Ocean Grove, Victoria , 9 February 2012 | Kim Trengove

The setting was befitting an Australian Davis Cup-styled Official Draw.

Set on the edge of Surf’s Beach, Ocean Grove, Australia’s Davis Cup team drove down to the seaside ceremony in a sky-blue Kombi steered by Aussie captain Pat Rafter, who has been taking the ‘boys’ out regularly this week for early morning surfing in preparation for this weekend’s Asia Oceania zone one tie against China.

As locals swarmed the popular Australian players, (several climbing inside the Kombi for photos with Lleyton Hewitt and Bernard Tomic), the Chinese Davis Cup players followed closely behind in a red Kombi, intrigued by this slice of Aussie beach culture. And there was more …

Flanked by surfboards either side of the official draw table, Tennis Australia president Stephen Healey and ITF referee David Smith heralded the beginning of the Official Draw ‘ceremony’, which involved five young life guards from the Ocean Grove Surf Life Saving Club racing into the surf and out again to capture the first baton containing the name of a Davis Cup player.

And that was Lleyton Hewitt of course, an auspicious moment for the near 31-year-old ‘veteran’ of 32 Davis Cup ties, equal only to the former Australian Davis Cup doubles master, Todd Woodbridge.

Hewitt will face China’s No.1 player Zhang Ze tomorrow at 11am, while Bernard Tomic will take on Wu Di in the second rubber.

On Saturday, Hewitt will partner Chris Guccione in doubles, facing Zhang and Li Zhe. The South Australian, now a resident of Sydney with wife Bec and three children, holds no concerns for his ability to back up in doubles, despite a rugged summer and on-going injury challenges.

“I played the Aussie Open, played tough four-set matches, and bounced back and played the doubles the next day in-between and hit the ball pretty well,” Hewitt stated beachside.

“I try and lead more by example on the court and on the practice court when I get the opportunity. I’ve been in this situation so many times now, for me it’s about leading by example in terms of preparation and being professional out there.”

Referring to himself as the ‘elder statesman’ of the Australian side, Hewitt said he was burning to play once more and had been extremely disappointed to lose the World Group play-off against Roger Federer and Co. last September in his home city.

“I’d love to give them [the Aussies] the opportunity to get back into the World Group,” he said. “We can’t look too far down the line. It was disappointing to lose to Switzerland in September, that’s obviously in the back of my mind. This tie couldn’t come quick enough for me.”

A relaxed Tomic said he was happy to play second on Friday, and felt confident stepping out on the surface that he reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon on last year.

“It’s always good the team stuff,” he said. “I don’t play a lot of doubles, Davis Cup’s a whole new game it’s something I really enjoy. To have mates and play team sport and win as a team is a different feeling.”

On Sunday, or Saturday should there be a 3-0 result to either side, the winner of this tie will experience the overpoweringly joyous feeling of progressing to the second zonal round against either Chinese Taipei or Korea – one step away from another World Group play-off.

The opponents in play-off rounds will come from the losers of this weekend’s World Group First Round.

Australia leads China 2-0 in head-to-heads, winning 5-0 in 1924 and 3-1 in 2011.

Follow Davis Cup action from the Geelong Lawn Tennis Club from Friday on tennis.com.au with live streaming. 

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