Isner to face Australia's Groth on Davis Cup Day 1

March 2, 2016 09:37 PM

By Ashley Marshall,

Top-ranked American man John Isner will kick off the United States’ Davis Cup campaign against Sam Groth when the U.S. begins its World Group First Round tie against longtime rival Australia on the grass of the Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club outside Melbourne on Friday.

Groth, originally slated to play in the doubles on the middle day of competition, was moved into the first rubber when Nick Kyrgios was scratched from the lineup with flu-like symptoms and a hip injury. Kyrgios was replaced by playing captain Lleyton Hewitt as the fourth member of the team. Hewitt, who retired at this year’s Australian Open, is making his debut as Australia’s Davis Cup captain.

“I wouldn’t say we are surprised given that we saw Lleyton practicing this week and Nick’s pretty conspicuous absence,” U.S. captain Jim Courier said after Thursday’s draw ceremony. “It is certainly not something coming to Australia that we were anticipating, though. Nick is a very tough player who is on a high now with his results. However, Sam is a very capable grass-court player and we won’t take him lightly for one second.”

The second match of Day 1 features world No. 24 Jack Sock against world No. 20 and Australian No. 1 Bernard Tomic. Sock and Tomic have played each other three times on the ATP World Tour, with Sock winning all three matches. Day 1 play begins at 11 a.m. local time, or 7 p.m. ET Thursday.

On Saturday, (noon local time, 8 p.m. ET Friday) the winningest doubles team of the Open era, Mike and Bob Bryan, will face Groth, ranked No. 77 in the world, and doubles specialist John Peers.

The best-of-five tie concludes on Sunday at 11 a.m. (7 p.m. ET Saturday) when each country’s top two representatives square off in the reverse singles matches. No. 11 Isner (pictured above with Groth at the draw ceremony) will play Tomic and, if necessary, Sock will face Groth.

Each match is best-of-five-sets until one nation wins three matches and clinches the tie.  The remaining matches, if any, are played as best-of-three sets. Team captains Courier and Hewitt may substitute the doubles team up to one hour before Saturday’s match.

“We have seen it a bunch of times in Davis Cup, where you put a team on the draw and they come up with another team," Mike Bryan said. "We are prepared for a few different options. Right now, we are prepared for Peers and Groth, but that can obviously change. Hewitt and Groth played last year and played well, so we have our game plans ready.”

The United States, which leads all nations with 32 Davis Cup titles and owns the longest uninterrupted run in the World Group, dating back to 1989, holds a 25-20 overall record over Australia in Davis Cup play. The last time the Americans and Aussies met was in 1999 in a World Group Quarterfinal played in Chestnut Hill, Mass., where the U.S. lost, 4-1.

“We are historians of the game,” Bob Bryan said of the rivalry with Australia. “ We all know the great history that these two nations have in Davis Cup. We have read all the articles, read the books and watched the tapes. There is not a mystery that this match has historic implications.”

The winner of this tie advances to the World Group quarterfinal, July 15-17, and will play either Croatia or Belgium. Should the U.S. defeat Australia, it will host the tie in July. The losing nation will compete in the World Group Playoff, Sept. 16-18, for the right to remain in the World Group in 2017.

Tennis Channel will air live daily coverage all three days of competition.