Coach says Australia has hit Davis Cup low

Veteran coach Tony Roche said today that Australia would wake up from its Davis Cup stupor and return to winning ways under new captain Pat Rafter.

sports Updated: Oct 28, 2010 16:33 IST

Veteran coach Tony Roche said on Thursday that Australia would wake up from its Davis Cup stupor and return to winning ways under new captain Pat Rafter.

The 28-time champions yet again failed to return to the elite World Group after losing 3-2 to Belgium in a playoff in Cairns in September.

In the fallout, Rafter took over as team captain from John Fitzgerald, who quit after a decade in the job with Roche named as team coach with the brief of returning Australia to the 16-nation World Group for the first time since 2007.

"I don't think we can get any lower than where we are right now," Roche, 65, told reporters.

"But (ex-captain) John Newcombe and I experienced it when we took over (in 1995) -- we lost to Hungary (at Budapest to be relegated from the World Group).

"It was a low point of Australian tennis -- we had never been there before.

"(But) they all committed to work that bit harder, to pull together and before we knew it a couple of years later we had won the Davis Cup (in 1999).

"We will get back to the good old days, there's no question."

Rafter said that Australia would continue to rely heavily on Lleyton Hewitt, the nation's sole representative in the top 100 men's rankings at 54.

"You don't see a Lleyton come around very often, maybe once every 20 years -- he was a freak," two-time US Open winner Rafter said.

Rafter, only Australia's fifth Davis Cup captain in 60 years, said that there was enough young talent to have six Australians in the top 100 within five years.

"So we don't have a Lleyton coming through, but guys like Bernard Tomic and young kids like James Duckworth, Jason Kubler and Ben Mitchell -- we can create really good players out of these guys," he said.

"But obviously Lleyton is one of the greatest Davis Cup players the world has ever seen.

"He is integral to Australia right now, he's the man we need.

"Hopefully, the young guys will be able to feed off him."

Rafter will look to the experience of Roche, who has worked as a private coach to Grand Slam champions Ivan Lendl, Roger Federer, Hewitt and Rafter himself.

First Published: Oct 28, 2010 16:23 IST