the ill Nick Kyrgios, Groth will step up to play two singles matches.

To ask him to play doubles as well is a tall order and doesn’t make sense when Hewitt is standing by.

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The seeds of Hewitt’s comeback were sown not this week, but last.

On Friday, onlookers raised an eyebrow at the intensity of Hewitt’s practice at Kooyong.

This was not a Davis Cup captain lobbing balls for his players to hit.

To quote a Kooyong insider, Hewitt was ‘running around like a mad man’.

He was at it again on Saturday, and while Groth and Peers were slicing balls into the net, Hewitt was as sharp as ever.

By then, Kyrgios had withdrawn from his Dubai Tennis Championships semi-final against Stanislas Wawrinka, citing a back problem.

The issue had bugged him during the week and, acting on that, and Bernard Tomic’s wrist soreness, Hewitt prepared himself to play.

At that point, surely even Hewitt thought a comeback was far-fetched.

But as this week wore on, and Kyrgios remained unsighted, battling a mystery virus, it became a possibility.

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Lleyton Hewitt watches on as Sam Groth practices. Photo: Getty

And once Kyrgios arrived in Melbourne, an unconvincing practice session on Wednesday essentially ruled him out.

“We’ll just take it one match at a time and see how it all pans out,” Hewitt said on Thursday, keeping his cards close to his chest.

“There’s five matches and we’ve got to win three of ‘em. A lot’s going to depend on match-ups … we’ve got a lot of options, which is good.

“Obviously with Nick, when we knew he had some issues, I tried to prepare as well as possible.

“I pride myself on preparation and doing all the right things and trying to think outside the box.”

It was no surprise to see Groth put his hand up to play three days in a row. He would hardly say otherwise.

But the scene is set for Hewitt to say goodbye on his terms.

And what better way to do that than to win a Davis Cup match for Australia.

He has form on his side – he beat Jack Sock, one of the USA’s two singles players – in straight sets at the Hopman Cup in January.

And John Isner, the other player set to play singles for the US, has lost three of his five clashes against Hewitt.

So whether he is needed in the singles or doubles, Hewitt is ready to go. Again.

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