Brisbane : Tim Puetz and Jan-Lennard Struff won a thrilling doubles clash to give Germany a 2-1 lead after the second day of their World Group Davis Cup tie against Australia in Brisbane on Saturday.
The German duo silenced the big crowd at Pat Rafter Arena as they overcame John Peers and Matthew Ebden 6-4, 6-7 (1/7), 6-2, 6-7 (4/7), 6-4 in just over three-and-a-quarter hours.
The Germans made a late switch to their doubles team, bringing in Struff for Peter Gojowcyzk.
Struff played alongside Puetz in the World Group playoffs against Portugal last year, when they also won in five sets.
He also made the semi-finals of the Australian Open in doubles last month.
But it was the lesser known Puetz who shone on a gloomy Brisbane afternoon.
The 30-year-old, who is ranked 140 in the world in doubles and 293 in singles, was the more solid of the German pairing, his beautifully disguised forehand constantly causing the Australians trouble.
“He’s in their team for a reason — they’re a world class team and we know to expect the best from them,” Ebden said.
German captain Michael Kohlmann said he had had a good feeling about the match once he knew Australia hadn’t decided to bring Nick Kyrgios in for Ebden.”In my mind they (Peers and Ebden) hadn’t played together before, or not a lot, and I knew my guys know each other pretty well,” he said.
“In Davis Cup it’s not only about the tennis, it’s also about how you put your emotions together, how you connect.
“And in this I had a feeling that my guys would connect better together.”
The tie will now hinge on Sunday’s first reverse singles between Kyrgios and world number five Alexander Zverev.
“We are in a good position, 2-1 up, but we know it’s not all over,” Kohlmann said.
“I think that if Nick is on, if he’s feeling it, he’s tough to play for everyone, not just Sascha (Zverev).
“If he’s serving like he did on Friday (when he blasted 21 aces past Struff) he’s a tough opponent for everyone. “I guess that Nick is not orthodox, not a rhythm player. That makes it difficult for Sascha.
“But tomorrow is a different circumstance — Sascha doesn’t have the pressure to deliver at 1-2.
“Being 2-1 up might change the mental game and the mental game right now is pretty big.”
If Kyrgios can level the tie, the decider will likely be between Struff, the world number 58, and 18-year-old Alex de Minaur, ranked 81 places below the German.
De Minaur pushed Zverev for almost four hours in Friday’s first singles match but Australian captain Lleyton Hewitt said he had no intention of replacing him with Brisbane’s John Millman, who always plays well on his home court.
“We’re a long way from beaten,” Hewitt said.
“Tomorrow’s going to be a big day but the boys are looking forward to it.”