Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge tip Lleyton Hewitt to fight back to world's top 30
SHATTERED by Australian Open elimination, Lleyton Hewitt will return to the world's top 30 by season's end, according to former Davis Cup team-mates Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge.
Hewitt, 31, yesterday grimly reconciled straight-sets defeat to Serbian eighth seed Janko Tipsaervic.
But he will soon embark on a busy schedule his supporters hope will rapidly lead to signficant rankings gains.
The former world champion will slip from No.81 to about No.115 after the Open but Woodforde and Woodbridge predict it will be a brief exile from the top 100.
"I called the match last night on radio and I was shocked - I shouldn't be shocked - at the quality of tennis from both Janko and Lleyton," Woodforde said."It just shows when Lleyton's fully fit, what's he's capable of.
"He played to a top 10 guy who had to play almost to his limit to get through that match.
"If he can play like that, he's going to chop his ranking in half very, very quickly.
"I think he's certainly pushing top 20."
Woodbridge, Tennis Australia's head of professional tennis, says Wimbledon and US Open winner Hewitt's progress will hinges on fitness.
"It's a matter of him staying injury-free," Woodbridge said."If you look at his schedules over the last five years, he hasn't been able to play a full or proper schedule.
"He's got to be able to keep his body in line with that to be able to get the matches, the confidence and the ranking up.
"Can he do that? Absolutely - he's got that quality.
"It's up to whether the body can sustain the intensity needed to do that."He can definitely get to top 50 and definitely top 30.
"Higher than that comes about through getting through matches like and getting the confidence to knock the big guys off at the big tournaments.
"At the moment, the draws aren't allowing him that space right now."
Hewitt's next outing will be in Davis Cup against Chinese Taipei in Kaoshiung City from February 1-3. He will then contest Memphis, San Jose, Indian Wells and Miami.