Tennis Prose



Is Hewitt a Doomed Davis Cup Captain?

By Scoop Malinowski

It’s three years now that Lleyton Hewitt has been at the helm of the Australian Davis Cup team and two of those years produced first round crash outs, including this weekend’s surprising disastrous loss to Germany.

Hewitt’s aggressive, pushy captaining style has clearly worked with developing young Alex Deminaur into a major prospect who has made a big name for himself by reaching an ATP final this year and by extending Alex Zverev to a fifth set tiebreaker in the first singles match on Friday.

No doubt Hewitt’s relentless coaching and pushing Deminaur has worked. But you have to wonder if Hewitt’s relentless drive to win, win, win style has worked with other Aussie veteran players. Hewitt worked closely with Bernard Tomic at the 2016 US Open. Whatever happened between the two did not produce a favorable chemistry as Tomic has seen his career crash. Tomic and Hewitt do not speak to each other now.

Nick Kyrgios has also had suspect results with Hewitt as his Davis Cup captain. Kyrgios handled Struff impressively 64 64 64 on Friday but lost the do or die match yesterday to Zverev in three straight sets 26 67 36. Kyrgios had the set point late in the second set but failed to convert then was down 0-3 in the tiebreaker. Perhaps feeling the pressure and frustration of Hewitt breathing down his neck at the courtside chair, Kyrgios smashed his Yonex and got a point penalty (after a previous warning for hitting a ball out of the stadium) and then down 0-4 he never recovered.

The negativity and negative body language of shaking his head and moaning to himself doomed Kyrgios and of course he provided little resistance in the third set. Captain Hewitt tried to spark Kyrgios but failed. Kyrgios refused to look at Hewitt and when it was over he quickly picked up his bags and left the court by himself. As if trying to get away from Hewitt’s presence as fast as possible.

It’s got to be a blast to play for Hewitt when the times are good and the team is frontrunning and the acute pressures to win or comeback from adversity are not present. But when things get tight and close, one would imagine how annoying and irritating it must be to have Hewitt’s aggressive pressure to win, win, win glaring at you from the side of the court.

It’s also curious that Hewitt dresses up like he’s ready to play and by the look of the fire in his eyes and his intensity just watching the matches, it looks like he’s dying to still play. To get out there and show everybody how it’s done. If you saw Hewitt play doubles in Melbourne, it’s obvious he still wants to play and still believes he can still play. He’s more fit to still be an active ATP player than a Davis Cup captain chained to the sidelines.

Imagine being down a set and a break and you have Lleyton Hewitt badgering you to play better, to try harder, “come on mate.” Not many players are going to respond well to that kind of pestering pressure. Especially down a set and a break. Tennis is hard enough without a Hall of Fame legend critiquing your every move, every shot, every decision.

To his credit, Deminaur has responded perfectly to Hewitt’s high intensity captaining. But Kyrgios and the doubles duo of John Peers and Matthew Ebden did not, as they lost in five sets to the German pair of Jan Lennard Struff and Tim Puetz.

Germany’s captain Michael Kohlmann, casually watching in a German sweatsuit with an almost mellow demeanor, was a stark contrast to Hewitt’s burning eyes, burning obsession to win, win, win.

It makes you appreciate just how special and great a fighter Hewitt was in his career. He always fought and never quit a match in his life. Even down two sets to Roger Federer, he once came back and won in Davis Cup. He had an extraordinary self belief and an iron will that today’s Aussie veterans do not. Hewitt never showed negative body language, never shook his head, and never moaned to himself. He just kept fighting and competing.

But for whatever reasons he just can’t instill his fighting spirit into his players Tomic, Kyrgios, Thompson. And you have to wonder will their come a time when even Deminaur will reach a breaking point and decide he doesn’t need Hewitt breathing down his neck anymore?

With Australia’s Davis Cup team now in shambles after this disappointing and stunning failure against Germany, you have to wonder if Hewitt’s formula and methods to win the Cup are viable.

And you have to wonder if the great Lleyton Hewitt needs to make some changes to his methods like scaling back his intensity, changing his on court attire, putting his ego aside and centering the players as the focus, and not himself. Because the shadows of Hewitt’s legend still overshadow all the current Australian players, none of whom have come close to winning two majors or the ATP no. 1 ranking.

Once upon a time, just a year ago, Team Australia looked like a lock to win the Davis Cup or even establish another dynasty of winning multiple Cups with their outstanding lineup of Kyrgios, Kokkinakis, Deminaur, Tomic, Thompson and Peers.

But after this ugly elimination by Germany on their home courts, Australia and captain Hewitt are suddenly looking like a shattered team with a badly damaged morale and spirit.

Captain Hewitt has a tall order on his hands to rebuild the fallen Australian Davis Cup empire which just one week ago looked so hopeful, so optimistic and so full of enormous potential.

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  • catherine · February 5, 2018 at 3:04 am

    Some consolation for Becker in his financial woes 🙂

    (And Georges and Kerber creep into the top 10 for Germany as Kiki makes an exit.)

    Scoop – as you say, good leaders are those who don’t think about themselves but about the team. May be that Hewitt does not have the personality for the leader role.
    Unless he can change.

  • catherine · February 5, 2018 at 9:39 am

    Hartt, if you’re around – Fed Cup coming up and just saw Simona giving an interview – she’ll be playing v Canada and she seems fit so hoping for the best.
    Do you know who’ll be playing for Canada ? I think it’s in Roumania.

  • Hartt · February 5, 2018 at 10:00 am

    According to a poster in Romania and a news report, Simona will be at the Fed Cup but will not play. She will be replaced by Ana Bogdan, ranked about No. 86. According to these sources the official announcement will be made on Wed.

    From Canada’s point of view, that will be a help. But Bianca Andreescu, who is of Romanian descent and cites Simona as her idol, was looking forward to playing Simona and will be very disappointed if Halep does not play.

    Canada has a very young team. Doubles specialist Gabriela Dabrowski, at 25, is the “old lady” of the team. She and her doubles partner, Yifan Xu, recently lost in the SF in St. Petersburg, but at least that gives Gaby some time to rest and then prepare for Fed Cup. After winning the mixed doubles at the AO and then going immediately to St. Petersburg, she really needs a break.

    Bianca is 17, does not turn 18 until mid-June. Katherine Sebov is 19 and Carol Zhao is 22. I was surprised that Francoise Abanda is not playing, she usually does very well in Fed Cup. I wonder if she is injured.

    If Simona does not play the Canadian team has a shot. If she does, the chances are not good.

  • Hartt · February 5, 2018 at 10:32 am

    Catherine, the guy in Romania said that Bianca has been charming the Romanian media. She speaks the language; although she was born in Canada, the family went back to Romania for a few years before returning to Canada to further Bianca’s tennis. She is a very appealing young woman, which is why she is one of the 3 on my WTA treats list. She is so young that it will be a while before she is winning tourneys, but i am prepared for the future. 🙂

  • catherine · February 5, 2018 at 10:34 am

    Thanks for info – the interview I saw was put on Youtube earlier this afternoon but may have been superseded by now. I was a bit surprised that Simona could have recovered so quickly from the AO and her foot problems.
    So I hope she makes the right decision. She’ll certainly be there to cheer her team on.

    Whatever the result it should be a good experience for the Canadians.

  • catherine · February 5, 2018 at 10:36 am

    You mentioned Bianca last year – so I’ve been looking out for her. She must have divided loyalties 🙂

  • Hartt · February 5, 2018 at 11:20 am

    It’s hard to know, but she has been a Fed Cup stalwart this past year.

    The Romanian poster wrote that she is looking forward to Romanian food.

  • Hartt · February 5, 2018 at 11:24 am

    Yes, it should be a good experience for the Canadians. They did very well in a Fed Cup tie last summer, with Bianca leading the charge. Because they are so young and such underdogs you get the feeling they have a good team spirit.

  • catherine · February 5, 2018 at 11:48 am

    Sometimes I feel Fed Cup for these girls is just one long party !

    Nothing wrong with that. It’s refreshing and they all seem to try hard.

    There’s no experience to rival facing the Czechs in Prague- I can watch the last points of Czech R v Germany in 2014 over and over, crowd yelling, Martina in the stands, Petra trying to beat Kerber and taking umpteen match points to do it.



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