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Sam Groth re­calls his Dar­win Davis Cup win as the highlight of his ca­reer

Sunday Territorian - - FRONT PAGE -

IT is fair to say Sam Groth had a de­cent in­ter­na­tional ten­nis ca­reer. He had a boom­ing ser­vice game, so in­tim­i­dat­ing that he hit the fastest serve on record at 263km/hr at the ATP Chal­lenger in Bu­san, South Korea, in 2012.

The big New South Welsh­man’s high­est world rank­ing was 53rd, which he reached in Au­gust 2015 — a month after the great­est ex­pe­ri­ence of his ca­reer, which just so hap­pened to oc­cur in Dar­win.

With Aus­tralia down 2-0 in its Davis Cup quar­ter-fi­nal against Kazakhstan, Groth com­bined with ten­nis leg­end and good mate Lley­ton He­witt to beat An­drey Gol­ubev and Alek­sandr Ne­dovyesov in straight sets.

Groth then beat Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3 7-6 4-6 7-6, be­fore He­witt de­feated Ne­dovyesov in straight sets to en­sure a re­mark­able come­back and 3-2 vic­tory to the Aussies over the five matches.

Groth only has fond mem­o­ries of play­ing ten­nis in the Top End.

“What hap­pened on that week­end in 2015 was spe­cial for me, but also for Aus­tralia in the Davis Cup,” he told the NT News.

“Com­ing back from 2-0 down doesn’t hap­pen of­ten in world group Davis Cup matches.

“For me to be a very big part of that, it helped me ce­ment where I was at in my ca­reer and leave some sort of a legacy in the sport.”

Ten­nis NT is cur­rently un­der the spot­light after a prom­i­nent math­e­mati­cian mea­sured a two per cent slope at the back of the cen­tre court at the new $16.7 mil­lion Mar­rara Ten­nis Cen­tre.

Ten­nis NT gen­eral man­ager Sam Gib­son re­sponded re­cently by say­ing:

“As part of the de­fects and li­a­bil­ity pe­riod an in­de­pen­dent assess­ment of the com­pli­ance of the Show Court is on foot and Ten­nis NT will act in ac­cor­dance with the out­comes of that re­port.

“Ten­nis NT won’t be mak­ing any fur­ther com­ment un­til this process is com­pleted.”

Prom­i­nent ten­nis per­son­al­i­ties around Aus­tralia, par­tic­u­larly Groth, will be hop­ing the sit­u­a­tion can be re­solved quickly.

Groth was de­lighted to fly up from Mel­bourne as a guest of hon­our to open the new fa­cil­ity back in July.

“It’s a huge hon­our. I have such good mem­o­ries here,” he said at the time.

“It’s great to see Dar­win and the North­ern Ter­ri­tory get­ting a fa­cil­ity of this stan­dard in the hope they can get more of those world-class events.

“That’s be­cause that week­end (Davis Cup in Dar­win) was so spe­cial, so it would be great to see the Davis Cup or Fed Cup come back here in the fu­ture.

“We have a rich (ten­nis) tra­di­tion and you hope with the history we have that it’s at­tract­ing our best ath­letes to the sport.

“It’s fa­cil­i­ties like this which help de­velop that next gen­er­a­tion of play­ers. You hope that rich tra­di­tion con­tin­ues for a long time.”

Groth is pas­sion­ate about Aus­tralia’s proud ten­nis cus­toms be­ing passed on to the next gen­er­a­tion of stars.

Are we see­ing that next gen­er­a­tion come through now?

Alex de Min­aur was anointed a “gift” to Aus­tralian ten­nis by the leg­endary Rod Laver after he fin­ished a beaten fi­nal- ist at the Next Gen ATP Fi­nals.

Groth is pur­su­ing a post­play­ing ca­reer as a ten­nis an­a­lyst on tele­vi­sion and in print me­dia, writ­ing a col­umn for the Her­ald Sun.

That means he will be eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble to any promis­ing young­sters seek­ing his guid­ance.

“There are a lot of young play­ers com­ing through who we have pretty high hopes for and we’re wait­ing for that next great cham­pion to come out of Aus­tralia,” Groth said.

“There’s been a bit of a tran­si­tion time. It’s a lit­tle while since Sam (Sto­sur) won her US Open (in 2011) and Lley­ton won his last one (Wim­ble­don in 2002), so we’re def­i­nitely look­ing for that next great young player or cham­pion to come through. With that tran­si­tion it’s a good time for me to be in­volved.”

An­other one of those young Aussie stars Groth refers to is Nick Kyr­gios — a supremely gifted player.

But con­tro­versy con­stantly fol­lows the 23-year-old be­cause of his reg­u­lar so­cial me­dia and press-con­fer­ence out­bursts.

And as a re­sult, the crit­i­cism he re­ceives — par­tic­u­larly from Aus­tralian ten­nis fans — can be ex­treme.

“It’s easy for us to throw rocks from glass houses, but at 20 years or 22 years of age we’ve all made mis­takes,” Groth said, re­fer­ring to the cur­rent world No. 36.

“It just so hap­pens that ev­ery­one isn’t writ­ing head­lines about it week in and week out.

“You hope they’re find­ing their way as peo­ple, not just ten­nis play­ers.

“In Nick, we’ve got a player who could po­ten­tially win grand slams. But I think we’re all want­ing it now and we’ve just got to al­low him to de­velop as a per­son and player.”

The highly-re­spected Groth re­tired from in­ter­na­tional ten­nis fit­tingly along­side his great mate He­witt, after they bowed out of the 2018 Aus­tralian Open dou­bles at the quar­ter­fi­nal stage.

Groth is a larger-than-life char­ac­ter with an enor­mous work ethic, and there was no doubt he could have suc­ceeded as a foot­baller in his post-ten­nis play­ing days.

Now liv­ing in the Vic­to­rian cap­i­tal, he had his sights set on play­ing for North Hei­del­berg along­side for­mer Kan­ga­roos leg­end Brent “Boomer” Har­vey. “I was meant to play this year and I was look­ing for­ward to it,” he said.

“It was go­ing to be a way to stay a lit­tle fit­ter than I am now. I got through one prac­tice match and blew my shoul­der out and I had to have a shoul­der reco.

“I had my po­si­tion in the goal square locked down. A full shoul­der re­con­struc­tion put an end to that.”

But Groth is look­ing on the bright side after step­ping away from his pro­fes­sional ca­reer, in what can be a dif­fi­cult time for many ath­letes.

“I was 30 when I re­tired and things are a bit more sore than when you’re 23,” he said.

“But I still got out with my body in rea­son­able enough shape and still have a pretty good life.”

Groth gets a real buzz out of help­ing peo­ple, like he did when he came back to Dar­win in July.

With peo­ple like him want­ing to help out Aus­tralia’s next gen­er­a­tion of tal­ented ten­nis play­ers, you can­not help but think the fu­ture of the sport will be a bright one.

This is de­spite Aus­tralia not pro­duc­ing a ma­jor cham­pi­onship win­ner since Sto­sur’s US Open tri­umph in 2011.

“If you can have some sort of an im­pact it al­ways makes you feel bet­ter. It’s spe­cial com­ing here (to Dar­win) be­cause I have such great mem­o­ries,” Groth said.

“Hope­fully by me com­ing here I can help cre­ate some great mem­o­ries for peo­ple in­volved.”

Pic­ture: Robert Prezioso/Getty Im­ages

Sam Groth re­turns a fore­hand in his first round match against Tay­lor Fritz dur­ing 2018 Aus­tralian Open Qual­i­fy­ing at Mel­bourne Park

Pic­ture: AAP Im­age/Tracey Nearmy Pic­ture: Scott Bar­bour/Getty Im­ages Pic­ture: AAP Im­age/Dave Hunt

Aus­tralia’s Sam Groth cel­e­brates after win­ning the re­verse sin­gles against Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan in their Davis Cup World Group quar­ter­fi­nal at Mar­rara in 2015 Sam Groth wipes a tear after declar­ing his re­tire­ment after his dou­bles match with Lley­ton He­witt Nick Kyr­gios, Sam Groth and Thanasi Kokki­nakis run to the court to con­grat­u­late Aus­tralia's Lley­ton He­witt after win­ning the fifth rub­ber against Kazakhstan's Alek­sandr Ne­dovyesov to bring the Aus­tralian team to vic­tory in the Davis Cup Sam Groth cel­e­brates dur­ing his first round win over Pierre-Hugues Her­bert of France at the Bris­bane In­ter­na­tional Ten­nis Tour­na­ment in Bris­bane

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