Bryan brothers spoil Hewitt comeback as US takes 2-1 lead in Davis Cup tie

ArrayMelbourne, March 5 (IANS) Australia’s tennis team will need to win both of its final two Davis Cup rubbers against the United States in order to clinch the tie, after a gamble to play team captain Lleyton Hewitt in the doubles rubber failed — but only just – here on Saturday.

Hewitt, paired with Davis Cup debutant John Peers, pushed 16-time doubles Grand Slam winners Mike and Bob Bryan to the brink, and even looked odds-on to steal the match after they came back from two sets down to level the rubber at two sets a-piece at the Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club, reports Xinhua.

With the crowd behind them, the underdog Aussies were able to storm back into the match but, after drawing level with the Bryans at two sets, the class of the 37-year-old Americans — arguably the best doubles pairing in tennis’ history — shone through; eventually they won in five sets: 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3.

Hewitt called himself up into the doubles rubber after Sam Groth battled heat and John Isner on day one of the tie. Groth was previously scheduled to play doubles with Peers, but a late withdrawal from an ill Nick Kyrgios pre-tie forced Australia to move Groth into the singles rubbers, paving the way for Hewitt to step in for the doubles.

After taking the first two sets with relative ease, the Bryan brothers looked likely to wrap up the match in three — but a dogged fightback from Hewitt, 35, and Peers, 27, resulted in a much-needed break to the Australians late in the third set.

That sniff was just what the doctor ordered; the Australians piled on the pressure with staunch support from both the crowd and their parochial support team on the bench. They took the third set not long after, and then broke early in the fourth, signaling that a comeback was well and truly on.

The Aussies had a chance to go up a double break in the fourth, but typical resistance from the Bryan brothers meant the Australians could not capitalise on four break points. However, with one break already in the bag, it was all the Aussies needed on their way to tying the rubber at two sets all.

From there, the Bryans once again took control, winning the opening eight points of the decider and going up 2-0 in a matter of minutes.

Team US then propelled ahead to serve for the match at 5-2, and despite saving three match points, the Australians were unable to hold up the charge, the Bryans winning in two hours and 29 minutes.

Hewitt said despite being rank underdogs going into the match, both he and Peers put up a good fight.

“We didn’t doubt ourselves at any stage of the match and hung right in there,” Hewitt said.

“Now we need Tomic to win (tomorrow). It’s pretty simple — that’s our main focus.”

The win secures a crucial 2-1 lead for the US going into the final day of the tie on Sunday, with Australian Bernard Tomic now facing a must-win match if Australia is to have a chance at stealing the series.

Tomic will face world No.11 John Isner first on court at Kooyong, with the possible dead rubber between Sam Groth and Jack Sock to follow.

No Neymar as Barcelona travel to Eibar
Barcelona, March 5 (IANS) Catalan football giants Barcelona head coach Luis Enrique will make at least one change as his side looks to maintain its record unbeaten run of games away against Eibar in La Liga on Sunday afternoon.

Barcelona visit the tiny Ipurua Stadium, which has a capacity of just over 5,000 without Brazilian striker Neymar, who is suspended after completing a cycle of bookings during Barcelona’s 5-1 win away over Rayo Vallecano on Thursday night, reports Xinhua.

Enrique has options as he looks to replace Neymar alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, with Arda Turan, who scored his first league goal for the club against Rayo, an option, although it looks as if Munir will finally get the nod.

Suarez goes into the game without a goal in his last three matches, but he has netted 25 league goals this season and hit the post three times in recent games. Messi on the other hand scored a hat-trick in Vallecas and has scored 20 goals in all competitions since the turn of the year.

Barcelona will go into their game knowing what Real Madrid have done in their game against Celta Vigo, although with the Whites starting the weekend 12 points behind them. It seems obvious Zinedine Zidane’s side has no options of winning the league and that Barcelona’s only rivals are Atletico Madrid, who play away against Valencia when Barcelona’s game finishes.

Eibar receive Barcelona in eighth place in the table and with 36 points, meaning they are virtually safe from relegation, but also in danger of seeing any chance of playing in Europe next season escape them as they are five points behind Athletic Club Bilbao, who are in seventh.

Eibar coach Jose Luis Mendilibar has commented that a win for his side, which has the smallest budget in the La Liga would be “great for football,” and his side will look to take advantage of what are likely to be difficult conditions on their small pitch after a weekend where heavy rain and strong winds are forecast and could make life complicated for Barcelona’s star players.

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