Lleyton Hewitt says he’ll remain forever indebted to tennis greats John Newcombe and Tony Roche for introducing him to the wonders of Davis Cup.
The 34-year-old baseline warrior has spent half his lifetime leading Australia into Davis Cup battle and credits his first captain and coach for having the privilege.
“It’s been a great journey, taken up a lot of my lifetime really; Davis Cup and playing for my country, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it,” Hewitt said after drawing the curtain on his Cup career in Glasgow.
“I remember a lot of the older guys when I first came into the team said you have some of your biggest highs in tennis in Davis Cup and you have some of your toughest losses in Davis Cup and it couldn’t be more true.
“The opportunity obviously to celebrate at the end of a winning year like 2003 especially, but also ’99 in my very first year I was very fortunate to be a part of that (winning) team as well.
“I’ve definitely had my fair share of really gut-wrenching losses as well, but I think it does make you stronger as a professional tennis player because it is a very selfish sport.
“It’s 10 or 11 months of the year when you’re only focusing on your own game.
“So for me I’ve always loved the atmosphere of getting together in a group in a team and playing for your country.”
Newcombe and Roche first drafted a wide-eyed 16-year-old Hewitt into the Davis Cup fold as an “orange boy” in 1997 for a tie in Sydney against France that Pat Rafter also credits as being the making of his career.
“I just love being around the team. I couldn’t have had two better people instill what Davis Cup means but more in particular what it means to play for Australia, as John Newcombe and Tony Roche,” Hewitt said.
“I owe them a hell of a lot and it’s been fantastic that Rochey’s been able to get back around a lot of these younger guys the last couple of years as well because he is still such a big part of this team and even the young guys moving forward.
“Even though there’s so many generation gaps between Rochey and these guys, it’s really important to have him around as much as possible.”
Roche coached Ivan Lendl, Rafter and Roger Federer to a truckload of grand slam crowns and now Hewitt in turn as Davis Cup captain-in-waiting is eager to pass on his mentor’s values to Australia’s emerging young stars like Bernard Tomic, Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis.
“Up until now I’ve tried to lead by example,” Hewitt said.
“Obviously a lot on the court, but off the court as well. Just the small things that you have to do to try to get the most out of yourself at Davis Cup.”