Melbourne, Australia, 19 December 2012 | AAP

Unheralded Australian No.1 Marinko Matosevic has revealed tennis icon John Newcombe as the unwitting inspiration behind his remarkable rise.

While he happily admits to profiting from the tough love of Davis Cup captain Pat Rafter, Matosevic says some sage words from Newcombe last year sparked his charge from outside the top 200 to world No.49 – with a bullet.

“When I qualified in 2011 for Wimbledon, Newk commentated on my match and he said `Marinko can make a top-50 player’ and then one-and-a-half years later, I managed to do it,” Matosevic told AAP.

“It’s unbelievable; probably the greatest modern-day player says that about me and I want to thank him for that. And I definitely believe it as well. I’ve backed that up with wins over top-20 guys, so I definitely think I can do it.”

Matosevic said seeing Newcombe’s glowing assessment of his potential “in the papers” gave him, at almost 26, a newfound belief.

Eighteen months on and Newcombe now believes 27-year-old Matosevic can crack the world’s top 25.

And both men agree it was Rafter’s decision to dump the Victorian from the Davis Cup team after Australia’s playoff win over South Korea in April that helped him take his game to another level in 2012.

Newcombe says Matosevic was so shattered by his Cup snubbing that he resolved to turn his career around.

“Marinko begged Pat to come to Germany (for the World Group playoff in September),” Newcombe told AAP.

“Pat said: `No, I told you, you’re out’.

“Marinko said: `I don’t want to play. I’ll come and pick up balls. I just want to be in the squad.’

“So he’s showing the right attitude and if he keeps that attitude and gets himself fitter and fitter, he could get himself down in the low 20s.

“It didn’t look like that. He’d lost the plot. So tough love sometimes works.”

Matosevic agrees.

“Pat’s really trying to bring back the culture to Australian tennis, the old-school ways of Harry Hopman and Neil Fraser and I think everyone’s behind him,” he said.

“It happened with me in Brisbane; my attitude wasn’t good in a dead rubber and I got cut for the next tie and everyone knows what is expected now.”

Still chasing his maiden Grand Slam match win and grappling with his unexpected status as Aussie No.1, Matosevic will open his summer campaign in Brisbane before winding up preparations for the Melbourne Park major at the Apia International Sydney.

“I know some say the spotlight will be on me, but I think it will be firmly on Lleyton (Hewitt) and Bernard (Tomic) and I’m happy for them and they deserve it,” he said.

“If I happen to win some matches, then I’ll welcome the spotlight.”