FEATURES, FASHION ESCAPE, TV GUIDE PLUS MORE
Sam Groth recalls his Darwin Davis Cup win as the highlight of his career
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.”
Sam Groth returns a forehand in his first round match against Taylor Fritz during 2018 Australian Open Qualifying at Melbourne Park
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