Newcombe wants to fight on

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John Newcombe, the former Wimbledon champion, wants to stay on as captain of the Australian Davis Cup squad despite their dismal record under his leadership.

Australia were beaten 3-2 by Hungary in Budapest at the weekend, dropping out of the elite World Group for the first time. Last year, Australia only stayed in the World Group by defeating New Zealand.

Newcombe made a controversial decision to name the 18-year-old Mark Philippoussis and Todd Woodbridge as Australia's singles players against Hungary.

Woodbridge, who never had played a Davis Cup singles before, lost both rubbers to lower-ranked players, while Philippoussis was 1-1, but lost the tie's decider.

Newcombe's two-year contract now has expired. Nominations for the captaincy will open shortly and an appointment is expected to be made next month. Newcombe said yesterday that he and the squad's coach, Tony Roche, who succeeded Neale Fraser in early 1994, were confident of turning Australia's fortunes around if they are reappointed.

"People like Tony and myself are at our most dangerous after a loss like this," Newcombe said. "We're not going to leave the guys now when they're all feeling miserable. There's a job to do and we're going to make sure we do it.

"Our feeling is that we have a tremendous team spirit. We're a tightly knit group. We're disappointed but determined to get back. I'm certain we have 150 per cent support from all the players."

The series of Australian losses under the leadership of Newcombe and Roche contrasts with successes under Fraser, who took over the team in 1970 from the legendary Harry Hopman and stayed as captain for 23 years. He won four Davis Cups as captain, the most recent in 1986.

With 26 Davis Cups, Australia is second on the all-time winners' list, behind the United States.