Hewitt bids to lead Australia out of wilderness

31 Jan 2013 03:16:55

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Bernard Tomic is the bright hope of Australian tennis but old warhorse Lleyton Hewitt will lead the charge as the country tries to find its way out of the Davis Cup wilderness, starting this week.

Tomic, Australia's top-ranked player, is riding high after winning his first title this month, but the 20-year-old world number 43 has been snubbed for this week's Asia/Oceania Group I tie with Taiwan over concerns about his behaviour.

The move by captain Pat Rafter looked prescient this week when Tomic was caught speeding in his yellow Ferrari, the latest in a series of run-ins with police, and looked set to lose his licence.

Tomic's enforced unavailability leaves former world number one Hewitt, aged 31 and back in form after a series of injury problems, as the spearhead as Australia seek to return to the World Group for the first time since 2007.

Marinko Matosevic, Matthew Ebden -- who won this month's Australian Open mixed doubles with Jarmila Gajdosova -- and Chris Guccione are the others who will line up in Kaohsiung from Friday.

Australia should have few problems against a Taiwan side missing their top player Lu Yen-hsun. Chen Ti and Yang Tsung-hua are both ranked outside the top 200, Lee Hsin-han is at 819 and Peng Hsien-yin is way down at 1,121.

Veteran doubles star Leander Paes, 39, leads India's hopes against South Korea in a team which left out some of its best players, including Somdev Devvarman, Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna, after a dispute over pay and conditions.

Instead, the lesser known V.M. Ranjit, Vijayant Malik and Purav Raja, all ranked outside the top 500, and Paes will carry the country's hopes in New Delhi.

"We gave maximum concessions to convince the (other) players," Anil Dhupar, the All India Tennis Association (AITA) chairman of selectors, told reporters.

"We have full faith in our youngsters."

Newly relegated Japan are missing world number 21 Kei Nishikori, but top-100 players Go Soeda and Tatsuma Ito will try to lead them straight back into the World Group with a seemingly straightforward opener against promoted Indonesia.

Meanwhile Wu Di, who made history at the Australian Open as the first ever Chinese male Grand Slam singles player, will attempt to build on his reputation as China face Uzbekistan in Namangan, a city in the central Asian country's east.

The four winning teams advance to a second round in April, with two places up for grabs for the World Group play-offs in September. Meanwhile the losers head into a battle to avoid being the team relegated to Asia/Oceania Group II.

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