Doubles great Mark Woodforde believes Australian tennis fans could get the rare pleasure of watching Lleyton Hewitt’s Davis Cup team in action on home courts next year.
And 17-time grand slam champion Woodforde, now an influential international official, hopes Tennis Australia will grab the chance to bid to host one of the week-long, four-team group stages of tennis’s biggest men’s team event next September.
The news follows Hewitt’s men reaching – and losing – their second final in successive years, this time to Italy, in Malaga on Sunday.
Perversely, the continuing success of Hewitt’s team, who have become the first outfit to reach the final two years running under the competition’s revamped format, has meant less chance for fans back home to see them play.
That’s because the only home-and-away tie element of the Davis Cup now happens in January in the qualifying round, and the two finalists from the previous year get a bye that takes them straight into the group stages.
Those stages have until now been staged in European venues, with three already set in stone next year for Valencia in Spain, Bologna in Italy and Manchester in England.
But there’s one other venue still up for grabs, and Woodforde, the chair of the International Tennis Federation’s Davis Cup committee, revealed in Malaga that Australia could put in a bid.
“Well, hopefully it will be next year,” said the former Olympic champion.
“We understand there is a potential request to follow the process that is in place to put a bid in for the group stages, which has always been the case.
“That possibility has been there, it just hasn’t been exercised by Tennis Australia. Losing the final shouldn’t deter the idea and, hopefully, Tennis Australia will continue with the process of hosting next year.
“The possibility is there, it’s really up to them, the ball’s literally in their court.
“Personally speaking, my wish would be to see it. Davis Cup is a global competition, the World Cup of tennis.
“We have a very strong history with the Cup being played at home so I would love to see them follow up off the success of last year and this year in order to have the competition played back there.
“The Davis Cup has always been an integral part of our tennis history,” he said. Indeed, Australia have won the Davis Cup 28 times, second only to the United States.
“It was a competition I yearned to play when I was a youngster,” added Woodforde, who went on to play in three finals, winning in 1999 when partnered by the other half of the famed ‘Woodies’ doubles team, Todd Woodbridge.
Australia will definitely host a tie in the equivalent women’s event, the Billie Jean King Cup, in January, when they play Mexico in the qualifying round.
That delighted ITF President David Haggerty, who is well aware of the anomaly of successful teams missing out on home ties.
“It’s a fair point, certainly something for the future that can be looked at,” he said.
As for the competition to stage the Davis Cup group stages, he added: “We’ve had many expressions of interest from nations, and they’ll be putting that together for us.”
(Australian Associated Press)