Lleyton Hewitt has bemoaned the fact that Australia won't be able to play the Davis Cup final on home soil on Sunday (Monday morning AEDT), once again criticising the revamped format of the famous competition. The Aussies will take on Canada in the final in Malaga, seeking their 29th Davis Cup title and $3 million in prize money.
Speaking after Australia's semi-final victory over Croatia on Friday, Hewitt said he takes just as much pleasure from guiding his country to the final in the role of team captain as he did a generation ago when he led them to glory as a player. But one thing saddens him about his side's big day in Spain - that his players won't get to experience the same exultation he did when playing in the Davis Cup final in front of family and friends on home soil.
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Hewitt has been vocal in his annoyance about the way the traditional Davis Cup format has been tampered with so dramatically over the past decade. He previously slammed organisers who have done away with five-set battles and home-and-away ties, with 'neutral' finals venues taking over.
Hewitt, who played in Australia's last Davis Cup triumph in 2003 - against Spain in Melbourne - said it remains one of his most cherished memories. And the Aussie captain feels for his players that they won't get the same experience.
"I know how much it meant for me as a player to get the opportunity to play in finals. So I'm thrilled that these boys get that opportunity on Sunday," he said. "But I'd love it to be in Australia, though. I'm disappointed the boys don't get to play in front of 15,000 at Rod Laver Arena.
"I can't be prouder of these guys. I know it's a bloody long year. There's been changes and tweaks to this competition that we have had to adjust to the last three years. We're back to these guys making massive sacrifices to be playing for their country. This is the third time this year.
"When it changed to this format, it was only ever going to be twice a year, so we have added on another week. It's been a bloody long year for everyone, and we are a long way from home, too. Don't forget that. I don't like the chances of this final series ever being played in Australia!"
However Hewitt recognised an enjoyable atmosphere with partisan, good-sized crowds at the end-of-season competition in Malaga, even after the hosts Spain got knocked out. It hasn't converted him - but at least he's happy the old Davis Cup atmosphere has been resurrected to a degree.
The captain has cut a passionate but steadfast figure on the sidelines, while admitting to having "kittens" during Australia's two nerve-racking ties this week. Asked about being a changed man from his feisty playing days, he smiled: "I try to be fired up on the side of the court when I need to be.
"That's my personality as it is, but also there are times to be calm and be a calming figure out there, and think your way through certain situations. It's about knowing the players' personalities on the court and what they respond best to."
Jordan Thompson earlier admitted that having his one-time idol backing him at the side of the court felt wholly inspirational. "When he's on the sideline I couldn't feel more comfortable," he said.
Aussies take inspiration from Socceroos at Davis Cup
The Australians finally learned on Saturday evening who their opponents will be in the final after Felix Auger-Aliassime powered the Canadians to victory with two immaculate victories in a 2-1 win over Italy. Hewitt's men will be once again be up against a team who will be favourites to beat them - and that's just the way he likes it.
"Canada have got firepower ... we knew we were the underdogs coming into the tie against Croatia and we like being in that position. It's a place I really enjoyed as a player and and now as a captain," said Hewitt.
Hewitt said he and his team were able to take inspiration from gathering around a TV and watching the Socceroos beat Tunisia 1-0 at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. It marked just the third time Australia has won a match at the World Cup and puts them on the cusp of advancing to the knockout stage for the second time in history.
But while the football world is heavily invested in the action in Qatar, there hasn't been the same level of interest in the Davis Cup from tennis fans. Many have echoed Hewitt's sentiments and slammed the revamped nature of the event.
Genuine shame Davis cup is in the format it is now. Couldn’t beat it years ago playing in one countries home nation
— Marc Millard (@MarcMillard08) November 26, 2022
Some say Davis Cup doesn’t matter anymore. Tennis players adapt, solve problems and miles from home, find a way to win. Bravo. https://t.co/1TKd9AeMul
— Ray Bundell (@RayBundell) November 26, 2022
That is why the Davis Cup in the old format home and away games is missed. U get top flight tennis in places that has no major tournament.
— Marie Richards (@MarieRi67286356) November 26, 2022
The Pique Cup is a disgrace. The Davis Cup was a fantastic event where they had good home and away atmosphere.
Now, it's a whole lot of nothing. It should be held every 2 years in the odd years #Offsiders
— Everybody Wang Chung Tonight !🇳🇴🇮🇸🇬🇩 (@Yes_IamSancho) November 26, 2022
One event too many in an overlong season. Not interested in any more tennis till Jan. Sense many tennis players & fans feel the same about the once great Davis Cup. Sad to see it’s demise. 😞
— Badgerboi (@Marc20108448) November 22, 2022
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