Join Date: Jun 2003
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Draper invited to join first battle in cup defence
Australia will retain its winning Davis Cup quartet for the first-round tie against Sweden in February, but the fact that next-in-line Scott Draper will also be invited to Adelaide may be the first hint of any gentle winds of change preparing to waft through captain John Fitzgerald's settled squad.
"We probably shouldn't change a winning team, but the time will come when we have to start blooding," Fitzgerald said at the annual Australian Open training camp, which climaxes with Saturday's main-draw wildcard play-offs.
"At the moment, this team picks itself, so until things alter, it's tough to sort of look outside that circle. But Scott's had a good year, he's probably in the best shape he's been in for the last five years, so he's there also, and I'm hoping he'll come to Adelaide with us."
Injury and illness to Mark Philippoussis and Lleyton Hewitt, respectively, meant that Draper played in two of Australia's four ties last year, for two fighting singles losses in Argentina and victory, as a substitute for Hewitt, in the dead rubber against India in the qualifying round. The 1998 Queen's Club champion has rebuilt his ranking to 103rd, and No. 3 in Australia. At 29, he scarcely represents a generational revolution, but the popular Queenslander is three years younger than Australian doubles incumbents Todd Woodbridge and Wayne Arthurs.
For now, though, the only new blood at Memorial Drive from February 6-8 is likely to be Swedish. "I'd think that they'd start to lean towards a younger generation a little bit," said Fitzgerald, nominating Robin Soderling and Andreas Vinceguerra as "potentially very difficult players", and Joachim Johansson - off-court partner of Jaslyn Hewitt - as another promising Swedish prospect.