Hewitt wishes it was home Davis Cup final

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 Hewitt wishes it was home Davis Cup final
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Lleyton Hewitt takes just as much pleasure from guiding Australia to the Davis Cup final in the role of calming team captain as he did a generation ago when he led them to glory as a playing warrior.

Yet just one thing saddens him about his side's big day in Malaga in Sunday's (Monday AEDT) showdown - that his players won't get to experience the same exultation he did when playing in the World Cup final of men's tennis on home soil.

Hewitt has never hidden his annoyance about the way the traditional Davis Cup format has been tampered with so dramatically over the past decade, having bitterly criticised the end of five-set battles and home-and-away ties as 'neutral' finals venues have taken over.

So his memory of the 2003 final - the last time the Australians reached the final and defeated Spain on home soil in Melbourne amid rocking scenes - remains one of the most special of his tennis life.

"I know how much it meant for me as a player to get the opportunity to play in finals. So I'm thrilled that these boys get that opportunity on Sunday," said Hewitt.

"But I'd love it to be in Australia, though. I'm disappointed the boys don't get to play in front of 15,000 at Rod Laver Arena.

"I can't be prouder of these guys. I know it's a bloody long year. There's been changes and tweaks to this competition that we have had to adjust to the last three years.

"We're back to these guys making massive sacrifices to be playing for their country. This is the third time this year.

"When it changed to this format, it was only ever going to be twice a year, so we have added on another week. It's been a bloody long year for everyone, and we are a long way from home, too.

"Don't forget that. I don't like the chances of this final series ever being played in Australia!"

Even Hewitt, though, has recognised an enjoyable atmosphere with partisan, good-sized crowds at the end-of-season competition in Malaga, even after the hosts Spain got knocked out. 

It hasn't converted him - but at least, he's happy the old Davis Cup atmosphere has been resurrected to a degree.

The captain has cut a passionate but still largely steadfast figure on the sidelines, while admitting to having "kittens" during Australia's two nerve-racking ties this week.

Asked about being a changed man from his feisty playing days, he smiled: "I try to be fired up on the side of the court when I need to be.

"That's my personality as it is, but also there are times to be calm and be a calming figure out there, and think your way through certain situations.

"It's about knowing the players' personalities on the court and what they respond best to."

They've certainly been playing for Hewitt as well as the gold and green, with Jordan Thompson admitting that having his one-time idol backing him at the side of the court felt wholly inspirational.

"When he's on the sideline," said Thompson, "I couldn't feel more comfortable."


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