Date: June 29 2012
Triple Wimbledon champion John Newcombe is banking on Pat Rafter sticking it out for the long haul to help dig Australian tennis out of its deepest and darkest hole.
For the first time in the 45-year open era - and for all ITF officials know the first time ever - Australia doesn't have a singles representative in the third round at a grand slam.
Australia's diabolical Wimbledon campaign was over by day three when last hope Samantha Stosur crashed to a 6-2, 0-6, 6-4 second-round loss to unseeded Dutchwoman Arantxa Rus.
''Obviously it's a pretty woeful performance by all of us,'' Stosur said after personally failing to reach the third round at the All England Club for the ninth time in 10 visits.
Newcombe, the modern-day godfather of Australian tennis, was more saddened than unimpressed and said the reality was Tennis Australia (TA) was playing catch-up in a truly global sport.
''Tennis is one of the biggest international sports,'' Newcombe said.
''There's so many nations playing it and, because there's so much money there, a lot of the best athletes from these countries choose from a young age to go into tennis.
''That's really what it comes down to - we've got to try to get the best athletes before rugby and cricket and AFL and everything [else] get them.''
Through its Hot Shots program, TA has invested heavily over the past five years in trying to achieve exactly what Newcombe is recommending - attracting youngsters to the game.
''I know that the junior programs are in place and I think they are pretty good,'' Newcombe said.
''But you don't rebuild something overnight. That's the thing.
''I think it was a really positive move Pat Rafter being made Davis Cup captain [in 2010].
''I know Pat's trying to build the culture that he came up under with the Davis Cup in the 1990s.
''He's trying to reinstate that. He knows it's not an easy road and that it's going to take about four or five years.
''We'll just have to see.''
With Bernard Tomic, Lleyton Hewitt, Matt Ebden and Marinko Matosevic all failing to win a match this week, Australia doesn't have a player in the men's second round at the All England Club for the first time since 1938.
''This certainly was not a good showing, that's for sure,'' Newcombe said.
Rafter is only the fifth man in the past 62 years to captain Australia's Davis Cup team, following in the footsteps of John Fitzgerald (2001-2010), Newcombe (1995-2000), Neale Fraser (1970-1994) and the legendary Harry Hopman (1950-69).
The position is one of the most coveted in Australian sport and Newcombe is backing Rafter - who never won a Davis Cup and who was at Wimbledon this year but not keen to comment on the carnage - to finish the job.
''I'm sure he's in there for a good five years,'' Newcombe said.
''Rochey [coach Tony Roche] and I did it for seven years in the 90s and it took us five years to get the whole thing to where we wanted it to be before we could win the whole competition.''
■ WIMBLEDON may have built its reputation on being a uniquely grasscourt grand slam tournament but defending champion Novak Djokovic is happy to play it under a roof, with the lights burning bright.
Top seed and world No.1 Djokovic gave the centre court roof the thumbs up yesterday after beating America's Ryan Harrison 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 to reach the third round.
The roof was closed after three hours of rain brought a halt to action on the outside courts, Djokovic delighted to get a second chance to play the late night entertainer.
''It's hard to prepare for that because you play an indoor match on the centre court maybe once every couple of years - 2010 was my only match under the roof aside from tonight's match,'' said Djokovic.
''It is quite different. I think the lights were really good. The attendance was fantastic. The crowd enjoyed it.''
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