With two sets of major champions on the doubles side and a Wimbledon finalist on the singles court, 2022 is proving to be one heck of an impressive year for the Aussie men on tour. For the first time since 1999, Australia boasted nine men ranked inside the top 100 of the ATP singles rankings - an incredible stat, but one that will no doubt cause serious selection headaches for the upcoming Davis Cup Finals set to take place in four European cities in September.
You’d have to go back to July 19, 1999 to find the last time that there were nine Australian men ranked inside the top 100 of the ATP singles rankings.
Just one day shy of 23 years later, Australia finally achieved that same remarkable number of nine men inside the top 100, on July 18 this year.
This rankings rise comes off the back of a remarkable comeback year for Jason Kubler, as well as a top-100 berth for Christopher O’Connell to complement seven Aussies who have regularly found themselves in the top 100 for a while now.
Remarkably, had Wimbledon not been stripped of its ranking points, two Aussies in particular inside the top 100 would be ranked even higher than they are, with Jason Kubler reaching the round of 16 and Nick Kyrgios reaching the final - both earning no points.
And then you take a look at the doubles side of things, where Australia have had two different teams win major titles in 2022 - Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis at the Australian Open, and Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell at Wimbledon.
The question being asked now after the incredible Aussie surge is: how on earth does Davis Cup Captain Lleyton Hewitt pick his team of five for the upcoming finals, where Australia will face an incredibly tough group in the group stages, including France, Germany and Belgium in Hamburg, Germany.
The team that Hewitt picked for Australia’s last Davis Cup tie - the qualifying tie against Hungary in March comprised of Alex de Minaur, Thanasi Kokkinakis, Alexei Popyrin, John Peers and Luke Saville.
This time round, selection is going to be a nightmare.
In recent years, being ranked inside the top 100 in the singles rankings has usually meant a likely selection in the Davis Cup team, but this time round, due to the incredible amount of players staking their claim for a spot in the team, guys like Jason Kubler and Christopher O’Connell are probably unlikely to even be in the frame for selection, despite their worthiness.
World No. 21 Alex de Minaur will no doubt be in the team, but that is the only player that you can absolutely lock in. A bigger lock than de Minaur to be in the team would be Nick Kyrgios - but that would only occur if he makes himself available for selection.
Kyrgios hasn’t appeared in the team since 2019, due to a variety of reasons, but a mended relationship with Captain Lleyton Hewitt could see the superstar, who’s in career-best form, return to the team.
This would be an astronomical boost for Australia and would give them a very realistic chance of winning the whole thing. In fact, you could argue that if Kyrgios were in the team, Australia would have to go into the tournament as one of the red hot favourites.
Not only is Kyrgios claiming career-best scalps on the singles court, which has included a run to the Wimbledon final and a recent title in Washington, but his doubles form has been even better - claiming three titles in 2022 including the Australian Open.
I’d say he’s comfortably the best player on the planet as I write this piece.
So if Kyrgios does in fact make himself available for selection, that would leave three spots remaining.
Thanasi Kokkinakis would be the next player selected - ranked at 71 in the singles rankings and 25 in the doubles rankings. You could basically lock him in.
That leaves two spots remaining.
Does Hewitt simply go with those three and then the Wimbledon Champions Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell? You could argue that’s the easiest combination to select - de Minaur, Kyrgios and Kokkinakis being three of Australia’s top four ranked singles players - who are all more than capable on the doubles court, as well as the Wimbledon Champions.
It makes sense, but that would see John Peers - Australia’s highest ranked doubles player and a regular member of the Davis Cup team for the last five plus years miss out. Peers, a more experienced and much loved member of the team is also considered a strong leader and it would be incredibly difficult to leave him out.
But what might see Peers selected is the feud between Captain Hewitt and Max Purcell, who have butted heads over the years and famously had a public ‘falling out’ in January, where Purcell took aim at Hewitt after he wasn’t awarded a wildcard into the Australian Open after a breakout 2021 season.
But if Purcell isn’t selected, does Matthew Ebden make the cut? He’s teamed up with John Peers in the Davis Cup once before, back in 2018, but would it be the best decision to team them up again considering they haven’t played together since that tie, over four years ago?
Luke Saville represented Australia in the ATP Cup in January and was selected in Hewitt’s team for the Davis Cup qualifier in March, but it seems unlikely he will be selected again with the rise of his compatriots since he was in the team.
John Millman and Jordan Thompson have featured in most Australian ties for the last five plus years, but they will almost certainly miss out on selection this time round, falling down the pecking order. But you can’t rule them out considering their incredible work ethic and their fantastic relationship with Hewitt.
Rising star Alexei Popyrin has been called upon for all Australian ties since his debut in 2019, but a disappointing season will see the 23-year-old also struggle to make the cut.
Also likely to miss out is James Duckworth - who enjoyed a breakthrough season last year where he reached the top 50 in the singles rankings. But an injury-plagued season has seen him slip to 62 in the ranks with a stack of points to defend in the back half of the year.
So factoring in all of the above, who makes the cut?
As mentioned earlier, if we pencil in de Minaur, Kyrgios and Kokkinakis, two spots remain.
Selecting a strong, high-chemistry doubles team has proven to be majorly difficult for Australia in recent years, and a major reason why Australia have failed to achieve the ultimate glory in the competition, but surely with two seperate sets of major champions at Hewitt’s disposal, this decision is somewhat straight forward? Kyrgios and Kokkinakis will be in the team, but you could argue it would be beneficial to save them for singles action and pick a seperate doubles team to contest all doubles matches.
So surely that would mean Ebden and Purcell make the cut? But that would mean Purcell and Hewitt would need to sort out their beef quick smart if he were to be selected.
If they make amends, I believe Purcell and Ebden would be selected in the team, but that would make an incredibly stiff ommission for Australia’s top ranked doubles player in Peers.
We do need to then consider the possibility that Kyrgios does in fact opt not to play Davis Cup. He did mention in a recent on-court interview in Montreal that he was missing home and is keen to get back to Canberra as soon as possible. He has already stated he won’t be playing the Laver Cup, which he’s always enjoyed playing.
With so many unknown factors waiting to play out, it’s incredibly difficult to pick a team. Will Kyrgios make himself available to play? Will Purcell and Hewitt make amends? Could Alexei Popyrin, or possibly Jason Kubler squeeze themselves into the team if both Kyrgios and Purcell don’t play? Could it mean that Peers and Saville, who have played together on several occasions this year link up again? Or could Peers and Kubler link up again after reaching the Atlanta final together a few weeks ago.
If Purcell isn’t in the frame for one reason or another, my opinion is that Peers and either Kubler or Saville would be the best doubles pairing considering those two combinations have played together this year with some success.
This team selection could go in any direction, but in an ideal world, I think the best possible team for Australia would include de Minaur, Kyrgios, Kokkinakis, Purcell and Ebden.
In a year where Australia could genuinely win the whole thing if their best players are in fact available to play, it's absolutely imperative Captain Lleyton Hewitt gets team selection right - which I back him in to do.
The team nomination deadline for the Davis Cup Finals is August 15.