Before choosing a career in professional tennis (which was well paid, but stopped players from being able to compete in the Davis Cup), Ken Rosewall spent most of his time focusing on this competition, which he won three times in 1953, 1955 and 1956. In 1955, he even decided to skip Roland-Garros in order to arrive in top condition in the US, where, that year, the Davis Cup was entirely being played over July and August. Ken Rosewall, who was only 20 at the time, managed to produce a “clean sheet” that summer (11 wins and no defeats), which is still today among the most exceptional performances produced by a tennis player in the fifties. Let’s not forget his surprising come-back, twenty year later, after the start of the Open era, when he gave the young Aussies a helping hand in 1973 and 1975, which helped him to improve his win ratio in the Davis Cup, as he retired with an 86,36% win ratio (19 wins in 22 matches played).
9. Lleyton Hewitt - AUSTRALIA
As Laver, Rosewall or Newcombe’s worthy successor, Lleyton Hewitt, who won the competition twice in 1999 and 2003, has kept the Australian fire alive in the Davis Cup. The current Australian captain (who sometimes picks himself for the doubles, like in September 2018 for the play-offs) left us with the memories of a player who was almost undefeatable at home in the singles (26 wins and only 4 defeats) but also a spiteful player on the courts during his younger years. His match against Guillermo Coria in 2005, during which both players insulted and provoked each-other, was one of the less fair-play games ever played in the competition. The immediate aftermath ? Both players were fined. During the press conference, Coria, who’s not especially known for his fair-play, was horrified. “He might be the best player in the world, but he can’t behave like this, and insult the captain and his opponents. I can’t repeat what I’ve heard on the court !” Pure passion, it is !
8. Rod Laver - AUSTRALIA
Yes, another Australian ! Having won the competition in 1959, 1960, 1961 and 1962, the year in which he also won his first Grand Slam, Rod Laver implied that his four triumphs were - on the whole - too easy. “My regret is that except 1959, the competition wasn’t so difficult, said Laver in Mon Tennis. Our captain Harry Hopman taught us to be men in shape, with exercises which were almost military. During training sessions, he told us to run as if we were trying to cross the Sahara desert. That was his way of getting us ready. On match day, we were ready for just about anything.”
7. Henri Leconte - FRANCE
What if he was the man who loved the Davis Cup the most ? In an excessive way, like all true romantics. Henri Leconte cried like a child on the shoulder of his captain Jean-Paul Loth, on July 10th 1982, the day where he played his first Davis Cup, in a winning doubles match against Czech Republic alongside Yannick Noah. But of course, it’s during the 1991 final that he wrote his legend. The legend of a player who was past his prime, who had been injured a lot, and who resuscitated magically to help France defeat the United States and win its first Davis Cup in 59 years.
Helped by a getaway in Normandy and the trust put in him by Noah, who was then the captain, “Riton” walked on water on D-Day and outplayed Pete Sampras, who had just won the Masters. “I think that the good Lord gave me a gift with this match France - USA, this match against Pete Sampras, and it became an unforgettable moment.”
6. « Bill » Tilden - USA
It’s with him that the Davis Cup grew, during the roaring twenties, and that it became famous worldwide. Why ? Because William Tilden, also known as “Big Bill” was a sort of Federer of his time, the press and the specialists naming him “the biggest artist that tennis has ever seen”. Between 1920 and 1926, he helped the US win the competition seven times by winning his first 22 matches in the competition. Only the Musketeers - René Lacoste and Henri Cochet to be precise - were able to put an end to the series in 1927. Jean Borotra, on his side, was never able to defeat him in the Davis Cup. “He didn’t like Borotra, Pierre Albarran remembers in his book, ‘Histoire du Tennis’ and he bet a fair amount of dollars with Wallis Myers, a famous english sports reporter, that he would never lose against the Frenchman.”