Lleyton Hewitt had one eye on Australia’s bid to reclaim a spot in the World Group of Davis Cup by BNP Paribas when he accepted a wildcard into Roland Garros, which gets under way next week in Paris.
Hewitt underwent foot surgery in February and wasn’t expected to be back in action for another fortnight, but the former world No. 1 has pushed through his recovery to get some extra clay court practice ahead of the Aussies resuming their Davis Cup campaign in September.
Australia - who came through the Asia/Oceania Zone earlier in the year with wins over China and Korea, Rep. - will travel to Germany for the World Group play-offs and despite the fact that the venue isn’t yet known, Hewitt believes the tie is likely to be played on clay.
“We definitely weren't focusing on the French Open,” said Hewitt, speaking about his speedy recovery since having a plate and screws inserted into his left big toe.
“It was more trying to get preparation for Wimbledon and probably starting off at Queen's a couple of weeks before Wimbledon, and obviously the Olympics after Wimbledon. So we were focusing on the grass court season.
“But I probably pushed a little bit harder once I knew that the next Davis Cup tie was most likely going to be on clay in Germany, and I probably pushed the boundaries a little bit more to try to get back for the French Open, especially after I missed it last year.”
Hewitt has never gone past the quarterfinals at Roland Garros and, although he’s unlikely to trouble that record this time, the former Wimbledon and US Open champion is just happy to be back in the fold after his injury lay-off.
“It’s always great to get ready for Grand Slams and that's what I pride myself on, trying to play your best tennis at the big tournaments and obviously the French Open is one of the big majors,” said Hewitt.
“I've made quarterfinals there in the past. This year's going to be tough going in as a wildcard and possibly drawing anyone in the first round, but the rehab's been going really well. I've done absolutely everything in my control to get as close to 100 per cent and I'm looking forward to it.”
Australian captain Pat Rafter will be hoping that Hewitt’s return to fitness holds out for the trip to Germany, in which case the 31-year-old would line-up alongside youngster Bernard Tomic. The same duo were in the Aussie team that narrowly missed out on promotion against Switzerland at the same stage in 2011.
“It was a tough draw to get Germany in Germany but by no means is it not winnable,” said Rafter. “Sure, we will go in as underdogs, but I back our guys to produce their best when representing their country. No one thought we would even come close against Switzerland in Sydney last year.”
Hewitt - who made his Davis Cup debut in 1999 - is Australia’s most capped player having played the most ties (32) and won the most rubbers (49-14). The veteran Aussie has also lifted the Davis Cup trophy twice, in 1999 and 2003, but his unwavering passion for the competition remains as strong as ever.