Lleyton Hewitt has praised Nick Kyrgios ahead of Australia’s Davis Cup tie. Picture: Liam Kidston
Lleyton Hewitt has praised Nick Kyrgios ahead of Australia’s Davis Cup tie. Picture: Liam Kidston

How Kyrgios won over Hewitt ... again

Australian captain Lleyton Hewitt has hailed Nick Kyrgios as the ultimate team man ahead of this week's Davis Cup campaign in Madrid.

Hewitt, who left the mercurial Kyrgios out of the tie against Bosnia and Herzegovina in February for "failing cultural standards", restored him to the side following the pair's heart-to-heart in America earlier this year.

The 24-year-old has not played for Australia since February 2018 and forms part of a strong squad containing world No.18 Alex de Minaur, John Millman, Jordan Thompson and John Peers.

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Lleyton Hewitt has praised Nick Kyrgios ahead of Australia’s Davis Cup tie. Picture: Liam Kidston
Lleyton Hewitt has praised Nick Kyrgios ahead of Australia’s Davis Cup tie. Picture: Liam Kidston

Colombia and Belgium kick off the group on Tuesday 0300 AEDT) with Australia in action against the South Americans on Wednesday 0400 AEDT before facing the Belgians on Thursday 0400 AEDT.

Hewitt believes Kyrgios is primed to shine in the Spanish capital after ending his season early to ensure he was in the best shape for the Davis Cup.

"We worked through a lot of things at the start of the year and then met up in Indian Wells in March," Hewitt said.

"Nick told me he was desperate to do whatever he could to get back in the team.

"One thing I have been really proud of with Nick is that he goes out of his way to help the rest of the boys week in, week out.

"Whether it be on the practice court or going to dinner. As an Australian it's pretty lonely out there on tour.

 

Hewitt has been a big supporter of Kyrgios in the past. Picture: AAP/Darren England
Hewitt has been a big supporter of Kyrgios in the past. Picture: AAP/Darren England

 

"You're away from home for a lot of months throughout the year.

"He's been really good in that capacity and he has been really good with whatever I have asked him to do leading into this tie.

"He had a slight injury and stopped his season early in Asia, and I think at the end of the day, his mindset was ready for this event and he is ready to go."

Australian No.1 de Minaur enjoyed a superb finish to the season that saw him win the Zhuhai Championships in September and follow that up by reaching the deciders of the Swiss Indoors, the Paris Masters and the ATP Next Gen Finals. World No.64 Thompson also has had a good year, bouncing back from a wretched 2018 season that saw him drop out of the top 100.

 

Kyrgios and Hewitt celebrate a win at Pat Rafter arena. Picture: Jono Searle
Kyrgios and Hewitt celebrate a win at Pat Rafter arena. Picture: Jono Searle

 

Former US Open quarter-finalist Millman and doubles specialist Peers, who won the 2017 Australian Open final with Finland's Henri Kontinen, make up a team that Hewitt believes is the most talented he's had since taking on the captaincy in 2015.

"On paper it probably is the best, but paper doesn't play," he said. "The Davis Cup requires a different nerve and rankings get thrown out of the door.

"You need guys that are going to handle the pressure and expectation of playing for their country.

"But I have full belief in my five guys. I am very confident, very happy and know they are going to go out there and play bloody well."

HEWITT STANDS FIRM ON CUP CRITICISIM

Hewitt is standing by his criticism of the new-look Davis Cup and maintains the format should never have been changed.

The 18-team, world cup-style event begins in Madrid on Monday with the winners from each of the six groups progressing to the quarter-finals on Thursday along with the two best runners-up.

Hewitt, who played in 43 ties during his career, has been one of the most vocal opponents of the changes, which see matches now played over three sets rather than five.

"I still feel the same way," said Hewitt.

"In terms of the Davis Cup and how we all knew it ... two of the biggest differences and what the competition was all about was home and away ties and matches played over five sets.

 

Lleyton Hewitt isn’t a fan of the new format. Picture: Jason McCawley/Getty
Lleyton Hewitt isn’t a fan of the new format. Picture: Jason McCawley/Getty

 

"You couldn't do that in any kind of form in our great game and if you look at the pinnacle of our game, which are the grand slams, they are played over five sets.

"But this is a new format and as I said at the start of the year, our boys get to wear the green and gold and play for their country.

"It doesn't matter if we are playing marbles out there, we're going to lay everything on the line and do what we can to represent our country and make everyone back home proud.

"In terms of that, nothing changes and we have to go out there and do our best." Barcelona and Spain footballer Gerard Pique's Kosmos company are behind the new event after acquiring the rights from the International Tennis Federation for the next 25 years for $A4.4 billion.



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