GAME, SET & MATCH
Why this Australian Open will be Lleyton Hewitt’s last
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 Homeand 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.”
PREVIEW SHOW, MONDAY, 9AM, 7TWO; TOURNAMENT BEGINS 10AM, MONDAY, SEVEN/7TWO; 6PM, 7MATE