Alex De Minaur  in action against Sam Querrey of the United States at the Australian Open in Melbourne
Alex De Minaur in action against Sam Querrey of the United States at the Australian Open in Melbourne JULIAN SMITH

Rafter excited by future of Australian tennis

TENNIS: Nine young Australians will claim career-high rankings as Pat Rafter continues to orchestrate cultural change within the Australian game.

Jordan Thompson (65), Chris O'Connell (226), Alex De Minaur (248), Blake Mott (249), Lizette Cabrera (184), Destanee Aiava (248), Jaimee Fourlis (295), Isabelle Wallace (498) and Ellen Perez (509) have climbed to career-best marks after the Australian Open.

In the updated standings, Nick Kyrgios slips two places to No 15, Bernard Tomic drops five spots to No 32, Sam Stosur falls two rungs to No 23 and rejuvenated Ash Barty jumped 71 places to No 152.

A fourth round berth sees Daria Gavrilova remain in 26th spot.

The emergence of the nation's new generation comes after Rafter, Tennis Australia's director of performance, spent two years restructuring the development pathway.

"We wanted to change a few things,” Rafter told the Australian Davis Cup Foundation.

"We were isolating our players a little bit, so we decided to try bring back our culture and the way we used to do it.

"We want to get more guys together, looking out for each other.

"You work as a team and travel together. If someone's stranded, you help out - that's how it worked in the old days.”

Leading the charge ... Lleyton Hewitt and Pat Rafter.
Leading the charge ... Lleyton Hewitt and Pat Rafter. Quinn Rooney

Rafter said Lleyton Hewitt was instrumental in creating a team - rather than individual - environment.

"Lleyton's done an unbelievable job with Davis Cup and he's got all the guys working together.

"It will take 10 years for what we've put in place to start working.

"We give opportunities to help these guys the best they can be.

"We've got some great facilities and some great coaches around Australia and we're going to give the players the opportunities to do well.”

Rafter was heartened further when he was approached by a former Swedish great, who had noted Australian players sitting together in the player restaurant.

"He said it was like how the Australians used to be,” Rafter said. "It's great to hear that.”

Hewitt said: "As Pat said that's the culture we're trying to get back to, sticking together and sticking up for each other.”


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