Geelong Lawn Tennis Club, Victoria, 10 February 2012 | Kim Trengove

Lleyton Hewitt gave Australia a 1-0 lead in the Davis Cup Asia Oceania Zone One tie at Geelong Lawn Tennis Club today.

Hewitt, playing his 32nd Davis Cup tie in front of a packed crowd at the Victorian regional centre, was merciless in his demolition of Chinese No.1 player, Zhang Ze 6-2 6-1 7-6(4).

Ranked No.278 in the world to Hewitt’s 130, Zhang searched for a response to Hewitt’s solid baseline hitting in the first two sets, and staged a gutsy challenge in the third set, which he pushed into a tiebreak.

But former Wimbledon champion and world No.1 Hewitt is on a mission: to see Australia through to a play-off round in September where the Pat Rafter-led team plan to make their move into the World Group in 2013.

This first step against China has not been taken lightly. Australia holds a 2-0 head-to-head record over this weekend’s opponents and last played the team in 2011, winning 4-1. Competing outdoors on grass has put the Chinese completely out of their comfort zone; today Hewitt quelled any uprising from Zhang with his sharp-angled groundstrokes and fighting spirit.

“I was able to cruise through the first few sets, same as Beijing, then he came out swinging in the third set,” said Hewitt, who took four sets to beat Zhang in last year’s zonal tie.

“He’s awkward when he’s playing like that because he’s swinging at the hips, taking his chances.

“Zhang’s game suits grass, he flattens out his strokes a bit more. I was trying to return well, put a bit of pressure on his second serve and try to make him feel uncomfortable moving out there. We both slipped over a couple of times, but overall I felt my movement and court coverage was pretty good.”

Video highlights: Hewitt v Zhang

Full match replay: Hewitt v Zhang