Hewitt, the honourable vagrant
Australia's Lleyton Hewitt returns the ball to defending champion Spain's Rafael Nadal. AP Photo/Francois Mori
There’s an old homeless man who lives a few blocks down from where I work. His best days are clearly behind him, but he carries himself in a manner that suggests he could still give mainstream life a shake.
While other vagrants spend their shrapnel on putrid bottles of booze, this guy splurges $3.50 every morning on a cafe latte (with five sugars), as if prepping himself for a long day spent entering data into an Excel spreadsheet.
He wears a fitted tweed jacket and keeps his hair in an unkempt yet somewhat fashionable arrangement, like Jeff ‘The Dude’ Lebowski, or how an elderly Kurt Cobain might have done.
He carries his life possessions inside dozens of eco-friendly Woolworths bags and smokes cigarettes rummaged from rubbish bins; yet, strangely, I feel more comfortable in his presence than amid the hundreds of faceless office stooges that stream down Pitt Street each working day.
His hardworking spirit in the face of obvious decline fills me with hope.
Funnily enough, that’s exactly how I feel about Lleyton Hewitt, too.
It pains me to see that Hewitt’s career is winding down. But Hewitt and this homeless man are both too proud to admit that the end is nigh, that they’ll never be the force they once were.
As such, each will continue to engage in the same routine they’ve always had, getting nowhere, comfortably numb.
For Hewitt, that means swallowing his pride, accepting wildcard entries to tournaments he once dominated, copping first round defeats; for his Sydney-based vagrant counterpart, it’s imitation of CBD life.
Many people question why Hewitt even bothers with professional tennis anymore. Sure, he’s got absolutely no chance of ever winning another grand slam – or even an innocuous WTA tournament – for his time has passed.
Players are taller, stronger, faster and more versatile now. It’s the Hingis syndrome playing itself out again. It’s Darwinian Theory.
But I feel a sense of calmness when I switch on the TV late at night to watch Hewitt do battle at Wimbledon. It’s a different feeling to, say, 10 years ago, when I demanded nothing short of victory.
During the glory days of Australian tennis, I was happy to forego sleep in order to watch Australia’s “Great Hope” do battle on the big stage late into the night.
However, the sands in the hourglass have changed; father time is no longer on the Australian’s side – and we as a country are no longer a tennis powerhouse. But Hewitt keeps turning up each day, giving it a good hard go, displaying the Australian spirit in its most unadulterated form.
In a few short years, Lleyton has gone from being the people’s champion and a genuine grand slam contender, to the “underdog.” But Hewitt will always have that self-belief.
And that’s why he’ll go on for as long as he can, ordering his $3.50 latte as if nothing’s changed. For in his mind, he’s still the corporate banker taking home a six-figure salary.
And if he’s happy with that, then that’s good enough for me.