France will not be taking Aussies lightly
BACK in the Davis Cup world group for the first time since 2007, Australia faces a herculean task in its first-round match against France starting tonight in the French regional city of La Roche sur Yon.
With Bernard Tomic sidelined following hip surgery, Aussie captain Pat Rafter has turned to promising teenagers Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis to partner veterans Lleyton Hewitt and Chris Guccione in the tie.
With a world ranking of 41, Hewitt, who made his Davis Cup debut in 1999 and was a member of the last Australian team to lift the trophy in 2003, is ranked more than 100 places higher than his young teammates.
On the other hand, all four members of the French team - Richard Gasquet, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils and Julien Benneteau - are ranked higher than Hewitt.
Despite that advantage, Gasquet said France would not take the tie lightly.
"It is better to play them at home than in Australia because they play very good - we know that they are big competitors," the world No.9 said. "Hewitt is a warrior… Rafter is a big captain too, so we know it will be tough."
If Australia loses it will have to play countries in the Asia/Oceania zone, including New Zealand, China, South Korea and India, to retain its place in the world group in 2015.
Defending champion the Czech Republic has drawn the Netherlands, while last year's beaten finalist, Serbia, will be without Novak Djokovic and Janko Tipsarevic for its first-round clash with Switzerland. Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka and Roger Federer will play for Switzerland.