Newly appointed Australian Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt is hoping to recapture the stability and success of the storied eras of legendary predecessors Harry Hopman and Neale Fraser.
Hewitt was confirmed as Australia’s 19th captain on Tuesday, with the 34-year-old former world No.1 becoming the youngest skipper since war-time champion John Bromwich in 1949.
Hewitt replaces Wally Masur, who stood in as interim captain following Pat Rafter’s sudden resignation in January before Australia went on to lose in the semi-finals to Great Britain in Glasgow.
John Fitzgerald (2001-2010), John Newcombe (1995-2000), Fraser (1970-1994) and Hopman (1950-69) are the only others to have held the coveted position in the past 65 years.
A veteran of 41 ties over a record 17 years’ service, Hewitt says he’s excited by the prospect of leading young guns Bernard Tomic, Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis in an exciting new era for Australian tennis.
“I want to be here for the long haul,” Hewitt said at Tuesday’s announcement at Melbourne Park.
“I see these guys, in the next five years, really developing their games, and becoming better players.
“The last couple of years have been a bit of a different situation with Pat as captain then moving into a different position and then Wally doing it in the interim this year.
“But I see it as fantastic that we’ve had the likes of John Fitzgerald, Newk, Rochey and Neale Fraser do it for so many years – we have such a rich tradition in Davis Cup.
“I want the young boys to understand the history that we have.”
Hewitt is the country’s most prolific Davis Cup singles winner, holds a number of other Cup records and helped Australia win the trophy in 1999 and 2003.
Renowned for his fierce competitive streak on court, the dual grand slam champion was asked how he expects to handle the intense pressure of a Davis Cup tie without a tennis racquet in his hands.
“I won’t be able to sit calmly on the sidelines,” he said, with a wry grin.
“But it’s about dealing with player management and different personalities.
“All three of those young guys, and Sam Groth, are totally different personalities.
“For me, it’s been good as player over the last couple of years to be able to see how they handle different situations under extreme pressure.
“It’s about getting the best out of them at certain stages … wearing your heart on your sleeve and going out there and committing yourself.
“That’s what I’ve prided myself on and that’s what I’ll be bringing to the table.”
Hewitt’s first tie in charge will be next March when Australia host the USA in a first-round fixture featuring the two most successful Davis Cup nations in history.
Fittingly, Hewitt – who will retire after contesting an unprecedented 20th consecutive Australian Open in January – made his Davis Cup playing debut against the USA in 1999.
LLEYTON HEWITT DAVIS CUP CAREER
Titles: 2 (1999, 2003)
Runner-up: 2 (2000, 2001) Overall win-loss: 58-20
Singles win-loss: 42-14
Doubles win-loss: 16-6
Grand slam titles: 2 (US Open 2001, Wimbledon 2002)
Career titles: 30
World No.1: 80 weeks (2001-03)
Prize money: $US20,717,156 ($A28.58 million)