This is the first time I open a thread on LLL. I know we still have a few days to go before Melbourne but I read that article on the website and I liked it: Lleyton's first memories at the aussie open.
(my apologies if it has been posted already)
Centenary Book Extract - Lleyton Hewitt
by Lleyton Hewitt
Wednesday, 1 December, 2004
A coffee table-style book, Our Open - 100 Years of Australia's Grand Slam marks the Centenary of the Australian Open with 12 first-person accounts of the Open written by some of the greats of Australian tennis. In this extract from the book, Lleyton Hewitt recalls his early years of competition at the Grand Slam he calls home.
I would have been seven when I made my first trip to Melbourne Park. And I have been back every year since then. As I got older, I would play junior tournaments in Melbourne, and then I’d go and watch the guys practice as soon as the gates opened. I can still remember watching (Ivan) Lendl and Rochie (Tony Roche) playing one morning on Show Court 1 (now Margaret Court Arena)... it inspired me.
In 1997, I was the youngest player ever to qualify. I was a little bit shocked as I didn’t have an ATP point at the time and I’d only played a couple of satellite events.
I was just 15 and I received a wildcard into qualifying and didn’t have any expectations, I just wanted to get the experience. I remember getting the courtesy car into Melbourne Park and being in the locker rooms with all the players.
I was very nervous – I hardly slept at all when I had to play the third round of qualifying. I played a guy from England, Mark Petchy, who does a bit of commentary around the place now, and a few people are giving him a bit of grief about losing to a 15-year-old.
I didn’t know what to think after I’d qualified. It was an incredible feeling to go out there and play Sergi Bruguera in the first round – a guy who had won two French Opens and had been ranked as high as three or four in the world – on Show Court 3. It was pretty amazing for me.
The next year I won Adelaide in the lead-up tournament and received a wildcard. I played Daniel Vacek, from the Czech Republic, who was a top-20 or 30 player in the first round.
I was the first match to open up centre court that year on the opening Monday morning and went down two-sets-to-love. I fought back to two-sets-all and ended up losing in five sets. It was my first five-set experience and my second Grand Slam.
I stayed around the tournament in 2002, even it was disappointing at the time. I had finished the year as No.1 and I’d put in the preparation and felt that I was hitting the ball really well and then went and got chickenpox at the Hopman Cup.
I couldn’t hit a ball and wasn’t allowed to fly from Perth to Melbourne with other people, so I had to hire a jet. I wasn’t able to practise for a few days, so I went in not knowing what to expect. I knew I had to get through my matches very quickly because I didn’t have the legs and endurance. I hit the wall after one set against Alberto Martin. It was disappointing watching the tournament unfold and knowing that if I was fully fit I could handle a lot of the guys who were winning.
The ultimate historic and photographic record of the Australian Open, Our Open - 100 Years of Australia's Grand Slam contains a foreword by Rod Laver and contributions from Len Schwartz, Thelma Long, Frank Sedgman, Roy Emerson, Ken Rosewall, Margaret Court, Evonne Goolagong Cawley, John Newcombe, Pat Cash, Pat Rafter and Lleyton Hewitt. Click here to order a copy of Our Open - 100 Years of Australia's Grand Slam from the AO Shop Online.