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Old 05-13-2011, 07:22 PM   #1
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Default Lleyton Hewitt: Respecting a Great Career

Lleyton Hewitt surged into the tennis spotlight in 1998 when, ranked #550 in the world and not even seventeen years old yet, he won an ATP World Tour tournament in Adelaide. From there, his career took off. Hewitt is a 2-time Grand Slam champion, winning the 2001 US Open and Wimbledon in 2002. He ended both of those years at #1 in the world, winning the year-end championships as well. He has won at least one tournament in every year from 1998-2010, except for an injury-shortened 2008 season. And, of course, Hewitt will always be remembered for winning one of the best points in tennis history, and certainly in recent memory.

Hewitt came into his prime at a time when great tennis players were lacking. The previous generation of greats-Sampras, Agassi, Rafter, etc. were in their decline and no one had yet stepped up to take the mantle from them. The next generation of Federer, Roddick, Ferrero, Davydenko, Nalbandian, etc. were not yet ready to be at the top of the tennis world. That is what made Hewitt so great so early. He matured, both mentally and physically, much faster than his peers. While Federer was still struggling to find consistency and enter the top 10, Hewitt was already a Grand Slam champion and World #1.

The one thing that has held Hewitt back in his entire career was his size. For quite a while he was too small to get as much power on his shots as he would have liked. He spent a good deal of his career trying to bulk up so that he could play a more physical style of baseline tennis. Also, injuries bothered him on-and-off throughout his career. Thankfully, he didn't miss any serious time until he was forced to miss a few months in 2008 with a hip injury.

Now, however, he has been dealing with a foot injury for a few months. He has dropped to #66 in the world and is already ranked low enough that he won't get a direct acceptance into the draws of bigger tournaments (except for Slams, obviously). He has to defend over two-thirds of his points from now until the end of Wimbledon and if he fails to do well could fall well out of the top 100. That would mean that to get into most tournaments he would have to play qualifiers, something I just can't see Hewitt willing to do. Also, he is now building a family with three young children at home. All of this has to lead us to wonder: Is Lleyton Hewitt on the brink of retirement?

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