Australia’s recent Davis Cup tie victory over the Czech Republic has capped off a big summer of tennis and sparked renewed optimism in the future of the sport.
Performing exceptionally well in his first Davis Cup singles rubber was 19 year old Thanasi Kokkinakis, who stunned Czech no. 1 Lucas Rosol in a five set comeback victory on the opening day. Bernard Tomic’s composed, straight sets win in the first reverse singles sealed a quarter final for the Aussies, their first since 2006.
Little over a decade ago, Australia was at the forefront of world tennis, reaching four Davis Cup finals from 1999-2003 and sealing victories against France and Spain in 1999 and 2003 respectively. But over the past decade a dearth of talent and depth meant that the nation’s hopes were shouldered by the streaky, albeit dynamic, Sam Stosur and aging warrior Lleyton Hewitt.
So what has given new spark to the Australian tennis fire? The emergence of Kyrgios and Kokkinakis has certainly helped to create more of an Australian contingent on tour, where camaraderie can be an important factor in a typically lonely sport. Furthermore, Tomic, whose talent for the game is never questioned, appeared to regain his motivation in the latter half of 2014, perhaps influenced by Kyrgios’ Wimbledon heroics that mirrored his own in 2011. The trio of Kyrgios, Tomic and Kokkinakis will continue to benefit from the leadership and guidance of Davis Cup stalwart Lleyton Hewitt who has assumed a mentoring role. More grassroots initiatives driven by governing body Tennis Australia include junior programs which use modified balls and nets, as well as emphasis on funding our elite juniors have also paid dividends.
But where to now for our nation’s rising stars? Nick Kyrgios, provided his injury prone and still maturing body is managed properly, is a big time player and crowd favourite with a howitzer serve and potent offensive flare that is destined for the top 20 and likely the top 10. Tomic has seemingly reconciled his personal issues to recommit to the game which could easily make the top 30 by year’s end. And 19 year old man of the hour, hard hitting Kokkinakiss, is in for a big season. The three athletes will play a pivotal role in future Davis Cup efforts, and for the first time in some years, Australian diehard fans can be hopeful for a brighter tomorrow.