Pat Rafter has been unveiled as Australia’s new Davis Cup captain, following the news that John Fitzgerald announced his retirement from the role after 10 years at the helm.
“I want to congratulate Fitzy on his magnificent career in a tremendous decade as Davis Cup captain with obviously the 2003 victory as a highlight,” said Rafter, a former world No. 1 and two-time US Open champion.
“I am really looking forward to working with the team and helping lift Australian men’s tennis on the world stage. We’ve got a lot of young players that have a great opportunity to play for Australia. My standards and expectations are extremely high. This is a great opportunity to be part of something that means a lot to me.”
Rafter is joined by Tony Roche as the team’s coach. The 65 year-old was crowned Roland Garros champion in 1966 and played in four Davis Cup winning teams, but has since become a world-renowned coach after working with players such as Ivan Lendl, Roger Federer, Lleyton Hewitt and Rafter himself.
“I am very excited about working with Pat. I think we can make a very substantial contribution to Australian men’s tennis,” said Roche, who also assisted then-captain John Newcombe during the victorious campaign in 1999.
Fitzgerald made his debut as captain in 2001 and led Australia to the title in 2003, defeating Spain 3-1 at home in the Final. Overall, he compiled a 17-9 winning record with the team spending seven years in the elite World Group.
“I have been keen for Pat to do this for some time. To be able to have someone of his calibre and class lead this team into the future is something I am really proud of,” said Fitzgerald, who also lifted the Davis Cup trophy twice as a player.
“Having Rochey working with him will give him the benefit of some enormous experience and talent. It is an excellent leadership team. With such a good pair ready to step in I felt the timing was perfect. It has been an absolute privilege to lead this team and obviously the highlight for me was the win in 2003.”
Hewitt, another former world No. 1 and two-time Grand Slam winner, is Australia’s most successful Davis Cup player and continues to spearhead the team’s efforts for a return to the World Group.
“I’m happy with the appointment of Pat and Rochey. Pat and I get along great and have shared some special moments at the highest level of Davis Cup, and I look forward to working with him. And Rochey, I have always said his experience is second to none and he will be a fantastic addition again to the team,” said Hewitt.
The changes were announced on Wednesday by Tennis Australia’s Director of Tennis, Craig Tiley. “Pat has such a passion for Davis Cup and for the sport in general. I know he will make a success of this and Tony’s incredible record speaks for itself,” added Tiley.
Todd Woodbridge, who formed half of the successful ‘Woodies’ partnership with Mark Woodforde, was also quick to the hail the appointments in his current role as Tennis Australia’s Head of Men’s Tennis.
“This is something of a dream-team combination. Pat and Tony both have an incredible commitment to the sport and their country, and to be able to get them both on board is truly a coup,” said Woodbridge.
Australia missed out on a place in Davis Cup’s top tier in September, narrowly losing 3-2 at home against Belgium in the World Group play-offs. Rafter’s team therefore starts 2011 in Asia/Oceania Group I and, having received a bye, awaits the winner of China and Chinese Taipei in the second round.