Hewitt stunned by personal attack
September 12, 2005 - 3:29PM
Lleyton Hewitt has left Flushing Meadows without the US Open trophy and bewildered about a scathing personal attack on him and his entourage from the New York Times.
A story headlined "The only thing worse than c'mon! is incessant yes" - which also made its way into several major newspapers in Australia last week - said Hewitt was "self-absorbed" and surrounded by "yes men".
The article, written by Selena Roberts, also compared Australia's former world No.1 unfavourably to current top dog Roger Federer and has incensed Team Hewitt.
"The meaning of a number depends on who is No.1. As an ex-No.1, Lleyton Hewitt pulled off a rarity for him as he scurried around Arthur Ashe Stadium on Tuesday without offending a linesman with a slur, infuriating his opponent with an obscene gesture or irritating the crowd with his excessive "C'mons", the story began.
"He didn't have enough time. It took only 94 minutes for Hewitt to dispense of Dominik Hrbaty in the fourth round of the US Open. Hewitt saved his tasteless remarks for later, when he poked at the holes cut into the shoulder blades of Hrbaty's shirt.
Hewitt is unvarnished, irascible and impolitic. In other words, he hasn't changed a bit since he was the No.1 player in 2001 and 2002, when he created a trail of charged feuds with players and legal disputes with the ATP. He is as self-absorbed as ever.
"The difference in depth between Hewitt and Federer, and the divergence in their approach to No.1, is certainly two parts personality but at least one part entourage. Hewitt is surrounded by a bevy of yes men and sycophantic handlers, while Federer has chosen an agent-less existence, grounded by a girlfriend/manager who will tell the emperor off."
Before leaving New York, Hewitt's manager Robert Aivatoglou said Team Hewitt had been stunned at the criticism.
"Lleyton's disappointed. He doesn't understand where the motivation for this type of article comes from," Aivatoglou said.
"I'm not sure where it came from and I couldn't help but feel it was a personal attack. Why would you suddenly want to dig up or dredge up some old material."
Hewitt's behaviour in years gone by has polarised fans at Flushing Meadows, with many admiring his fighting spirit and as many others unable to relate to his often bullish ways.
The 24-year-old put himself offside with locals in 2001 when he was accused of making a racial slur in a five-set win over Afro-American James Blake.
But other than copping a $US1000 ($A1,300) fine for an audible obscenity during his second-round win over Jose Acasuso, Hewitt's on-court demeanour could not be faulted at this year's Open.
He actually appeared strangely subdued in several matches.
"You look at his behaviour and there's been absolutely nothing you could point your finger at him for," Aivatoglou said.
"When he said he wouldn't wear Hrbaty's shirt, everyone was laughing in the press room. Even Hrbaty had a smirk on his face when he was told.
"And to say Lleyton is surrounded by 'yes men' ... there is no way (coach) Roger (Rasheed) would put up with any of that shit."
Aivatoglou said he was unsure whether Hewitt had contacted former fiance Kim Clijsters to congratulate the Belgian on her breakthrough victory in Saturday's women's final.
"I think he was pleased she won," he said.
"She's been a great player for a long time and she deserves a major."