SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA: It’s a cliffhanger ending in the Australia-Switzerland Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off, with darkness halting play in the fifth set of the decisive fifth rubber between Lleyton Hewitt and Stanislas Wawrinka, the Swiss leading 5-3.
With no lights at the Royal Sydney Golf Club, play was suspended amid uproar, less at the decision than the late timing of it - six minutes past the scheduled halt time of 5.45pm. Play will resume at 11am tomorrow, with Wawrinka leading 46 64 67(7) 64 5-3, needing only to hold serve to clinch the tie. Hewitt will serve first on resumption.
Australian captain Pat Rafter remonstrated several times with referee Javier Moreno from Spain, calling for an earlier halt to play. From the early stages in the fifth, according to Rafter, Hewitt was bothered by the dying light. In the fifth game, he dropped serve from 40-15 up.
At 4-3, even the crowd was struggling to sight the ball. Chants of “Op Suisse!” were echoed back by Aussie fans as “Can’t see!” The referee ordered play to continue but only one more game was completed.
It was a tumultuous end to a gripping contest, Aussie hero Hewitt adding lustre to his Cup legend by braving five set points (four in the tiebreak) to rip the third set away from an increasingly dangerous Wawrinka.The Aussie strode back on court for the fourth set shirtless, like a prizefighter.
But Wawrinka was no less heroic, fighting on against a tigerish Hewitt, with a backhand as photogenic as that of his compatriot Roger Federer, and landing massive serves as the match wore on. To consolidate the break for 4-2 in the fifth set, Wawrinka sent down a 220km ace - his biggest bomb of the match.
Wawrinka has played all weekend with a leg inflammation, and in the post-match gloom of Switzerland’s doubles loss last night, hinted he may not get up for the reverse singles. On the day, Swiss captain Severin Luthi decided against throwing Marco Chiudinelli or Stephane Bohli into the fire of a fifth rubber against Australia’s Cup warrior.
Earlier, Roger Federer levelled the tie at 2-all by mastering Aussie young gun Bernard Tomic 62 75 36 63. Loser to Rafael Nadal in the epic 2008 Wimbledon final which finished in darkness, Federer conceded making the decision to suspend play is always a tough call but added “It’s the worst feeling in the world to lose in conditions you shouldn’t be playing in.”
With his Sunday night air-ticket out of Sydney in the shredder, Federer will be a support to his teammate Wawrinka instead. “If Stan wants me to do push-ups to pump him up I’ll do that. If he wants me to sleep on the floor of his bedroom, to keep him warm as we’re both missing our children... Whatever he wants me to do. I’ll be here tomorrow - except if he doesn’t want me, if he tells me ‘Go to Bondi Beach and relax, I’ll take care of the rest’”.
A service hold by Wawrinka would seal Switzerland’s first-ever Davis Cup win over Australia, in a series stretching back to 1930. As for Hewitt – “He’s pretty flat, pretty tired,” Rafter revealed. The 30-year-old, Australia’s leading Cup match winner, had set himself for a live fifth rubber - the first of his decorated Cup career - but does the battered warrior have one last heroic push left in him? We’ll find out tomorrow.
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Bernard Tomic (AUS) - 18/09/2011
Roger Federer (SUI) - 18/09/2011