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Tennis rally for Rafter in Tomic spat

By AAP .
10 January 2013 05:30PM EST

TENNIS Australia and former Davis Cup captains are rallying behind frustrated skipper Pat Rafter as his frosty relationship with Bernard Tomic shows no sign of thawing.

Rafter's decision to suspend Tomic from next month's first-round qualifying tie in Taiwan has clearly fired the youngster up, with the two-time former grand slam junior champion opening the summer with five straight wins after ending 2012 with a whimper.

The ban, though, also seems to have angered Tomic, who says he will skip Australia's second-round qualifying tie in April and has no plans to speak with Rafter before a possible World Group playoff in September.

The falling out of player and captain rekindles memories of the Mark Philippoussis saga in 1998 when he declared his Davis Cup days over after then-Cup coach Tony Roche sat in Rafter's courtside box during his US Open final against Philippoussis.

Everyone in the Australian tennis family will be hoping the latest chapter in the long-running Davis Cup drama will have a similarly happy ending and that Tomic returns to help Australia win the trophy, as Philippoussis did in 1999 and 2003.

TA chief executive Steve Wood says it's up to Rafter to decide the best way to handle Tomic and two of the reigning captain's predecessors, John Fitzgerald and John Newcombe, have full faith in the former world No.1 to do so.

"It's Pat's call. He's the Davis Cup captain, he handles the Davis Cup team and that's really up to him to handle," Wood said on Thursday.

"Pat and the team work together. It's really for Pat to handle. That's the key behind how we run the team.

"Pat and Bernard will work that out and we're just looking forward to a great Australian Open and getting some wins on the board for Bernard and the rest of the Australians."

Lleyton Hewitt has offered to play the role of peacemaker and have a word with Tomic after the Australian Open - which starts on Monday - and Fitzgerald said Rafter needed as much help as possible.

"He (Rafter) is the right man and he deserves our support, no doubt," Fitzgerald told the Seven Network on Thursday.

"Certainly Pat Rafter and Lleyton Hewitt, in terms of their want and desire to play Davis Cup is second to none and, in Lleyton's case, it still is.

"So, yeah, that would be interesting to hear their thoughts (about Tomic's stance) and what they really feel.

"You need a team that really wants to play and historically all of the Aussies really desperately want to play and that's the way it should be."

Fitzgerald and Newcombe held the captaincy for a total of 16 years between them immediately before Rafter took over in 2010.

Newcombe last month said he was 100 per cent behind Rafter's hardline approach, which has also included suspending current Australian No.1 Marinko Matosevic for the World Group playoff in Germany last September because of his poor attitude in an earlier tie last year.

"In the last 10 years, we've lost that culture. Pat's trying to rebuild it because he knows without the culture and the automatic work ethic, it's very hard," Newcombe told AAP.

"So he's taking a very tough stance on certain issues and he's got the complete backing of Tennis Australia, which, if he doesn't have, he's not going to do the job."

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