GEELONG, AUSTRALIA: Davis Cup by BNP Paribas stalwart Lleyton Hewitt will look to get the home side off to a winning start tomorrow against Zhang Ze of China in the opening rubber of this Asia/Oceania Zone Group I first round tie.
Hewitt, who turns 31 later this month, is playing his 32nd Davis Cup tie for Australia, equalling the record set by former teammate Todd Woodbridge, but his passion for the competition still burns strong.
“I’d love to give them [the rest of the Australian team] the opportunity to get back into the World Group,” he said. “We can’t look too far down the line. It was disappointing to lose to Switzerland in September, that’s obviously in the back of my mind. This tie couldn’t come quick enough for me.”
As the elder statesman of an Australian side that has the up-and-coming Bernard Tomic as its No. 1, Hewitt knows that he plays an important role in holding the team together, adding: “I try and lead more by example on the court and on the practice court when I get the opportunity. I’ve been in this situation so many times now, for me it’s about leading by example in terms of preparation and being professional out there.”
Following Hewitt’s opening rubber, Tomic takes on Wu Di, who competed on Australian soil for his country alongside Li Na in the Hopman Cup at the start of the year.
The draw, which took place on the beach at Ocean Grove, saw the players arriving in surfer-style Kombi vans, with local boarders forming a guard of honour behind the players. A mini-ironmen event featuring the club’s lifesavers determined Hewitt as the player to kick off the event on Friday as a large crowd of Ocean Grove tennis fans watched on.
Saturday’s doubles rubber sees Hewitt partnering Chris Guccione against Zhang Ze and Li Zhe before the reverse singles on Sunday.
Elsewhere in Asia/Oceania Zone Group I, Uzbekistan’s No. 1 Denis Istomin is first on court for the visitors against New Zealand’s Jose Statham in Tauranga before the Kiwis’ top-ranked player, No. 357 Michael Venus, completes the first day’s proceedings at the TECT Arena against Farrukh Dustov.
Venus will line up alongside Daniel King-Turner in the doubles to play Istomin and Dustov on Saturday. The winner of this tie will play India, who received a first round bye, for the right to compete in September’s World Group play-offs
In Korea, Rep. Yong Kyu-Lim will look to get the hosts off to a positive start against Chinese Taipei’s Ti Chen at the Gimcheon Total Sports Town Tennis Courts. In the second rubber, Suk-Young Jeong and Tsung-Hua Yang will do battle in what should prove a tough ask for the Korean, who is ranked No. 793.
The doubles rubber sees Yong-Kyu Lim and Jae-Min Seol go head-to-head against Tsung-Hua Yang and Chu-Huan Yi. Whichever nation proves successful in Gimcheon will face the winner of Australia v China in April’s second round.