Andy Murray in Lleyton Hewitt's crosshairs at Brisbane International
LLEYTON Hewitt wants a blockbuster Brisbane International showdown with world No.3 Andy Murray - the player he believes can claim more top honours now that he has shaken the Grand Slam monkey off his back.
Hewitt had predicted Murray's imminent breakthrough prior to the London Olympics and now that the Brit has netted that title and a thrilling US Open win, many believe more major triumphs are on the horizon.
World No.83 Hewitt has not played Murray since his one and only loss at San Jose in 2006 and would relish the opportunity to face one of the world's top four players to help prime him for another Australian Open assault.
"Murray is the main guy in the field again and you don't really want to come up against him first round, but it'd be nice to have a shot at him at some stage," Hewitt said at the Queensland Tennis Centre yesterday.
"I think it could really open the door for Murray to do well now (after winning the US Open). Once he got that first one off his back I think the pressure is really off him and he can go out there and play some good tennis.
"While Grand Slam success is all that is motivating Hewitt now, his record against the quartet of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Murray and Rafael Nadal suggests the Australian needs as much practice as he can get.
His win over Roger Federer in the final at Halle in 2010 is Hewitt's only success from 20 matches against the top-four in the past six years.
Hewitt predicted world No.6 Thomas Berdych and No.7 Juan Martin Del Potro to be the best challengers among the current top 10 for Grand Slam success next year, but added everyone faced a gigantic common hurdle.
"You probably have to beat at least two or three of those guys in a row to win a Grand Slam," Hewitt said.
"That is the toughest thing at the moment."
But for Hewitt, that prospect is more attainable now than in recent years after he finally overcame debilitating injuries that required five surgeries in the past four years.
He has completed a full summer training program, is moving more freely on the court and enters his first tournament in Brisbane on December 30 with a clear mindset.
"I feel younger than 12 months ago, I don't need injections every day to get out there and mentally that makes me feel a lot better," he said.
"Last year was really tough going in. I couldn't practice nearly as much as I wanted to and I couldn't do the off court work either, which was frustrating.
"This year so far it's been fantastic, the foot has held up extremely well and the rest of the body is holding up well.
"I'm enjoying practice and in the gym so much more because I'm not in pain every day.
"The motivation is still there and I've done so much hard work to put myself back in this kind of position to compete against the best guys out there and hopefully I can do it over the next four or five weeks."