Former World No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt says that Team Australia are ready to embrace strong home support at the ATP Cup in its quest to beat Russia, Italy and France in Group B.
“To get out there, especially on Ken Rosewall Arena now with the roof, it’s going to be a great atmosphere for these boys”, said Hewitt, who is Australia’s captain for the third straight year. “I think it’s a great opportunity for these guys to represent and wear the green and gold proudly in their background.”
Australia face a tough task, with an opening tie on Sunday against Italy spearheaded by World No. 7 Matteo Berrettini and No. 10-ranked Jannik Sinner. The hosts bring no little firepower of their own, however, with Alex de Minaur as the No. 1 singles player, who has a high-level trio of opponents lined up in the shape of Berrettini, World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev and the No. 35-ranked Frenchman Ugo Humbert. The World No. 34 sees it as an opportunity to start his season with a bang.
“I think this is the beauty of the ATP Cup at the start of the year,” said De Minaur. “I’ve experienced it before, and it’s a great way to kind of see where I’m at. These are the kind of matches I want to be playing. It’s a great challenge for me, which I’m looking forward to.”
Also hailing from Sydney, James Duckworth admitted he couldn’t have envisaged making the Australian roster a year ago. “I didn’t think I’d be here, but I had a pretty good year and I’ve been really happy with how I played,” said Duckworth, who broke into the Top 50 of the ATP Rankings in 2021. “I’m really looking forward to getting out and playing.”
John Peers, Max Purcell and Luke Saville are also vying for a doubles spot. World No. 13 Peers believes the ATP Cup format emphasised the importance of doubles, saying, “It’s always great. Any time you get to play a live match where it counts for the team is huge. We’re not just playing for ourselves now. We’re playing for the country.”
Regardless of what happens, Hewitt expects an entertaining spectacle for fans. “I was so impressed the first year with the crowds here in Australia, and it wasn’t just the Australian matches,” said Hewitt. “Every single country has one standout elite player, no matter the depth of their team. I think the Australian crowds really enjoy coming out and seeing that calibre of players on our shores.”