LLEYTON Hewitt’s retirement from the professional tennis circuit lasted just over a month after the Davis Cup captain stepped up to fill the void left by Aussie tennis prodigy Nick Kyrgios.
The Australians had been preparing for Kyrgios’ potential absence since he joined his teammates in Melbourne at the beginning of the week, but were optimistic he would overcome illness and take to the court on Friday.
The Australians were given close to even money via Sportsbet prior to Kyrgios’ omission, but after the news broke that he will be unavailable the home nation have blown out to $2.29.
The Australian’s opponents, the USA, is the heavy favourite to take out the tie at $1.58.
Kyrgios, the world number 29 who won his maiden ATP title less than a month ago, failed to recover from a viral infection which left him suffering from swelling, lethargy and ulcers.
The 20-year-old was examined by team medical staff on Thursday morning after a short workout, but they decided it would be negligent to allow the Canberra prodigy to take to the court.
The 35-year-old Hewitt’s last match was meant to be at this year’s Australian Open, but with Kyrgios leaving it to the last minute to rule himself out with illness, the Davis Cup captain had no choice but to insert himself into the squad.
Hewitt completes the four-man squad, which also includes Bernard Tomic, Sam Groth and John Peers.
This leaves world number 20 Bernard Tomic as the only remaining Australian player inside the top 70.
Hewitt said Kyrgios was ‘shattered’ after being declared unavailable.
“We had to make the best possible decision for the team and we were dealing with Nick on everything,” Hewitt said.
“He wanted to put his hand up and certainly didn’t want to let the team down and that’s why it was a tough decision for everyone involved.”
Despite the late call up, the Australian camp still believes they have a team capable of upsetting the Americans on home soil.
Former Australian tennis great Jason Stolenberg believes Hewitt has the experience to make the transition from captain to player a seamless one.
“He [Hewitt] thought he was retired and he’s hitting more than these guys,” Stoltenberg said.
“It’s probably the first time a captain’s had to get out and prepare as if he may play.
“He’s a great team man and he’ll do whatever he needs to do.”
It is unlikely that Hewitt will play in either of the opening singles matches with Sam Groth already named as Kyrgios’ replacement.
Groth faces John Isner in the opening match of the tie.
Groth and Hewitt are likely to team up in the doubles given they have partnered each other regularly on the professional circuit.
Davis Cup betting market
Played on grass surface on Friday, March 4 at Kyoong, Melbourne, Australia
Overall tie winner
Sam Groth ($3.62) vs. John Isner ($1.29)
Bernard Tomic ($1.65) vs. Jack Sock ($2.25)
United States & Australian betting markets underpin Paddy Power growth
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