HAMBURG, GERMANY: In what promises to be an enthralling and evenly balanced encounter at the Rothenbaum Stadium this weekend, Germany take on Australia in an eagerly-awaited Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off.
Friday’s opening rubber will see the tie’s two youngest players, 21-year-old German Cedrik-Marcel Stebe and 19-year-old Bernard Tomic of Australia, doubles partners at this year’s Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart in July, face up to each other from opposite sides of the net.
Stebe, ranked No. 127 in the world, admitted it was not going to be easy against the world No. 42. “He’s a tough player, he’s very clever on court, he’s smart and knows how to play tennis,” he remarked, adding that it was important to try to dictate the game by forcing the 195cm tall Aussie to move around the court.
The second match of the day pits Florian Mayer, the German team’s number one, against veteran Lleyton Hewitt, who, in playing in his 33rd tie, becomes his nation’s most-capped Davis Cup player.
The Australian has an impressive record in the competition, winning 38 of his 49 singles rubbers, but having slipped to 100th in the world, will need to hit his straps if he is to overcome Mayer, the world No. 25 and a tough opponent on clay.
The doubles on Saturday features the German pairing of Benjamin Becker and Philipp Petzschner against Australians Chris Guccione and Hewitt. The two-metre tall Guccione goes into the rubber having won all his previous six Davis Cup doubles matches, while the Germans, ranked No. 159 and No. 36 in the world in doubles respectively, are yet to play in the competition as a pair.
Sunday’s reverse singles will begin with Mayer playing the Australian team’s No. 1 Tomic, and come to a close with Stebe, in his debut Davis Cup season, up against the 31-year-old Hewitt.
Despite recognising the strength of the Australian team and admitting the weekend was going to be challenging, team captain Patrik Kuhnen was feeling confident: “We have the home advantage and play on clay here in Hamburg where we feel very comfortable.”
Those advantages were echoed by his Australian counterpart, Pat Rafter, but the Aussie legend argued that his team similarly boasted self-belief and believed that extended training leading up to the tie has given his players a great opportunity to win the play-off.
The Australians will be looking to cap a year that saw them record strong victories in ties at home over China and Korea, while the Germans will be aiming to put their 4-1 drubbing at the hands of the Argentinians firmly behind them.
Either way, at the end of the weekend, only one team will feature in next year’s World Group. The Germans who have been in the elite group of 16 since 2006 will not give up their place easily, and the Australians, who have won the Davis Cup 28 times, second only to USA, have not featured in the top tier of the competition for five years and are keen to get back in.
The full draw is listed below:
R1: Cedrik-Marcel Stebe (GER) v Bernard Tomic (AUS)
R2: Florian Mayer (GER) v Lleyton Hewitt (AUS)
R3: Benjamin Becker / Philipp Petzschner (GER) v Chris Guccione / Lleyton Hewitt (AUS)
R4: Florian Mayer (GER) v Bernard Tomic (AUS)
R5: Cedrik-Marcel Stebe (GER) v Lleyton Hewitt (AUS)
Follow this tie as it happens: Live scores or Watch Live
Cedrik-Marcel Stebe (GER) - 13/09/12
Lleyton Hewitt (AUS) - 13/09/12
Captain Pat Rafter (AUS) - 13/09/12
Captain Patrik Kuehnen (GER) - 13/09/12