Australia’s Davis Cup warriors are refusing to believe they can’t pull off another Houdini act after relinquishing control of their semi-final with an epic doubles loss to Great Britain.
Davis Cup legend Lleyton Hewitt may have played his last match in the competition after he and Sam Groth succumbed 3-6 6-3 6-4 6-7 (6-8) 6-4 to Andy and Jamie Murray to leave Australia staring down the barrel.
Trailing 2-1 in the best-of-five-match tie in Glasgow, Australia must win both Sunday’s reverse singles matches to keep Hewitt’s dream alive of bowing out with another glorious final appearance.
Australian No.1 Bernard Tomic faces an almighty battle against inspired world No.3 Andy Murray, who in a decade-long career has never lost a Davis Cup singles match in Britain.
Desperate to pilot Britain to their first Cup win since 1936, Murray is also unbeaten in 16 matches against all Australian challengers.
Australian captain Wally Masur isn’t completely ruling out thrusting Hewitt into the pressure cooker atmosphere at Emirates Arena for the first reverse singles following Tomic’s torrid day-one win over Dan Evans.
Masur, though, is still likely to stick with Tomic and concedes the 22-year-old will need to play the match of his life to topple Murray.
But he isn’t throwing in the towel.
Masur says Murray’s total of five hours and 43 minutes spent on court over the first two days – including almost four hours in the draining doubles – will have taken a toll.
“Andy was scintillating in his singles (against Thanasi Kokkinakis),” he said.
“But he won’t be as clinical. He won’t feel quite as good, that’s for sure.
“That was brutal. Just playing with that sort of tension for that amount of hours is tiring in itself.
“Obviously it was a tough loss but we’re still in this. We’re still in it up to our ears.
“We didn’t get the result we wanted, but we definitely soaked a little bit out of Andy.”
Murray, who won all three points in Britain’s quarter-final win over France, admitted he was feeling the strain but vowed to bounce back after the sapping doubles encounter.
“The longer the match, the less time there is to recover,” he said.
“Physically, it’s tough. But emotionally, matches like that are draining as well.
“I don’t think enough is made of that.”
Kokkinakis is scheduled to face Dan Evans in the fifth rubber, but Hewitt and Groth also remain options and both said they’d be ready to play if required.
The pair were on track to claim the pivotal doubles point after charging to a 4-1 lead in the third set.
But after playing blinding tennis for almost two hours, Groth cooled off – and the brothers Murray seized the moment before 8000 mostly partisan British fans at the sellout semi-final.
The Australians saved a match point in the fourth-set tiebreaker and also rallied from 3-0 down to 3-all in the fifth set to stay in the match.
“We just kept fighting and digging deep,” Hewitt said.
Alas, the Murrays were not to be denied and now Australia must produce another last-day miracle like Hewitt and Groth orchestrated against Kazakhtan in Darwin in July.
“Andy is going to be the favourite going into tomorrow’s match,” Hewitt said.
“But there’s still two matches to go and we’ve got to somehow come up with the best plan for those two matches and hopefully give ourselves an opportunity to go through to the final.
“We’ll leave it all out there again and see what happens.”
If Australia are to pull off an upset victory tomorrow, they will likely meet Argentina, who took a 2-1 lead over Belgium in the other semi-final on Saturday in Brussels.
With the tie levelled at 1-all headed into the doubles fixture, Leonardo Mayer and Carlos Berlocq needed four sets to edge past Steve Darcis and Ruben Bemelmans 6-2 7-6 (7-2) 5-7 7-6 (7-5).