Injury-free Hewitt raring to go
Lleyton Hewitt embarks on his first injury-free summer in years at the Brisbane International with his legend mentor Tony Roche warning rivals, including top seed Andy Murray, he has no fear.
After an intense off-season, Hewitt has the hunger and passion back ahead of his first-round clash with Czech Radek Stepanek on Tuesday night.
"This was the first time I played a couple of indoor tournaments towards the end of the year in Europe," Hewitt said on Monday.
"Yeah, feel like I've had a really good off-season this year on the practice court and more so in the gym and doing off court work."
Hewitt said he couldn't remember the last time his body felt so good heading into a new season - and coach Roche said that spelt trouble for his rivals.
"He's feeling good, he's training very, very hard and he's still keen. He still wants to do it and he's not afraid of anyone," said Roche, who knows Hewitt's game as well as anybody.
At 20, Hewitt was the youngest player to be ranked No.1 in the world and now he has found the desire to play again thanks to radical foot surgery earlier this year which saved his career.
Prior to going under the knife, the two-time major winner had been struggling to build any momentum with his worsening toe injury gradually eroding his speed advantage and fitness edges.
Roche is tipping fans will see a revitalised Hewitt at Pat Rafter Arena on New Year's Day after improving his world ranking more than 100 places to No.83 since his surgery.
The 31-year-old has a tough draw but is confident of seeing off Stepanek, a former champion and runner-up in Brisbane, for the fourth time in five career meetings.
"I always played pretty well against him and then lost to him a couple months ago in Shanghai. He played really well," Hewitt said.
"Yeah, he's a tough competitor. He gives 100 per cent every time he's on the court. He's got an awkward game style to a lot of other guys out there.
"I probably wasn't 100 per cent in Shanghai, so hopefully tomorrow night will be different."
If he reaches the final eight, Hewitt will likely meet tournament favourite and world No.3 Murray, a confrontation he knows would bring out his charge's renowned fighting spirit.
"It'd be nice to have a shot at him at some stage," Hewitt said before the main draw was carried out.
Roche is clearly excited about seeing his protege so passionate about his tennis again.
"The last three years, the big thing is he hasn't been able to get any momentum going," Roche said.
"He played well at the Australian (Open last January), we had a Davis Cup match after that and then he had to go and have surgery.
"It's been stop-start and, for a sportsman, that's a hard thing."