Australia’s Davis Cup triumph over Kazakhstan in Darwin last Sunday saw Lleyton Hewitt turn back the clock with a vintage performance.
Hewitt sealed Australia’s come-from-behind win over brave opposition, keeping alive faint hopes of a fairytale finish to the career of Australia’s greatest ever Davis Cup player.
Sunday’s reverse singles saw stand-in captain Wally Masur make key personnel changes, with Sam Groth replacing Nick Kyrgios and Hewitt replacing Thanasi Kokkinakis.
Having already pegged back the deficit in the tie to 2-1 with Saturday’s doubles win, both Groth and Hewitt were raring to go.
Groth arguably scored the greatest win of his career with a hard-fought four-set win over Mikhail Kukushkin, thus writing the script perfectly for the Hewitt finish that Australia’s tennis-loving public wanted to see.
Meanwhile, Hewitt was in rare form as he defeated Aleksandr Nedovyesov 7-6 (2), 6-2, 6-3 and turned back the clock for the raucous fans in Darwin and those viewing at home.
Time and time again, ‘Rocky’, as Hewitt has been known throughout his career, demonstrated the fighting spirit we’ve all grown to love. He showed glimpses of his old self, reminding us on more than one occasion why he is known as one of the greatest serve returners the modern game has seen.
His trademark clutch volleys and overheads were on display as well as his cries of “C’mon!” throughout the match. Once the first set was won in a tight tie-breaker, it was quite an emphatic performance with Hewitt getting stronger as the match wore on.
The instant Hewitt won his match and secured the tie, he was mobbed by his teammates.
Who was the first there? Kyrgios.
It was pure passion, beautiful, and it made me smile. I believe there is still hope for Kyrgios.
I’ll be the first to admit that I have been one of Kyrgios’ harshest critics in recent times.
Indeed, between the meltdowns at Wimbledon followed by the ones on Friday in the opening singles rubbers, he’s not doing himself any favours to win over crowd support and the love of the Australian public.
What is clear though, is the positive influence Lleyton Hewitt has in the inner sanctum of Australian tennis.
Whatever happens after his retirement post the Australian Open in January, I would be making sure Hewitt has a job for life, and Davis Cup Captain is surely a suitable role.
However, those that have short memories forget very easily that our beloved Aussie battler – the scrapper – was once the subject of similar ill-feeling as Kyrgios is receiving currently.
In the 2001 US Open, days before he was to famously annihilate Pete Sampras at Arthur Ashe Stadium, Hewitt was labelled a ‘racist’ by international media after a run-in with a linesman during a match with American player James Blake.
In addition, there were many out in the media and public that were put off by the brashness, fist-pumping and passionate play that Hewitt brought to the court.
He was certainly a far cry from the more reserved demeanour of Pat Rafter, the darling of Australian tennis for so long.
If we fast-forward fifteen years, Hewitt is about to depart as one of the most revered figures in tennis of recent times. With a Wimbledon added less than twelve months after his US Open triumph, as well holding the record as the youngest ever World Number One, Hewitt has cemented himself as a legend of the game.
His on-court record speaks for itself, and that’s before you even begin the long-list of Davis Cup records he holds.
The Australian public adore Hewitt for his passion.
I repeat – there is hope for Kyrgios.
We’ve got to remind ourselves that he is 2O years old and he has the talent to take him to very pinnacle of the sport. We should work with him, not against him.
Without knowing the exact specifics, there does seem to be some fundamental issues surrounding the management of Tennis Australia.
All sides have got to come together and resolve differences to chart a new way forward.
It begins with the players and the associated staff, then it must look at the employees and the management of Tennis Australia.
Everyone involved needs to be on the same page, Australian tennis has been in a dark place for a number of years.
We’ve now got the potential to come in from the wilderness and create a legacy for generations of tennis players and fans, But the change must start at the top and include all stakeholders having a willingness to work as a team.
Australia has the talent. If we’re at full strength, the choices are quite phenomenal and unlike anything we’ve had for a long time.
Kyrgios and Kokkinakis will hopefully be the backbone of Australia’s Davis Cup team for a decade.
Groth is in career-best form. The world’s fastest serve is a great asset to have. As an added bonus he is forming a promising doubles combination with Hewitt.
If you add Bernard Tomic into the mix, the team is world-class on talent alone. There is talent beyond them too.
If Australian tennis can manage to sort out some personnel issues, is it too much to dream of Australia winning it’s first Davis Cup since 2003?
We’ve got the talent and the heart. There’s not a doubt in my mind it’s possible, and Hewitt deserves the fairytale finish.