Aussies face Germany in Davis Cup playoff
BRISBANE, April 12 AAP – The last time Australia faced Germany in the Davis Cup, Patrick Rafter played a crucial on-court role to help seal a World Group quarter-final win.
Twelve years later, Rafter will hope to be just as effective off the court when Australia travel to Germany in September vying to break back into the elite group of tennis.
Australia avoided a nightmare trip to Roger Federer’s Switzerland when the World Group playoff draw was announced in London on Wednesday night but still face a tough stay in Germany from September 14-16.
In 2000, Rafter chimed in with Mark Woodforde to win the crucial doubles rubber and give Australia an unbeatable 3-0 lead over Germany in their World Group quarter-final in Adelaide.
As Australian captain, Rafter will be hoping history will repeat in Germany.
Victory will allow 28-time Cup winners Australia to break back into the elite 16-team World Group for the first time since 2007.
The key will be a man who was Rafter’s teammate when Australia last tasted success over Germany – Lleyton Hewitt.
Rafter will be sweating on the availability of the former world No.1, who is out until June due to toe surgery.
Yet Rafter believes he has already formed a winning team’s nucleus after cruising through their Asian-Oceania group.
Australia booked their fifth World Group play-off appearance in six years by completing a 5-0 sweep of a depleted South Korea in Brisbane on Sunday.
“It’s been a while since Australia’s been back in the World Group and I think we’ve got the team,” Rafter said after the win.
“We’ll get Lleyton back up and running and we’ll have a very, very good team.”
Wimbledon quarter-finalist Bernard Tomic and world No.73 Matthew Ebden spearheaded Australia’s singles in Brisbane, while Rafter blooded late bloomer Marinko Matosevic in the doubles with veteran Chris Guccione.
“These guys are forming a really good team,” Rafter said.
“They’re understanding that they’ve been together now for the last four or five ties, and that’s what we need.”
Rafter said the presence of the recovering Hewitt had ensured the Brisbane team camp was a success.
Last September, Australia’s World Group hopes were dashed in Sydney by a Swiss team featuring Federer and Stan Wawrinka.
Australia lead 4-2 overall against Germany in Cup ties but won’t be given any favours in September by a team expecting to boast the likes of world No.20 Florian Mayer, Phillipp Kohlshreiber (No.34), Philipp Petzschner (No.74) and veteran Tommy Haas.
Despite their Asia-Oceania group success, Australia dropped two places on the world rankings to No.20 – Germany are No.10.
Meanwhile, Germany have named their line-up to take on the Australian Fed Cup team in their World Group playoff tie in Stuttgart next week.
World No.5 Sam Stosur must lift Australia against a German team boasting three top-20 players – Andrea Petkovic (No.11), Angelique Kerber (No.15) and Julia Goerges (No.16) – in the April 21-22 tie.
13 Apr 7:53 AM