Australia needs just one point from the final three matches of its Davis Cup zone group tie to advance past China to a second round appointment with either Korea or Taiwan in April, after Bernard Tomic built on the lead established by Lleyton Hewitt to confirm a 2-0 lead at the end of the opening day.Tomic, 19, extended his Davis Cup career record to 5-1 with a 6-4, 7-6 (7-3), 6-3 defeat of Chinese No.2 Wu Di, after veteran Lleyton Hewitt had beaten Zhang Ze in straight sets in the opening rubber. Unbeaten at Asia/Oceania group level, Tomic's only loss was to Roger Federer in the world group playoff last September.While Hewitt had raced through his opening two sets, Tomic saved his best for last against Wu, who had stunned Victorian Marinko Matosevic first-up in the Australia-China tie in Beijing last July. The Queensland teenager's third set was his most impressive, after he lost concentration briefly to fall behind 3-0 in the second set."It feels good, I'm happy,'' said Tomic, the world No.36 and Wimbledon quarter-finalist. "It was a tough tie, tough conditions.''Australia is expected to retain its nominated doubles line-up of Hewitt and Chris Guccione to try to close out the tie today against Zhang and Li Zhe. The local pair is unbeaten from in two previous matches, including a four-set defeat of Olympic gold medallists Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka in Sydney last year.Hewitt celebrated his record-equalling 32nd Davis Cup tie for Australia by winning the first point against China's at the Geelong Lawn Tennis Club today.
When the teams played in the zonal semi-final indoors in Beijing seven months ago, the Chinese took a surprise early lead with Wu's upset of debutant Marinko Matosevic in the opening match before Australia swept the next three. But on the sometimes-slippery grass in windy conditions by the Barwon River, there were few nervous moments this time, Hewitt grabbing early breaks in the first two sets before a far more competitive third.
The former world No.1 was clearly the superior grasscourt player in the first hour of play - and predictably so, given that he is one of just four men to win a Wimbledon title in the past decade. But Hewitt was pushed by Zhang at times later in the match, as the Chinese started to serve better and utilise his stronger backhand wing.
But Hewitt eked out a 7-4 advantage in the tiebreak, as the morning rain threatened to return to complicate matters and delay the seemingly-inevitable victory march. In the end, the dual grand slam winner was too consistent and accomplished overall for the world No.278, who will return for the first reverse singles on Sunday.
"Any Davis Cup match is extremely tough, so I just tried to come out and play my game," Hewitt said. "I was lucky that I dictated play right from the start, took it to him, and had a confident start. But we had tough matches against these guys in July last year and, as you could see, the third set was tight."
Hewitt's 32nd tie in his 14th year of Davis Cup competition equalled the tally of Tood Woodbridge, his teammate in the champion teams of 1999 and 2003. He has now won 48 of his 62 matches, another record, and has been nominated to partner Chris Guccione in the doubles tomorrow. Australia is seeking to return to the 16-nation world group for the first time since 2007, via a playoff in September.