AAP Tennis

Hewitt helps keep Australia in Davis Cup

By AAP Newswire

Lleyton Hewitt has rolled back the years alongside John Peers to beat Austria's Jurgen Melzer and Oliver Marach 6-2 6-4 3-6 7-5 and keep alive Australia's hopes in the Davis Cup playoff in Graz.

Team captain Hewitt, playing in his 80th match in the green and gold, 19 years after making his debut, nominated himself ahead of the struggling Jordan Thompson who'd originally been slated to partner Peers.

Australia's top-ranked player John Millman, who's been struggling with illness following his US Open quarter-final, sat in as temporary courtside skipper at the Messe Grand complex on outdoor clay.

After Jordan Thompson and Alex de Minaur lost their singles rubbers to Dominic Thiem and Dennis Novak respectively, Saturday's doubles clash was a must-win for the visitors.

Hewitt and Peers broke the Austrians twice in the first four games to steamroll their way through the opening set and an early break of Melzer's serve helped them take out the second.

But roared on by a noisy 6000-strong home crowd, Austria hit back to take the the third set following a marathon point at 3-1 on the Marach serve that produced 11 deuces and saw the hosts save eight break points.

The fourth set was a close affair with both teams holding serve until the Peers crunched a forehand winner to break Marach and seal the win.

"This is Davis Cup doubles," Hewitt said.

"This is what it's meant to be - it's meant to be on the middle day, it's meant to be best-of-five sets and we're playing in a tough place, away from home, on a tough clay court.

"John played fantastic today. We gelled really well, we came out at the start and lit it up and then had to dig deep in the fourth set."

De Minaur now faces the daunting prospect of taking on Thiem, the heir apparent to Rafael Nadal's king of clay crown in the opening reverse singles rubber on Sunday.

World No.8 Thiem dropped just four games in a 95-minute dismantling of Thompson and beat de Minaur comfortably in their only previous meeting at last year's US Open.

"It's gonna be a very tough ask again tomorrow," Hewitt said.

"But all my boys will prepare as well as possible and we'll do absolutely everything we can and we'll leave it all out here.

"If it's good enough, it is, and if it's not, it's not. But we'll give 100 per cent."

The winner of the tie will be seeded for the qualifying round of the revamped Davis Cup in February.