Lleyton Hewitt to play Davis Cup doubles for Australia
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Grass court or hard court, it didn't seem to matter to Bob and Mike Bryan on Saturday when the brothers, after a mid-match lapse, gave the United States a 2-1 lead over Australia in their World Group Davis Cup first-round tie.
The Bryans beat Australia team captain Lleyton Hewitt - who came out of a short-lived retirement to replace Sam Groth -, and John Peers 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3 in doubles to put the Americans in front ahead of Sunday's reverse singles. Hewitt had replaced an ill Nick Kyrgios in the Australian squad but didn't play in either of the opening singles.
On Friday, John Isner beat Groth and Australia's Bernard Tomic defeated Jack Sock to leave the tie level at 1-1. Isner is scheduled to play Tomic on Sunday, and Groth vs. Sock, but those reverse singles lineups could change and again see another appearance by Hewitt.
The weekend victors will play the winner of Croatia and Belgium in the quarterfinals.
Ahead of Saturday's match, the court surface became somewhat of a controversy when the International Tennis Federation admitted that the Kooyong matches should have been played on hard courts, not grass.
In 1999, the last time Australia and the U.S. met in the Davis Cup, Australia should have hosted the matches. But a decision was made by the ITF to stage a 100th-anniversary celebration of the Davis Cup at Longwood Cricket Club near Boston.
The ITF placated Australia by allowing the matches to be played on hard court instead of clay, which the Americans preferred.
In exchange, the three groups agreed that the next time the two countries played, the matches would be played on hard courts.
But that agreement was somehow overlooked when Australia announced a drop-in grass court as the surface for this weekend's tie at Kooyong, the former Australian Open venue in suburban Melbourne.
On Saturday, the Bryans broke first Hewitt's serve at 3-3 in the second set, held their own and then broke Peers to finish the second set. The Australians broke the Bryans in the seventh game of the third set and went on to hold their service and stave off the Americans, then did it again in the fourth to set up a deciding fifth set.
In the decider, the Bryans held serve twice and broke the Australians in between to quickly take a 3-0 lead, then 4-1 after only 14 minutes. The Australians saved three match points in the eighth game on Hewitt's serve, but lefthander Bob Bryan held service to love in the following game to clinch the match.
The American brothers have won 16 Grand Slam doubles titles and have a 23-4 record in Davis Cup. Statistically, the Bryans are better on hard courts - having won the Australian Open doubles title six times, the U.S. Open five and on the grass at Wimbledon three times.
In an earlier statement, the ITF said the court confusion came from a three-way ''oversight'' by the ITF, the United States Tennis Association and Tennis Australia over a 1999 agreement.
''While the notes in the ITF database did include the reversal of choice for the next two subsequent ties, it did not specify the surface requirement for the next tie currently being played in Australia,'' the ITF's Barbara Travers said in a statement.
''This was an oversight by the ITF, USTA and TA which all acknowledge and will refer to the Davis Cup Committee. While neither nation remembered the condition attached to this tie, now that it has been brought to their attention both Australia and USA, in the spirit of sportsmanship ... have agreed to accept the decision of the committee regarding surface for the future tie.''
Both Hewitt and Jim Courier, the current U.S. captain, played in that 1999 quarterfinal match near Boston which Australia won and went on to clinch the title that year over France in the final. It was also the 18-year-old Hewitt's debut in Davis Cup play.