Lleyton Hewitt could face huge Djokovic task at last Wimbledon — just the way he likes it

Lleyton Hewitt could face Novak Djokovic in the second round of his final Wimbledon, but as Ahmed Rizvi explains, that is preciesly the sort of challenge, the Australian relishes.
Lleyton Hewitt's unforgiving style and conduct on court made him a divisive figure but ultimately a highly-respected one. Joe Castro / EPA
Lleyton Hewitt's unforgiving style and conduct on court made him a divisive figure but ultimately a highly-respected one. Joe Castro / EPA

Nasty. That is the best word to describe the draw Lleyton Hewitt has been handed for his Wimbledon farewell.

The former world No 1, who won Wimbledon in 2002, will face Jarko Nieminen first and if he gets past the veteran Finn, the 34-year-old wild card will run into Novak Djokovic, the defending champion.

Harsh, but perhaps Hewitt would have preferred it that way for he has always enjoyed a good fight; a battle against Djokovic will be a perfect swansong after 17 consecutive visits to Wimbledon, and the thought of a potential showdown against the world No 1 should hopefully get the adrenaline kicking for his opening-round match.

Hewitt made his first appearance at the tournament in 1999 as a ruthless 18-year-old tyro and played doubles with Roger Federer that year.


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“I think for a baseliner, he was the first guy really from the baseline to have such a major impact as well,” 17-time grand-slam champion Federer said in tribute. “I’ve always enjoyed watching him.

“Playing against him has been cool at times, not always so much fun — a feisty competitor, one of the toughest I always had to play against.

“I wish that he can play a good match, a good tournament, that he can enjoy Wimbledon after for what it is.”

Hewitt’s fans will be hoping for the same too, for he deserves a grand send-off after 19 years of action-packed service. A huge fan of the Rocky movies, he has been one of the fiercest competitors tennis has seen, and he has had to pay a heavy price for that competitiveness.

The Australian has had five major surgeries over the past six years — on both his hips and the chronically arthritic and badly mis-shapen big toe on his left foot that required a metal plate to lock it into position.

The two-time grand slam champion had to learn to walk and run again after that, but, incredibly, he still managed to win two titles last year. Now, he believes he has earned the right to put his feet up and dreams of a post-retirement world without pain, surgeries and rehabilitation.

“Now I can just sit back and just chill out for a bit, enjoy, not having to set an alarm and go to the gym and do all the small things,” he said last week.

Tennis will miss his feisty presence, that screaming, nasty cap-on-backwards rebel who ushered in a new era of champions.


Published: June 28, 2015 04:00 AM


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