There were some glimmers of hope for Australian tennis over the summer. Chris Guccione finally started to put some matches together. A hot-headed West Australian kid, Brydan Klein, managed to control his temper long enough to win the Australian Open Boys’ Singles. The Scud only suffered a non-career-threatening knee injury.

But the reality of our sparse talent stocks remains. As the Australian Davis Cup team heads to Belgium, it is only too obvious that we’re a one-man team.

Captain Fitzy admitted yesterday that he would almost certainly be asking Lleyton Hewitt to play singles and doubles in Belgium. If “The Gooch” can manage to win a singles rubber on clay, it will be seen as a bonus. Lleyton will have a capable doubles partner in Paul Hanley, but the pair has only played together once, in Adelaide where they lost in the first round.

Hewitt wasn’t troubled by that zero percent success rate, telling the media yesterday:

I felt like I got a lot out of that match in Adelaide with Paul. I think if we do have to play in Belgium, then that was a big step in the right direction for us as a pair.

As usual, it was a dramatic Australian season for Hewitt, losing his coach after one self-indulgent burst of abuse too many in Roger Rasheed’s direction.

Commentators are ever more pointed about the perceived negative influence on Lleyton’s career by his parents, particularly his father, and the pleas continue for the 25-year-old to stand on his own feet.

One thing can never be questioned – Lleyton’s commitment to representing his country. He already proudly boasts the record for the most singles wins in Cup competition for Australia, which should not be underestimated given our honour roll in this competition.

He’s about to play his 20th tie (well short of Todd Woodbridge’s 32, but Lleyton will pass Todd if his legs can carry him) and has a 50% win rate in singles on clay, and 100% in doubles. Whatever John Fitzgerald asks of him, he’ll do and for that, we should be grateful.

Those canny Belgians haven’t named their squad yet. It’s possible that the country’s tennis players are off hunting for Miss Brazil, missing since September and thought to have been people trafficked to Belgium.

No, really – check out the Flanders News.

Peter Fray

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