Australia's Lleyton Hewitt was solidly beaten by Germany's Florian Mayer on Saturday (AEST) to level the Davis Cup World Group play-off match 1-1 after teenager Bernard Tomic's earlier win over German Cedrik-Marcel Stebe.
In a high-quality match, Mayer needed just over two hours to earn a 7-5, 6-3, 6-2 win over ex-world number one Hewitt to level the scores ahead of tonight's doubles and the two decisive singles rubbers starting on Sunday night (AEST).
Hewitt did not appear to be at 100 per cent fitness, finding lateral movement difficult on the slow surface.
Once the German made the break in the second set after taking a tight opener, there was always going to be only one winner.
The Australian team is bidding to return to the World Group for the first time since 2007, but 31-year-old Hewitt, now ranked 100 in the world, had few answers on Hamburg's clay-court against 25th-ranked Mayer.
"Florian played well from the start, I tried to weather the storm throughout the first set," said Hewitt.
"I had a small opportunity to break him late in the first set and I was only a few points away from winning it.
"I wanted to put some scoreboard pressure on him and let him know he'd have to go to four sets to win. But after he won the first set and his confidence was up, he was hard to stop."
"Tomorrow's doubles is a crucial match, but no different from what we have been preparing for," Hewitt added.
Australian team captain Pat Rafter said he was satisfied to end day one with honours even.
"I was feeling pretty happy after the first game, Lleyton did little wrong, but Florian played a great game of tennis," Rafter said.
"Things could be worse, we still have a chance and this is not a bad position to be in."
Mayer was extremely impressive in his singles tie, his powerful groundstrokes and ball placement constantly putting Hewitt under pressure.
"Of course I was under pressure, but from the first set, I really relaxed and felt good out there. I played some good tennis," said the 28-year-old Mayer.
"That was a world-class performance from Florian," beamed Germany captain Patrik Kuehnen. "I am relieved that we got back level, 1-1 is okay after the first day."
Earlier, Tomic put the guests ahead with a 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4) victory over Stebe in a marathon opener which lasted three hours and 17 minutes.
"I am really happy, it wasn't a good feeling being down after the first set," admitted the 19-year-old Tomic.
"He was playing some really good tennis, but I managed to fight my way out of it. He played a really, really good opening set.
"He played some top 20 tennis out there, he has had some good results on clay and I had to play my heart out to get the win."
Stebe, ranked 127th in the world, upset the form book by taking the first set 6-2 against 19-year-old Tomic, who is ranked 42nd, after breaking the Australian early.
After a slow start, Stuttgart-born Tomic responded impressivly by taking the second, then the third set at Hamburg's clay-court Rothenbaum stadium.
Feeling the pressure, Stebe, 21, made 25 unforced errors in the third set alone which lasted 61 minutes, but quickly tightened his game considerably.
The fourth set went down to a tie-break after Stebe raced into a 3-0 lead, buoyed by the home crowd, but Tomic twice broke back to make it 4-2 before the Australian levelled at 4-all, then held his nerve to win the tie-breaker.
ABC/AFPTags: sport, tennis, germany First posted September 15, 2012 08:12:43