Aussie tennis legend and Davis Cup captain Pat Rafter has announced he’s stepping down from the role and anointed Lleyton Hewitt his long-term successor following his retirement from the game.
Another Aussie great, Wally Masur will inherit the captaincy on an interim basis after Hewitt revealed he’ll likely bring down the curtains on his illustrious career with a 2oth appearance at the Australian Open in 2016.
The change in leadership will allow Rafter, who succeeded John Fitzgerald in 2010, to focus on his new role of helping develop Australia’s next generation of talent as Tennis Australia’s Director of Performance.
“I’m officially stepping down from Davis Cup captaincy. Wally Masur will take over as interim Davis Cup captain,” Rafter confirmed at the joint announcement.
“Lleyton will then fill the spot when the time is right and ready. That will start as of pretty well right now.
“Wally will take on the first role in the Czech Republic and form his team and run his team how he feels it needs to be run.
“Lleyton being such a dominant part of our Davis Cup team for so long will be of strong assistance with Wally.”
Hewitt, 33, will play a limited schedule this year – bypassing the US hardcourt and European claycourt seasons — before tackling a three-week grass court stint into Wimbledon.
“I’ve thought long and hard (about retirement options),” Hewitt said. “I plan to play the Aussie Open next year and most likely finish then.
“Obviously for me the Davis Cup is something we’ve worked extremely hard to put ourselves in a position in the World Group where we have a genuine shot.
“I believe with the guys now we have a lot more options, a lot more depth. I feel like I can still put my hand up as a player and help the boys get over the line.
No time frame has been set on Masur’s handover to Hewitt but it is expected to take place in either 2017 or the following year.
A highly regarded Davis Cup coach under John Fitzgerald and commentator since retiring, Masur was a singles semi-finalist at both the US and Australian Opens with a career-high ranking of No 15.
“Lleyton has an undeniable link with Davis Cup and he will be captain one day,” Masur said. “It’s not in the model in Australian tennis to have a playing captain as such.
“Obviously spoke to Lleyton a few days ago about it, and we’ve come to the arrangement that he’s still a player, he still has a career to flesh out and see where that ends.
Australia will play away to 2014 Davis Cup finalists Czech Republic in the first round of the World Group in March.