Luczak close to locking up singles berth
September 18, 2007 - 2:14PM
Peter Luczak all but clinched the contentious second singles berth for Australia's Davis Cup playoff with Serbia with a convincing trial effort against Lleyton Hewitt today.
Clay specialist Luczak matched Hewitt set for set during an intense session on the tie's temporary claycourt at Belgrade's Beogradska Arena to virtually demand selection from Australian captain John Fitzgerald.
"He's got a very competitive chance," Fitzgerald acknowledged.
"He's certainly hitting the ball well. He played well this morning, he was very competitive with Lleyton there and this surface is what he likes most.
"But, look, to be honest, we haven't finally made up our mind. After tomorrow we'll have a better idea."
With power-serving left-hander Chris Guccione only four places behind world No.91 Luczak in the rankings, Fitzgerald was understandably reticent to make a public call on his team's No.2 singles choice before Thursday's official draw.
But after a meek first-round loss at the US Open this month, Guccione appears to have fallen even further behind Luczak, who boasts four Challenger tournament wins on the slow red clay this year.
Guccione now has only two more days to show Fitzgerald and coach Darren Cahill he has the greater weapons to challenge Serbian star Novak Djokovic in the opening singles session on Friday.
After frustrating Hewitt for almost three hours, Luczak modestly described his form as "pretty good" and was reluctant to claim victory over Guccione in the two-man race just yet.
"Fitzy will tell us Wednesday night who plays," he said. "It's tough. Our rankings are very similar.
"Gooch got the nod last time in Belgium but you never know. You've just got to try to put in the hard yards and just see what happens."
The truth is, Luczak has been putting in the hard yards for months.
"I've actually been looking forward to this for the last couple of months," he said.
"Ever since we knew we were playing Serbia and I knew they would pick clay.
"That's my favourite surface so ... then (Australian team manager) Fenton (Coull) told us they've got a stadium here with 20,000 and it sold out within a few hours.
"I get goose bumps just thinking about it, so everything I've been doing for the last five or six weeks have been sort of building up to this.
"The best thing in my career is just being part of a team so obviously if I get a chance to play, it would definitely be a highlight."
As Australian No.1, Hewitt will play Serbian No.2 Janko Tipsarevic in Friday's other singles match.