Lleyton Hewitt: Rich history inspiring Australian Davis Cup team
Adding to the nation's Davis Cup proud history is driving Australian captain Lleyton Hewitt and his team at this week's finals in Spain.
Inspiration isn’t hard to summon as Australian players battle for glory at the Davis Cup Finals in Malaga this week.
Lleyton Hewitt is a passionate presence on the sidelines and team members including Alex de Minaur and Jordan Thompson make no secret of their desire to replicate the Davis Cup heights that the Australian captain scaled in his playing career.
The 41-year-old Hewitt played an unparalleled 43 ties for Australia, with his 59-21 winning record across singles and doubles also unmatched. Featuring in Australia’s 1999 and 2003 Davis Cup titles, the former world No.1 is the only captain at the 2022 Finals who also competed on a winning team.
“I know me and Alex, we looked up to Lleyton,” said Thompson following his come-from-behind win over Tallon Griekspoor, which provided Australia with a perfect start in Australia’s quarterfinal victory over the Netherlands earlier this week.
“I think (he’s) probably both of our tennis idols. To see him on the side of the court and having the same, I guess, fighting spirit … I’m sure he loves to see it. When he’s on the sideline, I couldn’t feel more comfortable.”
De Minaur, who claimed a hard-fought win over Botic van de Zandschulp to complete Australia’s victory on Wednesday, agrees.
“I don’t think there’s anyone more passionate than Lleyton is when it comes to Davis Cup,” said De Minaur, now a winner of 10 of his past 11 Davis Cup singles matches.
“To have him on the bench as your captain, sitting by your side, getting you fired up before the matches, during the matches and seeing what it means to him – it just makes you lift so much more.”
Hewitt himself takes inspiration from a long line of Australian greats – including Tony Roche, the long-time coach of the nation’s Davis Cup team.
Roche, a member of Australia’s winning 1965, 1966, 1967 and 1977 Davis Cup teams, facilitated another morale-boosting history lesson for younger players when they visited the Lew Hoad Tennis Academy in Malaga ahead of this week’s finals.
“Rochey just thought it would be a pretty cool idea if we just went past and saw where Lew set up base here in Spain,” said Hewitt of the late Australian legend, who also featured in four winning Davis Cup titles for Australia.
“He was such a great Davis Cup player for Australia and it’s a shame I was never able to meet him.”
With Australia’s 28 titles in the competition second only to the 32 that the USA has amassed, Hewitt is delighted with any opportunity to highlight the nation’s rich heritage in the competition.
“It’s just special for some of these younger guys to see and we’re fortunate to have Rochey as part of the team and be such a rich part of our Australian Davis Cup history,” Hewitt said.
Adding to that history with a 29th Davis Cup title for Australia remains a passionate focus for the team captain.
“Oh, it would mean a lot. You know, obviously doing a full circle. Starting out as a young orange boy, as a 15-year-old. And yeah, even for me, growing up watching Cashy (Pat Cash) win in ’86 as well at Kooyong and then being able to do it as a player,” said Hewitt of the possibility of achieving Davis Cup heights as both an active competitor and a captain.
“It would be very satisfying and especially if you do it with a lot of my good mates around in the coaching staff as well, it would mean a lot.”
Australia’s Davis Cup semifinal clash with Croatia is broadcast on the Nine Network from 2am AEDT on Saturday 26 November.
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