Cahill backs Hewitt’s Cup squad to deliver
IN-DEMAND tennis coach Darren Cahill has identified the Australian Davis Cup team's flexibility as its greatest strength as it prepares for next weekend's tie against Bosnia-Herzegovina at Memorial Drive.
Top-ranked Australians Alex de Minaur and John Millman, ranked 29 and 37 in the world respectively, shape as the most likely singles players as Australia also named doubles specialist John Peers, Jordan Thompson (world No. 72) and the in-form Alexei Popyrin (149) in a five-man squad.
Nick Kyrgios, whose ranking has dropped to No. 52, and the outspoken Bernard Tomic (88) were overlooked, as was Thanasi Kokkinakis.
Rising star Alex Bolt, who had a breakout Australian Open by making the third round, will be with the team in Adelaide but wasn't named in the squad.
De Minaur, who collected his first title in Sydney in the lead-up to the Australian Open, is expected to be the anchor of the team.
But Cahill, whose coaching resume includes taking Lleyton Hewitt, Andre Agassi and Simona Halep to world No. 1, said the team's depth meant anyone could play.
He expected a bumper weekend at Memorial Drive as Hewitt returns for the first time as captain of the national team.
"I see Lleyton's put in a couple of youngsters," Cahill said. "Popyrin is going to get his first opportunity which is incredible for him.
"I think the boys will go in as favourites.
"The format is going to be a bit different, which will take a bit of getting used to, best of three (sets).
"The beauty of what Lleyton's picked is that you can actually play any of the four players.
"It just depends a bit on practice form, if any of the boys are carrying any niggles or injuries from the Australian Open.
"I know de Minaur has had a pretty busy summer with the amount of tennis he's played.
"Popyrin making his big breakthrough here (at the Australian Open) - it's the first time he's played that much tennis in a week.
"I think Lleyton will take the week to see how all the boys are feeling.
"But I'm sure that everybody will be fired up and hoping they get selected; it's a great opportunity."
Cahill said Australia deserved to go into the tie as the favourite as it seeks to qualify for November's Davis Cup finals in Madrid, Spain.
But he warned Bosnia-Herzegovina's Damir Dzumhur, ranked No. 47 in the world, and Mirza Basic (99) were no easybeats.
"They've got a pretty solid team," Cahill said. "Dzumhur and Basic aren't household names but they're extremely good players.
"Dzumhur has a lot of history of playing really good tennis, especially against the Aussie boys.
"We have to be on our game."
Hewitt is expected to assemble the squad in Adelaide to practice in the days leading up to the tie, which will be played on February 1 and 2.He was hoping to build on the momentum from the strong results this Australian summer.
"De Minaur has had an incredible start to the year winning his maiden ATP title in Sydney and making the third round of the Aussie Open," Hewitt said.
"Popyrin showed us he can match it with the top players and it was pleasing to see him do so well in only his second appearance at a Grand Slam.
"John Millman and Jordan Thompson will bring experience to the team as will John Peers who is contesting his ninth Grand Slam men's doubles quarterfinal tomorrow.
"It's great to also bring Alex Bolt along to Adelaide after his impressive run last week.
"Our focus will now shift towards preparing for the tie and as a team we're excited to bring Davis Cup tennis back to Adelaide for the first time in 15 years."