Debutant Thompson to open Davis Cup
Jordan Thompson, playing his first tie for Australia, will open the host's Davis Cup campaign against Czech Republic when he takes on Jiri Vesely.
Nick Kyrgios says having Lleyton Hewitt on the sidelines can calm any butterflies in Jordan Thompson’s stomach after the Davis Cup first-timer was handed a crunch debut rubber.
Thompson was drawn against Jiri Vesely in Friday’s opening singles match in this weekend’s first-round tie with Czech Republic at Kooyong.
Kyrgios, Australia’s top-ranked player, will then face world No.157 Jan Satral in the afternoon’s rubber.
On most days, the world No.15 would take top billing.
But it’s the 22-year-old Sydneysider, ranked 65th in the world, who will take centre stage at the iconic Melbourne venue as he looks to get Australia off to a winning start.
Kyrgios said it’s only natural Thompson might be feeling the pinch as he takes on Vesely, the seasoned Davis Cup player ranked 54th in the world and with a 2016 win over Novak Djokovic under his belt.
“He’s going to feel nervous but I’ve got no doubt he’s going to play a great level,” he said on Thursday.
“Having Lleyton on the side helps a lot. Having a guy that’s been there, done that and achieved everything in the game, to have that on the side of the court, he’s going to understand everything and that’s what it’s good for.”
The five-set Davis Cup format has a reputation for getting the better of inexperienced players but Thompson said he wouldn’t be intimidated.
“He’s a big lefty with a big serve. He’s pretty consistent from the back and beat Novak last year so he’s obviously a quality player,” he said.
“I’ll try to go about my business – no matter where it is, no matter what conditions – the same.”
Thompson did enjoy a five-set Australian Open success – his first in four five-set matches – last month over world No.41 Joao Sousa.
He also beat highly-ranked Spaniard David Ferrer in Brisbane on the way to a career-high world ranking.
Hewitt said there were many reasons while Vesely, and not Thompson, would be feeling the pinch.
“There’s a lot of pressure on Jiri day one, playing Thommo,” he said.
“(Thompson) has got to be confident in how he’s played the last month. This is a great opportunity. For Thommo, it’s a perfect time to play in the exact same conditions that you’ve just played so well in.
“On the side of the court, we’re really going to enjoy helping him and dealing with those situations.
“There are a lot of momentum swings over five sets. I think he’s going to have a really good account of himself.”
Thompson is debuting for Australia after No.2 Bernard Tomic made himself unavailable for the tie.
Australian doubles pair Sam Groth and John Peers have been slated to play Zdenek Kolar and veteran Radek Stepanek in the doubles on Saturday, before reverse singles rubbers on Sunday.
For more information, visit our dedicated Australia v Czech Republic Davis Cup tie page.