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Australian tennis icons clash as Lleyton Hewitt erupts at Davis Cup ‘disaster’

Australian tennis icons clash as Lleyton Hewitt erupts at Davis Cup ‘disaster’

Lleyton Hewitt’s pride in his Australian team’s achievement in reaching the Davis Cup finals has been accompanied by another withering tirade against organisers he believes have “really screwed up” the once-revered tennis competition.

At the end of another week when the ‘men’s tennis World Cup’ format was bitterly criticised for small crowds attending ties at neutral venues around Europe, Aussie captain Hewitt sighed that the event had turned into a “disaster”.

His team are among the eight who’ve qualified for the knockout finals in Malaga in November – but Hewitt, a vehement critic of the changes to the venerable event’s format, is far from alone in despairing at the fact hosts Spain won’t be there.

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So an event once famed for its home-and-away finals played in front of partisan crowds will feature a week of action in November without the buzz of a Carlos Alcaraz-fuelled home team and and only eight neutral teams.

Asked in Manchester if he felt it would make for a challenging situation, Hewitt agreed.

“Absolutely (the finals will be challenging). I’ve said for years the two greatest things that Davis Cup had was the best-of-five sets, because it was the pinnacle of our sport, and the home and away format,” he said.

“Playing in front of 500 or 1000 people, it’s not the same. But as I’ve told my team all the time, the pride comes in wearing the green and gold, so for us no matter what the format is, we’re still gonna go out there and leave it all on the line.

“But do I agree this format is good? No, not for a minute.”

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Lleyton Hewitt is happy to have led Australia to the finals – but disappointed with the format. Credit: Getty

He said heads should roll among the organisers he believes have ruined the event.

“We’ve gotta get rid of people at the top … we’ve seen what’s happened, it was meant to be a 25-year thing and it’s turned into a four-year disaster.

“So until changes are made, we’re gonna sit back and go through exactly the same stuff every year.

“I can say until the cows come home, but they’ve really screwed it up.”

But Australian former doubles great Mark Woodforde, chair of the Davis Cup committee, has warned against reverting back to “the old format (that) was killing Davis Cup”.

He says the competition will remain as is next year, adding: “We feel this is the format where we can see mileage with it.”

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Hewitt’s outburst came amid more disenchantment about a strange week of group qualification action in Manchester, where the ties featuring home team Britain featured big crowds and a great atmosphere but those featuring neutral sides attracted only paltry numbers.

British great Andy Murray noted: “It is a shame when France and Australia, two of the biggest tennis nations who love their Davis Cup, and they’re playing in front of what feels like an empty stadium.”

Three-time grand slam winner Stan Wawrinka was left so disgusted at the turnout for his Swiss side’s tie with France, he posted a video of the empty stands while sarcastically “thanking” former footballer Gerard Pique and the International Tennis Federation (ITF) organisers.

Pique and his company Kosmos were instrumental in the competition’s restructure over the last four years, with home-and-away ties replaced by week-long group stages and finals featuring multiple countries all at the same venue.

“It’s been quite a clear disaster,” said Wawrinka, deeply critical of Kosmos, who had promised to invest $US3 billion ($A4.7 billion) into tennis over 25 years but whose deal collapsed this year after less than five years with a court case now looming.

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