Team spirits drives Australian Davis Cup campaign
Australian Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt explains that team spirit is strong as Australia faces Belgium in the first Davis Cup Finals tie in Hamburg tonight.
Few people in tennis understand the passion that Davis Cup instils better than Lleyton Hewitt.
Hewitt, now the Australian Davis Cup Captain, represented his nation in a record 43 Davis Cup ties after his debut as an 18-year-old in 1999. Featuring in two titles for Australia (1999 and 2003), Hewitt built an unparalleled 59-21 record for total Davis Cup match wins, with his 42-14 singles record also unrivalled.
As Australia continues a campaign for a 29th Davis Cup title in this week’s round-robin stage of the Davis Cup Finals in Hamburg, Hewitt is delighted to see a similar commitment from current team members.
The Australian team is spearheaded by Alex de Minaur, who at age 23 is already a veteran of nine Davis Cup ties. Boasting a 7-4 record in singles play, De Minaur has won six of his last seven matches contested in the competition, his only loss in that time coming against Croatia’s Marin Cilic at the 2021 Finals.
“He’s really the leader out of the playing group out there and people have seen how well he’s played in the Davis Cup competition over the last probably three or four years now and it’s certainly one of his goals, to try and win it one day,” said Hewitt of De Minaur.
“We’d like to think that hopefully in a week-and-a-half’s time we can go through to the quarterfinals and give ourselves that opportunity this year.”
Hewitt can rely on both seasoned campaigners and newly minted Davis Cup competitors to help achieve that goal.
The Australian team, which was drawn in Group C alongside Belgium, France and Germany, is rounded out by Thanasi Kokkinakis, Matt Ebden as well as debutantes Jason Kubler and Max Purcell.
Kokkinakis will aim to replicate his heroics from the Davis Cup qualifier against Hungary in Sydney earlier this year, with victory over Zsombor Piros in the fifth match securing the tie for Australia.
“Until you’re actually put in that situation, nobody really knows the pressure that is put upon you. I know firsthand, I’ve played in those matches before and you take nothing for granted,” said Hewitt of Kokkinakis, who returned to the team for the first time in seven years.
“I think Thanasi’s grown as a person, I think that was a big step in his Davis Cup development as a player as well, to be able to go out there and handle that kind of situation.”
Ebden also returns to the Davis Cup team after a years-long absence, with the 34-year-old last representing Australia in 2018. The West Australian is experiencing his best season on tour, after lifting the Wimbledon doubles trophy with Max Purcell and featuring in two other Grand Slam finals this year.
“Doubles is always crucial as well, so obviously having Matt and Max, who’ve had a really good year in the doubles court and played big matches (helps),” said Hewitt.
“They’ve played against a lot of those top doubles pairs as well, that we might come up against, so they’ll know what to expect.”
For Kubler and Purcell, who become the 114th and 115th players to represent Australia, the benefits of a Davis Cup debut will almost certainly extend beyond this week.
A priority for Hewitt as team captain is building a culture of collective support throughout the year. “It’s not just about the Davis Cup weeks together. It’s actually going out there and helping each other on the practice court, going to dinner together,” he explained.
“If one guy’s playing on the tour, you get out and support them and cheer them on and try and get them over the line. It’s all those little things. I think Davis Cup and our team culture really plays a part in that.”
The success-breeds-success approach is providing welcome depth. Six Australian men are currently ranked inside the world’s top 100, following a peak of nine top-100 Australian men in July.
While that provided a number of options in team selection – with availability, surface preferences and match-ups all taken into consideration – it also adds confidence as the Australian team faces some tough assignments this week.
Australia faces Belgium today in the first tie of this week’s group stage in Hamburg, with memories of some hard-fought battles against the European nation still strong.
“They’re a really quality team,” said Hewitt of the Belgian team, which is led by a resurgent David Goffin. “He plays some of his best tennis in Davis Cup, so we’ll be expecting a really tough match. Especially for Alex in that match against Goffin.
“And their number two player, (Zizou) Bergs, is a decent player as well. So we certainly won’t be underestimating them and they also have a doubles team (Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen) that play together week-in and week-out on the tour.”
|Tuesday 13 September||Australia v Belgium||10pm AEST (2pm CEST)|
|Thursday 15 September||Australia v France||10pm AEST (2pm CEST)|
|Sunday 18 September||Australia v Germany||10pm AEST (2pm CEST)|
Other challenges this week will come from France and home team Germany, with Australia aiming to progress to the final eight knockout stage at Malaga, Spain, from 22 November.
The Davis Cup Finals are broadcast live in Australia on the Nine Network.
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