PHIL Shanhan says Sam Groth’s elevation to the Davis Cup squad is testament to his character.
The former Border junior was yesterday added to the Australian squad to play Uzbekistan in Perth after a stellar year that has seen him win six doubles titles, break into the top 100 in singles and go down fighting to Roger Federer in the second round at the US Open.
But Shanahan, who coached Groth, 26, as a junior, said it had been a rocky road for his former charge.
He all but gave the game away after his marriage break-up with Jarmila Gajdosova, playing football for suburban Melbourne team Vermont.
“He had 20,000 reasons to throw tennis in, he has done it tough financially for nine years now,” Shanahan said.
“But his perseverance and self belief are his strongest assets and he just loves tennis.
“Certainly 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.
“Having money in the bank account takes a bit of pressure off.”
Shanahan said Groth, who has earned about $400,000 so far this year, should partner Chris Guccione in the doubles in the world group playoff.
“Sam’s explosive power game is tailormade for grass and he has already won several tournaments with Guccione this year,” he said.
“Their serves and wing span at the net are pretty impressive.”
He likened Groth’s development to Australian great and two-time US Open winner Pat Rafter.
“Serve-volleyers have traditionally been late bloomers,” he said.
“Playing Roger was the first time he had faced a top-10 player and I think Federer was a little shellshocked.
“Serve-volleyers are just so rare these days and Sam had two break points to go 5-2 in the third set.
“His movement is just much better and I think he now believes he belongs among the top echelon in singles and doubles.
“I think it is exciting for world tennis to actually have a serve-volleyer.”