Former world number one Lleyton Hewitt crashed to a straight-sets defeat to youngster Cedrik-Marcel Stebe as Germany claimed a 3-2 Davis Cup World Group play-off win over Australia.
The 21-year-old Stebe, ranked 127th in the world and playing just his third Davis Cup rubber, rallied from 3-0 down in the first set to floor Hewitt 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 in just over two hours at Rothenbaum's clay-court stadium.
"It's another frustrating day, we were in a pretty good position overnight, but we didn't get ahead of ourselves," Hewitt said.
"We have been in this situation too many times, we prepared as well as we could, but things just didn't go our way today."
Australia was bidding to return to the World Group for the first time since 2007 and Hewitt's defeat means it will be playing in the Asia/Oceania Group again in 2013, while Germany stay in the top tier.
"This is the biggest success of my career, I was a bit nervous at the start," admitted Stebe, who was cheered every point of the way by the 4,400-strong crowd against Hewitt, ten years his senior.
"It was a crazy atmosphere out there."
Australia had held a 2-1 overnight lead, but Florian Mayer's straight sets win over Bernard Tomic earlier in the day before Stebe's heroics saw the hosts pull off a stunning win.
Tomic crashed in straight sets to send the tie to a deciding rubber.
"(Stebe) made some cheap errors in the first game, but he tightened those up and he hit his shots well and didn't give me much from them on in," Hewitt admitted.
"It would have been nice to take the chances that came my way and put some pressure on him.
"It takes a lot of energy out of you playing three games in three days, I don't know if that was a factor."
After racing into a 3-0 lead, Hewitt, now ranked 100th in the world, laboured as Stebe composed himself to take the first set, then dominated the 2002 Wimbledon winner in the second making just five unforced errors.
Hewitt was broken in the seventh game of the third set as Stebe served out for only his second Davis Cup win having made his debut against Argentina in February.
Germany's Philipp Petzschner, ranked 101st in the world, had been tipped to step in to play the final rubber, but a left knee injury forced him out, leaving Stebe to face Hewitt.
Australia started the day badly when teenager Tomic lost 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 to Mayer as the Germany levelled the scores at 2-2 after four rubbers.
Having beaten Hewitt in straight sets in Friday's singles match, Mayer, ranked 25th in the world, handed out the same treatment to Tomic to wrap up victory in just one hour, 31 minutes.
After Tomic and Mayer both won Friday's singles matches, Hewitt and Chris Guccione had enjoyed a 6-3, 6-2, 2-6, 7-6 (7-4) doubles victory over Benjamin Becker and Petzschner on Saturday to make it 2-1 to Australia.
"It was very hard to back up in the singles after an intense, must-win doubles match, we had to roll the dice, the Germans are a good team," Australia team captain Pat Rafter said.
"We had to take chances and it came back to bite us a bit.
"We put in our best team, but the Germans played some great tennis."
AFPTags: sport, tennis, germany, australia First posted September 17, 2012 05:49:32