If there was ever a time to reflect upon the state of Australian men’s tennis, it would be now. Currently the hopes of Australia rest on the shoulders of controversial teen Bernard Tomic, Manrinko Metosevic, and up-and-comer Matt Ebden.
Tomic, who has slid to 42 in the world, is the spoilt star sensation of Aussie tennis who never fails to stay out of the media’s sight, whether good or bad.
Ebden on the other hand, has been viewed as the quiet achiever, a person who Davis Cup captain Pat Rafter describes as, “a player who is always willing to learn”.
In the midst of this, one Aussie legend has been left out to dry. People say he’s had his time in the sun, and should call it quits. He begs to differ. That’s right, I’m talking about the Aussie terrier Lleyton Hewitt. Sound familiar?
9/11 scarred the year of 2001, but that didn’t stop Hewitt from reaching the pinnacle of men’s tennis. He captured the US Open and the Masters Cup, thus earning him the privilege of being acknowledged as the best in world.
A year later he followed the footsteps of his childhood icon Pat Cash and won Wimbledon. He also became the youngest world number 1 at the age of 20.
But it’s not all been a glorious ride for Hewitt. He had that racial spat with James Blake in 01, then a verbal contest with Guillermo Coria in 2005, as well as the spitting and bumping incidents at the 05 Aussie Open.
After a torrid time with his body, Hewitt earlier this year found himself languishing at 233 in the world. As a result, many stated that Hewitt was finished, a spent force, whose duty as a father had caught up with his tennis aspirations.
In that case, what type of legacy has the South Australian left us with? A troubled star was always on the wrong side of the media and other players, or a fighter, a typical Aussie counterpuncher who refused to surrender and who motored across the court, retrieving balls with sense of passion and desire which never faded?
In my opinion he should be remembered as the fighter, the stalwart who never failed to give 100%. For you see, those same qualities have enabled Hewitt revive himself.
At Wimbledon in 2009, Hewitt turned back the clock to send Juan Martin Del Potro packing. Then in the fourth round, he produced a trademark comeback from two sets down to beat Radek Stepanek and enter his first quarter-final of a major since the 2006 US Open.
Then a year later he conquered arguably the toughest task in tennis. He shocked Rodger Federer at the 2010 Halle Championships in Germany, a tournament in which Federer had not been beaten in his past 20 matches. This saw Hewitt snap a long and painful losing streak against the Swiss maestro, dating back to his heroic and pulsating victory in the 2003 Davis Cup semi-Final.
This year alone at the Australian Open, Hewitt defeated serving sensation Milos Raonic at the 2012 Aussie Open, a tournament in which no one expected Hewitt to get past the first round, let alone set up a clash with world number 1 Novak Djokovic.
In that match alone, few rated Hewitt a chance of troubling Djokovic. But again Hewitt defied the odds. He pushed Novak Djokovic to his limits by erasing a 3-0 deficit in the third set, winning it 6-3.
Ultimately he succumbed, but his efforts were deemed to be the perfect way to close the curtains. He was sore, battered and forgotten but rose to produce a display that people could hardly forget.
The tears dripping from his eyes after the Raonic match exemplified the pain he was in, but at the same time showed he had shut the critics up. He had run down Raonic on one leg and had given Djokovic his toughest fight. What more could you ask for?
Even at the Olympics, where Bernie had a tournament to forget, Hewitt stood tall and gave Djokovic a fright. As always he fed off the crowd’s energy and thrived in the midst of adversity. Poor old Bernie was caught up in a tanking row, not only with John McEnroe and a journalist, but even Pat had a go at him.
So “C’MON!” For all he has been through and achieved, let Leyton Hewitt decide when it’s time. Surely that’s fitting enough for a true legend of Australian tennis.