RELATED: Coach lauds Groth's fighting spirit
NEW YORK: Australian captain Pat Rafter has rewarded Albury’s Sam Groth for his dramatic rise with a spot in his Davis Cup team for next week’s world group playoff against Uzbekistan.
With Bernard Tomic unavailable with a hip injury, Rafter has turned to Groth to fill the void, with the strapping serve-volleyer giving his captain singles and doubles options alongside team spearheads Lleyton Hewitt and Nick Kyrgios.
Doubles specialist Chris Guccione, who regularly plays with Hewitt in Davis Cup, but who has also forged a successful partnership this year with Groth, rounds out the four-man team.
Young gun Thanasi Kokkinakis will also travel to Perth for the September 12 to 14 grasscourt tie as a hitting partner.
Groth’s junior coach Phil Shanahan said the 26-year-old had 20,000 reasons to quit the game.
“There were times when he didn’t have enough money to get out of the country he was playing in,” he said.
“His perseverance and self belief has been unbelievable.
“But winning some money at the start of the year in Brisbane freed him up to focus on his tennis and the results speak for themselves.
“I think the tennis world is excited there is a genuine serve volleyer in the game.”
Groth last month broke into the world’s top 100 for the first time and cracked the fastest serve to date (236km/h) at the US Open in a second-round loss to Roger Federer.
Rafter said his team was motivated to win the tie and remain in the elite 16-nation world group next year.
He said confidence was high after promising performances at Wimbledon and the US Open.
“It’s been a big couple of months for the boys and we’ve seen some good results, both on grass during and after Wimbledon, and at the US Open last week,” Rafter said.
“Lleyton won the title in Newport, Nick had a fantastic run at Wimbledon, beating Rafa (Rafael Nadal) to make the quarters, and he continued his momentum at the US Open.
“‘Gooch’ and ‘Grothy’ have won six doubles titles together this year and I’m pleased to bring Sam into the team for his Davis Cup debut.
“It was unfortunate Bernie had to withdraw from the US Open and won’t be able to play next week.
“We all wish him a speedy recovery and hope to see him back on court soon.”
Uzbekistan has a strong and competitive team, likely led by world No. 44 Denis Istomin.
“We’re very determined to win, but we’ll have to be on top of our game to beat them,” Rafter said.
Cottesloe Tennis Club will host the playoff.