If I had to describe Lleyton Hewitt in three words, it would be: charismatic, tenacious and feisty. It is Hewitt’s 17th and last year on the professional circuit and never have we doubted for a moment, his willingness to succeed and his determination to beat the odds. His storied Wimbledon career came to a close last night with a five set loss to Jarkko Nieminen 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 6-0, 11-9. He has carried Australian tennis for the best part of 10 years and now is the time to pass the baton to a new generation of Australians.
By the time he draws the curtain at next year’s Australian Open, he will undoubtedly be Australia’s greatest player since John Newcombe. His commitment to Davis Cup has been phenomenal, winning in 1999 and 2003 and is currently the captain in waiting. I find it harsh to describe Hewitt as a stop-gap player, by that I mean his best years fell between the times of Sampras/Agassi and Federer/Nadal. He was unique in his own professional way, yelling his famous “cmons”, his vicht salutes and lawnmower pulling.
Several injuries should of ended his career, including a toe reconstruction in 2012, but time and time again he soldiered on and proved the doubters wrong. It is very reassuring to hear that Hewitt is interested in mentoring Australia’s next generation, including Kyrgios and Tomic who are still several years from realizing their potential. Both men are currently inside the top 30 and five in total in the top 100. That is in stark contrast to 2011, when there were no Australian men in the top 100. Lleyton Hewitt has left Australian tennis in safe hands for the next five years at least and left behind an enduring legacy.