Wayne Arthurs is heading towards his worst finish since 97 when he finished outside of top 300. It is likely that he will retire this year. Mark P will also end the year outside top 100 for three years in a row.
We're in a tennis crisis
By Ron Reed
October 10, 2006 12:00
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TENNIS legend Pat Rafter says the Australian game is in crisis and that Lleyton Hewitt's slide down the rankings may be attributable to him losing interest.
He hinted that the end may be approaching for the former world No.1, who is now out to 19 - and losing ground.
Hewitt was "only just hanging in there'', Rafter said yesterday.
Himself a former No.1 and winner of two US Opens, Rafter was speaking ahead of his induction into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame at tonight's annual dinner in Melbourne.
He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame earlier this year and is thrilled to now be elevated alongside the likes of Sir Donald Bradman, Dawn Fraser, Greg Norman, Betty Cuthbert and Ron Barassi in the all-round pantheon of Australian greats.
Four years into retirement, Rafter said he was not surprised that Hewitt was finding it tougher and certainly didn't blame him for the decline.
"He's been doing it for so long and from such a young age. There's a lot of pressure,'' Rafter said.
Hewitt is 25 and has been a star since he won the Adelaide International at 17.
His impressive record includes winning the US Open in 2001 and Wimbledon in 2002, 68 weeks as No.1 and a major role in two Davis Cup triumphs.
It is less than two years since he made the final of the 2005 Australian Open, losing to Russia's Marat Safin, but he has since married and become a father, which has coincided with a sharp fall in the rankings.
He is, though, still the only Australian man in the top 100, while only Sam Stosur (30) and Nicole Pratt (70) are in double figures among the women.
"One in the top 100 - I'd consider that a crisis. It's as flat as we have seen it,'' Rafter said.
"But there is one guy capable of winning a lot of tournaments and I hope he can keep going for a while.''
Rafter was referring to Hewitt, of course, but agreed his old Davis Cup teammate appeared to be coming down the other side of the mountain.
"He is tired,'' Rafter said. "He may get a second wind, I'm not sure.''
Asked if there was a chance Hewitt might drop out altogether, Rafter said: "I wouldn't know - but we'd be in trouble then, wouldn't we?
"I wouldn't like to be the Davis Cup captain then.''
Asked if there was any way back, he said: "Yeah, he's got his finger on the pulse, he's just got to keep away from (Roger) Federer and (Rafael) Nadal (the two top-ranked players) as much as possible.''
Rafter said he wasn't surprised that Hewitt, who is nursing an injury, would not play for the rest of the year.
"The end of the year is a tough trip - it's no fun,'' he said.
Rafter says for everyone there comes a point when "you've got to look at yourself and ask what else am I going to do''.
"I reached a point where I had had enough and I was satisfied with my decision,'' Rafter said. "He will be too when he makes his decision.''
Rafter will be one of four inductees into the Hall of Fame - former Richmond footballer Kevin Bartlett is one of the others - which brings the number of full members, living and dead, to 342.
He is on the same wavelength as the organisation's chairman, sailing hero John Bertrand, who has created a "spirit of sport'' ethos to encourage the nation's youth to make the most of the opportunities sport - and life - can provide.
"This sporting culture thing, we've lost our way a bit, and that goes for the whole world,'' Rafter said. "It needs a boost.''
Rafter is the father of Joshua, 4, and India, 16 months, and says he is already "taking a firm stand'' on making sure the elder one is not stuck in front of the TV or playing computer games.
The Hall of Fame will also elevate a member to official Legend status and present The Don award to the most inspirational athlete of the year.
Who will save Lleyton? Who will receive AO WC?