GAME, SET & MATCH

Why this Aus­tralian Open will be Lley­ton Hewitt’s last

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - FRONT PAGE - By COLIN VICK­ERY

LLEY­TON Hewitt fans bet­ter rel­ish ev­ery se­cond of his com­men­tary for Seven at this year’s Aus­tralian Open.

The 34-year-old is mak­ing no prom­ises he will be back be­hind the mi­cro­phone any time soon.

Cap­tain­ing the Aus­tralian Davis Cup team is set to be Hewitt’s pri­mary fo­cus af­ter he plays his 20th con­sec­u­tive, and fi­nal, Aus­tralian Open.

That is on top of his fam­ily com­mit­ments to wife and

for­mer Home and Away star Bec Hewitt and chil­dren Ava, Mia and Cruz.

Hewitt says he has “no idea” if he will call any fu­ture Aus­tralian Opens for Seven and, un­like for­mer greats such as John McEn­roe, doesn’t en­vis­age a full-blown me­dia ca­reer.

“For me the Davis Cup cap­taincy is the pri­or­ity,” Hewitt says. “(I want) to help the younger boys (play­ers such as Nick Kyr­gios, Sam Groth, Thanasi Kokki­nakis and, po­ten­tially, Bernard Tomic) to do what’s best for them and the team and Aus­tralian ten­nis.

“Com­men­tary is some­thing I en­joy with the Aus­tralian Open, but right at the mo­ment it is not a fo­cus to do it through­out the year.”

That would be TV view­ers’ loss be­cause Hewitt has been a rev­e­la­tion since he joined Seven’s ten­nis com­men­tary team headed by Bruce McA­vaney with US cham­pion Jim Courier.

In his early years, Hewitt di­vided ten­nis fans be­cause of his per­ceived ar­ro­gance. Ver­bal spats – once call­ing um­pire An­dreas Egli “spas­tic” – only hard­ened opin­ion.

In 2012, Hewitt ac­knowl­edged to Ed­die McGuire that his on-court an­tics didn’t sit well with some ten­nis lovers.

“I play with a lot of emo­tion out there – I al­ways have,” Hewitt said. “I guess a lot of peo­ple see this young kid run­ning around mak­ing signs to his play­ers box and yelling ‘come on’ all the time. It turns peo­ple off.”

Hewitt’s per­cep­tive com­men­tary for Seven has shown a dif­fer­ent side to the Aussie cham­pion.

“Over the past cou­ple of years, one of the con­stant things I hear from peo­ple is, ‘How good is Lley­ton, gee we en­joy his com­men­tat­ing, what an in­sight’,” McA­vaney says.

“To have him com­men­tate at this stage of his ca­reer (is a coup). He is still very much in­volved in ten­nis and all the mod­ern trends.

“He hits it off re­ally well with Jim. There is a real mu­tual re­spect be­tween the two of them. It is a great mix.”

Hewitt says that re­spect is mu­tual.

“Bruce and Jim are so pro­fes­sional in what they do – it has been a lot of fun,” Hewitt says. “I just try to give a bit of an in­sight into a player’s per­spec­tive of what’s go­ing on out there.”

Let’s not for­get Hewitt has one last shot at an Aus­tralian Open ti­tle. Hewitt’s los­ing 2005 fi­nal against Marat Safin was one of our most­watched TV events of all time, with more than four mil­lion view­ers.

“It is a phys­i­cal tour­na­ment,” Hewitt says. “The heat comes into it and play­ing on hard courts. You have to do a lot of work pre-sea­son … to get phys­i­cally ready.

“To last seven best-of-fiveset matches is not an easy thing to do at the start of the year. You need a lit­tle bit of luck with the draw.

“Over the last five to 10 years … ev­ery­one’s ground strokes have re­ally im­proved (and) the serve and vol­ley part of the game has pretty much gone.

“A lot of it suc­cess in a grand slam) is about hold­ing serve and tak­ing those one or two points when you get those op­por­tu­ni­ties to break serve. That’s what it boils down to as far as win­ning a close set or not.”

Hewitt is now the el­der states­man, McA­vaney says.

“He’s about to say good­bye. He’s on the farewell tour,” he says.

“I would have thought the na­tion, to a man and a woman, are be­hind him.”

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