Australia face another year in the Davis Cup doldrums after Lleyton Hewitt lost his final rubber against Stanislas Wawrinka at Royal Sydney on Monday.
The match was suspended just before 6pm (AEST) on Sunday night due to fading light, the former world No.1 in a precarious position, down 5-3 in the fifth set.
Wawrinka didn’t take long to wrap up the rubber – 4-6 6-4 6-7 (9-7) 6-4 6-3, breaking Hewitt in the first game on resumption to give the Swiss a 3-2 victory in the tie and entry to the elite
16-team World Group in 2012.
Australia will spend a fifth year out of the top competition, forced to fight it out in zonal qualifiers in the Asia/Oceania region for the chance to re-enter the Davis Cup main group in 2013.
Hewitt came to the court on Monday with a heavily strapped right knee and was cheered by a small group of spectators who had turned up for the unexpected extra day.
Wawrinka also had an injection to play because of a foot problem.
Hewitt raced to a 30-0 lead but appeared to be struggling on court, two double faults and two unforced errors ultimately costing him the game.
The home side had targeted wins against Wawrinka and chose the grass court surface because it did not suit the world No.19’s game.
It paid off in the first two days as Bernard Tomic won his opening singles match against Wawrinka and also when the Swiss No.2 went down when paired with Roger Federer in Saturday’s doubles to Hewitt and Chris Guccione.
But Wawrinka lifted mightily for the deciding rubber.
In a promising sign for Australian tennis, Tomic showed his rising stature in the game by beating Wawrinka and then pushing 16-time grand slam champion Federer to four sets in their reverse singles.
Australia will find out who they play in regional qualifying for 2012 at a draw in Bangkok on Wednesday.