Hewitt delighted to be back amongst Davis elite

AFP| Updated: Jan 29, 2014, 14:53 PM IST

Melbourne: Veteran former world number one Lleyton Hewitt is relishing leading Australia back in the World Group for the first time since 2007 against France this weekend.

Australia have won the famous old trophy 28 times, bettered only by the United States, but they have been scrabbling around for slim pickings in recent years.

They last won the competition in 2003 and were also beaten finalists in 2001, when France defeated them in Nice.

This time they will be rank outsiders against opponents made up of players far higher in the ATP world rankings.

France`s four-man team are all ranked higher than Hewitt, 41, who is more than a 100 places above anyone else in the Aussie team.

The French even have two top 10 players in Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

But the 32-year-old Hewitt is just delighted to be back playing amongst the elite.

"It`s fantastic, first to be back in the World Group, it`s something we`ve been working extremely hard to get back," he said.

"Every year the Davis Cup gets harder and harder to give yourself an opportunity to be back in the World Group. Not only the zonal ties are a lot tougher these days but the World Group play-offs are extremely tough.

"Some of the nations we had to beat, Uzbekistan and Poland, a lot of these countries have at least one good player.

"Now it`s harder and harder to get into the World Group and stay there consistently. It was a goal for us to get into the World Group. Obviously with Bernie`s (Bernard Tomic) injury, we`ve got a young team and it`s an exciting time for everyone."

Hewitt is not just the elder statesman in the team, he`s almost a father figure to teammates barely half his age in 17-year-old Thanasi Kokkinakis and 18-year-old Nick Kyrgios.

And he is hoping to lean on his experiences as a young player -- he made his Davis Cup debut in 1999, just three years after Kokkinakis was born -- to help those around him.

"It`s trying to lead by example for me, the two young guys now that are playing and stepping up to the mark, especially in singles. For me it`s about leading by example on court more than anything, using my experience I`ve been able to have playing so many years and so many big ties for Australia.

"The most important thing -- (John) Newcombe, (Tony) Roche, Pat (Rafter) and Woody (Todd Woodbridge were) able to help me out -- is what Davis Cup means to Australia.

"The guys: Lew Hoad, Ken Rosewall, Rod Laver, all greats before us that played. What that means and if we can install that into younger guys we`ll be on a good track."

As for winning the tie, Hewitt, typically, is ruling nothing out.

"You never know. For me it was one of the biggest goals in the last two or three years to get back into the World Group, I didn`t know how long I`d be playing for.

"In doubles we have a good partnership (with Chris Guccione), in singles for a while there was myself but obviously Bernard (Tomic) has stepped up the last couple of years for us.

"For me in particular there was the opportunity now before I finish. It`s good we`ve taken that opportunity and now we have more guys to choose from, which is exciting for the future."