Sport Tennis It’s crunch day for Australia’s Davis Cup hopes

It’s crunch day for Australia’s Davis Cup hopes

John Peers (left) and Matt Ebden (right) in action during their doubles match against Germany's Jan-Lennard Struff and Tim Puetz. AAP/Darren English
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Germany has grabbed a 2-1 lead over Australia in their Davis Cup first-round tie in Brisbane, with Matthew Ebden and John Peers losing Saturday’s crucial doubles rubber in five sets.

Australia must now win both reverse singles rubbers to qualify for April’s quarterfinals

The visitors sprang a late change, replacing Peter Gojowczyk with Jan-Lennard Struff. It was doubles partner Tim Puetz who proved the difference, however, in the 6-4, 6-7 (7/1), 6-2 6-7 (7/4), 6-4 win.

The pressure is now on world number 14 Nick Kyrgios and rookie Alex de Minaur if Australia is to move through to April’s quarter-finals.

The sight of John Millman practising with the Australian team fuelled speculation that rookie teenager Alex de Minaur may miss what looms as a crunch Davis Cup singles rubber against Germany in Brisbane on Sunday.

Australian team captain Lleyton Hewitt was hopeful the plucky de Minaur would recover from his draining debut on Friday to contest the fifth – and possibly deciding – rubber of the first round tie at Melbourne’s Pat Rafter Arena.

Australia must win both reverse singles rubbers to qualify for April’s quarterfinals after Ebden and Peers succumbed in five sets to Germany’s Tim Puetz and Jan-Lennard Struff in a three hour doubles epic on Saturday, giving the visitors a 2-1 lead.

Australian number one Kyrgios will take on world number five Alex Zverev, while debutant de Minaur — just 18 — is set to face Struff.

Australian team captain Lleyton Hewitt hinted he might have played in Saturday’s doubles but resisted the temptation, pairing Ebden with world number four doubles specialist Peers.

The pair showed former world number one Hewitt’s trademark fight, clawing their way back from two sets to one down to force the Germans to scramble.

But it was 30-year-old journeyman Puetz — in just his second Cup tie — who stood tall, thrashing forehand winner after forehand winner as Germany prevailed in a rubber lasting almost four hours.

Puetz’s heroics helped Germany to notch 22 forehand winners to Australia’s seven in the match.

Puetz — a lowly number 144 in the doubles rankings — made his Cup debut last year when he combined with Struff to deliver a key five-set doubles win against Portugal to help Germany seal victory.