Australian captain Pat Rafter has instructed his unfancied Davis Cup side to throw caution to the wind in a bid to unsettle World Group heavyweights France.
Australia’s long-awaited return to the competition’s top tier begins under challenging circumstances on Friday, with an understrength team given little hope of upsetting a star-studded French side on home soil.
With Bernard Tomic missing due to injury, teenagers Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis join veteran Lleyton Hewitt and doubles specialist Chris Guccione for the indoor-claycourt tie in La Roche sur Yon, western France.
And against a French squad spearheaded by top-10 players Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga – and complimented by the likes of Gael Monfils and Julien Benneteau – Rafter says Australia have little choice but to go for broke.
“We’ve got to take it to them. We can’t sit back and let them dictate,” Rafter told AAP.
“They are big strong players with big games and I think our boys need to take a few risks, a few chances.
“Our guys have prepared really well and we’re happy with their form.
“It’s a tough ask for them but we’ve go to go out there with the attitude that we’re going to win.”
Rafter has promised selection “twists and turns” throughout the tie but it looks likely rising star Kyrgios, who featured in last year’s World Group playoff win over Poland, will join Hewitt in contesting opening day singles.
The captain, though, could opt to keep Hewitt fresh for days two and three by handing 17-year-old Kokkinakis what would be a daunting debut.
Hewitt and Guccione, unbeaten together in Davis Cup, trained together on Wednesday and are likely to contest Saturday’s doubles.
Rafter overlooked the experience of Marinko Matosevic and Matt Ebden for the tie and also called in another teenager, Jordan Thompson, to train with the squad and the captain admits he had an eye on the future with the squad selection.
However, he believes the group is capable of a remarkable upset that would set up a quarter-final match-up against either Spain away or Germany at home.
“We are not without a chance and that’s the way we’re approaching this,” Rafter said.
“But at the same time it’s building for the future as well.”
French captain Arnaud Clement believes his side can contend for this year’s title but he believes Australia are dangerous first-up opponents.
France, nine-times champions, have not won the Davis Cup since defeating an Australian team featuring Hewitt and Rafter in Melbourne in 2001.
Australia won the last of its 28 titles in 2003 but have not been in the World Group since 2007.
Having waited so long to return to the competition’s top 16, Rafter insists Australia won’t be sent back into the World Group playoffs without a fight.
“We don’t want to go back,” said Rafter.
“We want to stay here as long as we can.”