Lleyton Hewitt paused for a moment and the word easily came to mind when he was asked how he wanted to be remembered.
“Competitor,” the 41-year-old Hewitt said in an interview before his induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame on Saturday night (Sunday AEST).
“For me, someone that loved to lay it on the line day after day, and got the most out of themselves, I competed as hard as I possibly could on the court every time I took to the court,” said the former Australian star. “The fans deserved for us to give everything and go out and compete, and that’s something I prided myself on.”
Hewitt was elected into the hall as part of the 2021 class, but due to travel restrictions because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he was unable to attend the enshrinement ceremony last summer. There was no one elected for 2022, so the moment was his alone. He’s the 34th player from Australia to be inducted.
The enshrinement ceremony was held on Newport’s grass side courts after the semi-finals of the Hall of Fame Open. Eight hall of famers, including Andy Roddick (2017) and Tracy Austin (’92), attended the event.
A two-time grand slam champion (Wimbledon 2002, US Open 2001), Hewitt finished ’01 and ’02 as the No.1 player in the world and spent 80 weeks top ranked. In 2001, he became the youngest at 20 years, eight months and 26 days to become the top men’s player.
During his career, he won 30 singles titles and was a part of two Davis Cup championship teams, in 1999 and 2003.
One of his most memorable moments was being on his first Davis Cup team in ’99. “I was only 18, I think, at the time. I had Pat Rafter as our top singles player and I was playing No.2 behind him,” he said. “For me that was a really proud moment, to be standing beside all those great Australians that I always idolised and looked up to.”
Hewitt won his last ATP title at Newport in 2014. It was then that the thought of being elected to the hall crossed his mind.
“I was here playing the tournament and I had the career that I had, and I was coming toward the end of my career,” he said in the interview. “A lot of people that I would bump into me would say: ‘I can’t wait to see you back here in a few years’. That was probably the only time that you actually start thinking about it.”
He was a runner-up at the Australian Open in 2005. Despite no regrets, he said that it’s the only thing missing in his career – a slam title in his own country.
“There’s nothing that I would change,” he said. “But something that I wish, obviously, that I was able to achieve. I felt, obviously, I was good enough to do.”
Meanwhile, Australian Davis Cup captain Hewitt will soon catch up with Nick Kyrgios and is hopeful the Wimbledon finalist will be available to play for his country in September.
Australia’s next commitment in two months is group competition against France, Germany and Belgium as they try to qualify for November’s knock-out finals in Spain.
Ties against those European nations in Hamburg, Germany, will be played shortly after the US Open in New York, ending on September 11.
Hewitt wants Kyrgios to profit from the self-belief he gained at his breakthrough grand slam final in London.
“I think the biggest thing for him [Kyrgios] now is having that belief that he belongs there [at that level] and he’s capable of doing it,” Hewitt said. ″We’d love to see him go on with it.”
At Wimbledon, Kyrgios touched on his positive relationship with Hewitt, with whom he’s had differences previously.
Kyrgios had expressed his disappointment at what he said was a lack of support from former Australian men’s champions during his title charge, calling himself an “outcast”, with Hewitt an exception.
“[The only] great that’s ever been supportive of me the whole time has been Lleyton Hewitt,” Kyrgios said.
“He kind of knows that I kind of do my own thing. I’m definitely the outcast of the Australian players. He just sends me a message here or there, [saying] ‘keep going’. That’s literally it – just ‘well done, keep going’.”
Hewitt may have some tough Davis Cup selection decisions after Max Purcell and Matt Ebden combined to win the Wimbledon doubles title.
“Hopefully, we can pick the five strongest players for the team that we’ve got to play in Hamburg,” Hewitt said.
“I’m certainly hopeful [that Nick will make himself available]. I’ve had a couple of discussions with Nick and I’ll be speaking to him in the next week or so again, and catching up with him, and we’ll take it from there.”
AP and Scott Spits
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