Lleyton Hewitt proving to be a real-life Rocky Balboa

Recent ATP Tour win shows he still loves to compete against all odds, writes Ahmed Rizvi.

Lleyton Hewitt had seen his ranking dip from No 1 to No 233. The Australian, though, has fought back to 41st in the table. Andrew Cowie / AFP
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“Australianism”, wrote John Arlott, the revered cricket commentator, “means single-minded determination to win – to win within the laws but, if necessary, to the last limit within them. It means where the ‘impossible’ is within the realm of what the human body can do.”

Looking at Lleyton Hewitt, you have to agree – he may even be one of the greatest specimens of Australianism.

The man is 33 and his battered body has been through 18 seasons of tennis, but he refuses to quit.

He has had five major surgeries over the past six years – on both hips and the chronically arthritic and badly misshapen big toe on his left foot that required a metal plate to lock it into position. But he chooses to continue.

A former world No 1, Hewitt had watched his ranking plummet to No 233, but he has battled back to No 41. A two-time grand slam title winner, the Australian has reached beyond the fourth round at the majors just once in his past 28 appearances – a quarter-final at the 2009 Wimbledon – but he still dares to dream.

Most of his contemporaries have long left the scene and he is a father of three now, but Hewitt goes on. He keeps fighting, and winning.

After failing to win a title in three years, Hewitt won his second final of 2014 on Sunday, beating Ivo Karlovic in Newport before coming back to win the doubles. In January, he defeated Roger Federer for the Brisbane title.

“We’ve had some tough times with surgeries the last few years, but it’s nice to know that all that hard work has paid off,” Hewitt said after the Newport win. “I’d like to think if things go my way I can still contend for a slam [title].”

Pat Cash, a former Wimbledon champion, is one of those who believes in his chances. “He’s still very, very competitive,” Cash said at Wimbledon.

The Australian said that Hewitt and Rafael Nadal “are two of the greatest competitors I have ever seen in my life”.

A huge fan of the Rocky movies, Hewitt indeed has been one of the fiercest competitors tennis has seen.

“It’s a movie, but for me I love that fighting spirit, that never-say-die attitude and I think it comes across in the way I play the game,” Hewitt said a few years ago as he talked about his love for the Sylvester Stallone movie series.

“I’m not the sort that gives up very easily. Every time I go out on court, I’m prepared to go to the limit and to put in 150 per cent effort.”

Australianism in a nutshell. As the character Rocky Balboa said: “It ain’t about how hard you hit, it is about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.”


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