Lleyton Hewitt lashes out over 'ridiculous' Davis Cup farce

Lleyton Hewitt, pictured here with Alex de Minaur and Alexei Popyrin at the Davis Cup finals.
Lleyton Hewitt with Alex de Minaur and Alexei Popyrin at the Davis Cup finals. (Photo by Stefano Guidi/Getty Images)

Lleyton Hewitt has lashed out at Davis Cup organisers over a proposed plan to take the prestigious men's tennis event to the Middle East.

The potentially lucrative move could see event owners Kosmos Tennis - run by Barcelona soccer star Gerard Pique - shift the event to Abu Dhabi for five years.

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Australia's team captain labelled the prospective move "ridiculous" on Thursday after Australia's 3-0 loss to Croatia in Turin.

A long-standing opponent of all the changes to the Davis Cup in recent years, Hewitt launched his tirade after Australia lost their opening-round tie in a sparsely-populated arena in Turin, one of three venues being used around Europe.

"I've only heard a rumour but I think it's ridiculous, it's not what Davis Cup is about," said Hewitt.

"The Davis Cup was held in the highest regard, up there with the pinnacle of our sport in tennis - with matches played over five sets.

"We threw that out the door and then we've thrown the home and away out the door as well. Playing a qualifying tie here or there, best of three sets (in the recent revamped format), is not the same as having home and away, main draw matches over the year.

"So if they're going and selling the soul of the Davis Cup to the Middle East for another five years, I think it's ridiculous, and they're really killing the competition.

Lleyton Hewitt, pictured here during Australia's clash with Croatia at the Davis Cup finals.
Lleyton Hewitt looks on during Australia's clash with Croatia at the Davis Cup finals. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

"I've been pretty vocal about the whole thing for the last four or five years now. This is a wonderful stadium here tonight, but it's not a massive crowd, it's not what Davis Cup is about.

"Some of my greatest memories were playing in Davis Cup semis or finals in front of packed houses and it didn't matter if it was in Australia or away, the atmosphere was incredible.

"We sit back, me and Tony Roche and tell these young guys stories about when we played in those situations. I'm just really disappointed now. Guys like Alex (de Minaur) would do anything to be in that situation to play in those big matches.

"I know what (the old Davis Cup) meant to the top guys, it meant the world. There is something really special about this competition."

Gerard Pique, pictured here with wife Shakira after a Barcelona game in 2015.
Gerard Pique and wife Shakira after a Barcelona game in 2015. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

France and Great Britain also cool on Abu Dhabi move

The talk of Abu Dhabi getting a long-term deal was also met with a frosty response from France and Great Britain, with captains calling for further discussions.

Asked if he felt the national captains could all get an input into the future of the event, Hewitt laughed: "We didn't have input four years ago, mate, so I'm not sure it's going to matter much now.

"It's being run by a soccer player and his company and it's completely different to anything tennis has been through in the past.

"The ITF (International Tennis Federation) certainly didn't come to me and ask my thoughts or pretty much any Australian who has had pretty much the richest tradition in this competition for over 100 years."

However Hewitt won't entertain the idea of a boycott of the event.

"I haven't ever thought about boycotting Davis Cup or matches for our country," he said.

"It's lost something really special about it but these guys get an opportunity to wear the green and gold and the chance to play for Australia."

with AAP

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