(link has aerial pic as well)
(link has aerial pic as well)
December 2, 2007
C'MON! Even when the ball is in his court - in his own backyard - it seems Lleyton Hewitt just can't hit a winner these days.
Desperate to make next month's Australian Open title his - after years of whingeing about how the old "slow" surface at Rod Laver Arena has cheated him - Hewitt decided to spend up to $50,000 on a replica of the newly relaid court, complete with the latest "fast" Plexicushion surface, built at his $3million Sydney hideaway.
But the tennis gods - presumably named Roger and Rafael - had other ideas. Or perhaps Hewitt's father, Glynn, who is understood to have been overseeing construction of the new courts, didn't grasp his son's very specific instructions.
The upshot is that despite Hewitt and his wife, Bec, receiving council approval to build two tennis courts on their two-hectare property, a bungle has resulted in neither court being constructed with the Plexicushion surface. And Hewitt is furious.
"Lleyton's court is as slow as a wet week," a source said. "He's immensely, immensely disappointed. It's not what he expected and not what he wanted."
The mix-up has scuppered Hewitt's plan to hole up with Bec, baby Mia, and coach Tony Roche at his Kenthurst property, in north-west Sydney, over the coming weeks to finetune his Australian Open preparation.
Instead, he will be forced to spend more time than anticipated at Sydney's Homebush Bay, where the courts have the same surface as those at Melbourne Park.
Hewitt's long-running battle with Tennis Australia over the slow surface at the Australian Open came to a head two years ago when the former world No.1 screamed "fix the courts" during a disappointing second-round defeat against Argentina's Juan Ignacio Chela.
Over the years, he had several run-ins with former open director Paul McNamee over Melbourne's Rebound Ace courts. Frustrated at failing to nab the elusive title - despite conquering Wimbledon and the US Open - Hewitt repeatedly told McNamee the Melbourne Park courts were too slow and that Australia's best players, who mostly prefer a quicker surface, should be given what they wanted.
This year he got his wish: the Rebound Ace surfaces were ripped up and replaced with the faster Plexicushion surface in readiness for next year's championship.
But Hewitt's cunning plan to have his own replica court at home on which to sharpen his winning edge has fallen wide of the line.
"I haven't seen the court at Lleyton's home, but my understanding is that it was not built by the same company we used for our courts in Melbourne," Australian Open director Craig Tiley said. "The WM Loud company are the only suppliers of this court in Australia."
Hewitt's manager, David Drysdale, confirmed neither of Hewitt's private courts were the same as the Australian Open model.
Mr Tiley said the relaid courts would threaten the famously quick hard courts of the US Open for speed.