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Davis Cup, Australia v US: Tomic, Isner win, tie locked at 1-1

Bernard Tomic cannot recall everything Lleyton Hewitt was telling him at the changeovers late in a tense, draining four-set Davis Cup win over American Jack Sock that the Australian has hailed as among his most satisfying. But Tomic does know that Hewitt was saying "the right things" to keep him positive and motivated during a challenging time against a player he had never beaten.

Tomic was struggling after a concentration lapse in the third set that carried over into the fourth, his team trailing 1-0 after Sam Groth's loss to John Isner. In the context of the first-round tie, and Australia's chances in it, the singles No.1 simply could not lose against the US No. 2. Tomic won, 7-6 (7-2), 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, and so the first-round tie stands at 1-1 ahead of Saturday's doubles.

Bernard Tomic must beat John Isner to keep Australia alive.
Bernard Tomic must beat John Isner to keep Australia alive. Photo: Getty Images

"Both matches today probably went to plan on rankings and on form, but the Bryans are obviously the favourites tomorrow in the doubles," Hewitt said later. "But I still think our guys have got a good shot at it. Then on the last day anything can happen. It's going to be live going into the last day after today, which is nice."

Just as it was immense for Tomic, who is ranked four places higher than No. 24 Sock despite not having beaten him in three previous attempts. But the last was in 2014, and Tomic has been playing the best tennis of his career, with 13 wins from 19 matches this season, including a finals appearance in Acapulco last Sunday.

The flipside was that meant a long journey back from Mexico for a Tuesday arrival at Kooyong and and delayed grasscourt practice for a player whose responsibilities increased when Nick Kyrgios was declared unfit to play. But he loves the surface and the team environment, and continues to mature as a big-match player, his impressive Davis Cup record now 16-3.

"It's an amazing feeling. So tough out here, the conditions were so hot and I was trying to get used to it as much as I could," Tomic said. "It's been tough for me the last few days, coming on grass, so it's not so easy and I'm just happy to have the chance first time having Lleyton there by my side means a lot to me. I had a surface to play him on which was in my favour, but I knew it was gonna be tough, so I'm happy I won in the end."

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To Hewitt, who has played so many, lulls are inevitable in best-of-five set matches. "It's how you respond to that and he found a way in the fourth set," the veteran said. "It's not an easy thing to do, to come out when you're the number one player for your country and you're 1-0 down in Davis Cup, in a world group match and Bernie did fantastic today and he's done absolutely everything we asked of him all week."

With more to come, notably a live reverse singles against John Isner on Sunday, against whom he also has a losing record: 0-1. The world No.11 squeezed out of a tight first set against Groth, having been down 0-40 in the fifth game, but broke in the first game of the second and grew in confidence thereafter. He served well, of course, he did, but it was also his return game that impressed.

Groth agreed that the first set was crucial, "especially the way we both play. We both play on a little bit of confidence, both play behind our serve and especially on a day when it's quite hot out there as well. Had I have maybe taken a chance that 0-40 game early, maybe it's a different story, but I felt like after that he hit that backhand winner that clipped the line in the tiebreak and then his confidence just seemed to build. He started taking cuts on returns and to his credit they started going in.

"Everyone thinks of John as a big server; the guy's 11 in the world. he's a quality player. I maybe didn't expect him to hit as many lines as he did, but that's the reality of it today - he returned well and got on top and got confident and was hard to stop."