Davis Cup warhorse Lleyton Hewitt. Photo: Jason South
DAVIS Cup warrior Lleyton Hewitt is desperate to restore Australia's place in the top flight and taste World Group action one last time before his career ends.
Standing in the way is a tricky promotion playoff tie against a Florian Mayer-led Germany on clay at Hamburg's Rothenbaum Stadium, starting tonight.
Hewitt, who showed some encouraging form at the US Open, was in the thick of Australia's golden run of four finals in five years between 1999 and 2003 and will be playing in a national record-breaking 33rd Cup tie this week.
''I don't know how long I will keep playing for and I would love another shot at playing in a World Group tie,'' Hewitt said. ''Ever since we have been out of the World Group, we have had bloody tough matches in the playoffs.''
Australia has not only had difficult draws since being bundled out of the elite World Group five years ago but not enjoyed much luck either.
Hewitt fell ill during the 2007 World Group playoff in Serbia and missed the 2008 tie in Chile because of surgery. The team pulled out of the 2009 tie against India because of security concerns while Hewitt was injured in the gut-wrenching defeat to Belgium in Cairns a year later.
Last year Australia pushed Roger Federer's Switzerland to the limit in Sydney before Stanislas Wawrinka prevailed over Hewitt.
Hewitt has a terrific 18-6 win-loss tournament match record at the Hamburg venue, having lost 7-5 in the deciding set to claycourt supremo Rafael Nadal in his most recent visit half a decade ago.
The absence of Germany's two highest-ranked players is a huge boost for Australia. World No. 18 Philipp Kohlschreiber was omitted following a falling out with team captain Patrik Kuehnen, while US-based No. 21 Tommy Haas opted to skip the tie. While world No. 25 Mayer is going to be a handful for No. 100 Hewitt and No. 42 Tomic, the Australians should fancy their chances against Germany's likely No. 2 in 127th-ranked Cedrik-Marcel Stebe.