Several questions were answered on the opening day of the Australia-US Davis Cup tie, but another big one remains: will Lleyton Hewitt play in Saturday's doubles, or will the nation's first playing captain in more than half a century stick with Sam Groth and John Peers, his nominated pair?
Former skipper Neale Fraser believes it would take something unforseen to occur for Hewitt to dust of his racquet on the final two days of a tie balanced at 1-1 after the opening day's singles, but it remains a real possibility that the veteran who retired after a 20th Australian Open will be back on a match court just five weeks later.
He spent more than five hours on Friday fulfilling his role as leader, baking in mid-30s heat at courtside as he urged guided and exhorted Sam Groth (who lost to Isner) and Bernard Tomic (who overcame a third-set lapse to overcome Jack Sock). Later, he would say only that the doubles pair chosen would be Australia's "best option".
As Todd Woodbridge noted in the commentary box, Hewitt has been hitting the ball marvellously well on the practice court, "but I don't think he's got the rest that he'd need to be able to perform his best as a player". John Fitzgerald, though, expects he will try, in order to spread the workload and leave open the option of either himself or Groth playing in Sunday's second reverse singles if required.
The Americans say they are anticipating the Groth/Peers double act to appear as scheduled, but also prepared for that to change against the Bryan brothers, whose cup record is a formidable 23-4. The Victorians have played only two matches together, at this year's Sydney International, but they have spent extended time on the practice court this week and know each other well.
Groth declared himself capable of regrouping from his straight-sets loss to Isner on Friday."My body feels good, and I feel like I've played good doubles in Davis Cup in the past, and John and I have been playing well in practice," he said. "It's going to be up to Lleyton to see how things roll after today. But I'm ready to get out there, and I'll be doing everything I can to be putting my hand up to play tomorrow."
Nothing will surprise US captain Jim Courier, apparently. "One thing with Bob and Mike is they're ever prepared, they've been thinking about all the combinations that might be coming down the line at us, so I don't think we'd be shocked or overly surprised if anything changes, but I think our expectation is that Peers and Groth will be on the court. We'll see what happens. We'll know tomorrow morning at 11 o'clock."
The Bryans will be well rested, just as they are well acquainted with the debutant Peers, an unassuming Kooyong member who has quietly built a world ranking of No. 9 with the aid of a couple of grand slam finals in partnership with Jamie Murray.
"Obviously he had a great couple of years," Bob Bryan said. "He' s played us tough in the past, I think we've played seven or eight times (so) we know a lot about him and he knows us, well. He showed that he can play on grass by making the finals of Wimbledon, and then Grothy we played a bunch as well. He brings the big serve and can be tough to break, so if that's the team they put out there, it's gonna be a tough match. Maybe a break here and there, maybe some tiebreakers, but we're looking forward to it."
The American are coached by Tasmanian David Macpherson, and Bob joked that the pair's mentor was "a little hesitant to come down here and go against his home country, but it's business". In this tie, for both teams, unfinished, as yet.
But if there is an advantage to either team when the score is 1-1, Courier thinks he may have it. "Bob and Mike Bryan seem to be an advantage in the historical canon of doubles in Davis Cup, but every day is a different day," he said. "They've played awfully well. We feel confident in them, but they've lost matches in Davis Cup, too. We don't take anything for granted, we'll be ready to go, but I love having them on our side."