It’s funny how life has a way of making us humble sometimes isn’t it?
Having said that, it was only a few years ago when Australian, Lleyton Hewitt and American, Andy Roddick were being hailed as tennis’ future and a pair who were expected to produce one of their sport’s greatest rivalries. Roddick, has won a grand total of one Grand Slam in his career and Hewitt has been almost as disappointing, with only two in his trophy case. Even worse, both players have been surpassed by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, the world’s number one and two players respectively.
At any rate, this article isn’t about both Hewitt and Roddick, it’s all about Hewitt, whom I must say, is generally described as a first-class jerk.
Hewitt is a two-time Grand Slam champion, having won the 2001 U.S. Open and 2002 Wimbledon men’s single’s titles. He is also known, unfortunately, for his verbally abusive language on the court as well as with media members off the court. Hewitt has also been fined on numerous occasions for not attending press conferences.
Born in Adelaide, South Australia, Hewitt became one of the youngest winners of an (ATP) tournament when, as an almost unknown youngster, he won the 1998 Adelaide International, defeating Andre Agassi in the semifinals. Over the next two years Hewitt quickly progressed up the world rankings and eventually became the youngest person in the history of tennis to be ranked number one (20 years old).
In January, 2000 while competing in a home town event, he played against a fellow townsman. Upset after being heckled by members of the crowd when he disputed a line call, Hewitt claimed that he could not believe some people in the crowd were cheering for his opponent against him.
“It’s weird, but I think that’s just the stupidity of the Australian public; you always knock the better players,” Hewitt said. A month later the readers of Australian sports magazine, Inside Sport, rated Hewitt Australia’s least admired sports person. Hewitt’s first grand slam tournament win was at the US Open in 2001, where he defeated then-four time champion Pete Sampras in straight sets. The US Open was also the site of one of Hewitt’s biggest controversies.
In a five set match with James Blake, an African-American, Hewitt complained to umpire Andres Egli and asked for a black linesman to be removed after being called for two foot-faults in the third set.
“Look at him,” Hewitt said, gesturing at the linesman. “Look at him and you tell me what the similarity is.” Some witnesses, including Blake, had suggested that the “similarity” referred to the color shared by Blake and the linesman. Hewitt was asked about the incident after the match and vehemently denied that the remark was racist.
Hewitt claimed he had merely pointed out that the same linesman had foot-faulted him on both occasions, while other officials had made no such calls. The umpire also inferred no racial overtones to Hewitt’s complaint.
Hewitt followed his U.S. Open win with a victory at Wimbledon in 2002 defeating David Nalbandian, showing the world that though the tournament had tended to be dominated by serve-and-volleyers, a baseliner like Hewitt could still triumph on grass. He became the first baseliner to win the tournament since Andre Agassi did it ten years earlier.
Hewitt was a part of the Australian Davis Cup team which won the Davis Cup in 1999 and 2003, and reached the finals in 2000 and 2001. At the age of 22, he had recorded more wins in Davis Cup singles than any other Australian player. After his 2002 Wimbledon victory, Hewitt’s game and his ATP ranking began to slip as he became engaged in a legal fight with the ATP and began focusing more on Davis Cup matches than on ATP events. Recently, however, he has reshaped his game and returned his attention to the ATP tour.
In 2003 as the defending champion, he lost in the first round of Wimbledon to qualifier, Ivo Karlovic. Hewitt became the first defending Wimbledon men’s champion since tennis turned professional in 1968 to lose in the first round. In fact, only once before in the tournament’s 126-year history, had a men’s champion lost in the opening round when in 1967 Manuel Santana was beaten by Charlie Pasarell. Hewitt picked up another unwanted record as he became only the third defending champion to lose in the first round of a Grand Slam, after Boris Becker in the 1997 Australian Open and Pat Rafter in the 1999 US Open. Hewitt then didn’t play for the rest of the 2003 season in order to add more muscle to his physique.
In 2004, he became the first man in history to lose in each Grand Slam to the eventual champion. In the Australian Open, he was defeated in the fourth round by Roger Federer; in the French Open he was defeated by Argentine GastÃ?Â³n Gaudio in the quarterfinals; at Wimbledon, he was defeated by Federer in the quarterfinals; and at the US Open, he was defeated in the finals, again by Federer. Hewitt did defeat Roddick to advance to the final of the 2004 Tennis Masters Cup, but was yet again defeated by defending champion – that’s right, Roger Federer.
In 2005, Hewitt won his only title at the Sydney Medibank International and reached his first Australian Open final by defeating Roddick but was defeated byMarat Safin.
At Wimbledon he lost to Federer in the semifinal while Federer went on the win the event for the third time. Almost three months later he again lost to Federer in the U.S. Open semifinal although he was able the take one set from the Swiss. Hewitt had at this point lost to the eventual champion at seven consecutive Grand Slams (he missed the 2005 French Open because of injury).
In late 2005, Hewitt was voted No. 5 on a newspaper poll from Argentina listing the most hated sporting figures in that country. The poll results were published in the months after an explosive Davis Cup quarter-final between Australia and Argentina with insults traded by both sides.
In January 2006 he was voted the 10th most-hated athlete in the USA by GQ Magazine and was the only non-US athlete to make the list.
Now, very rarely will I take pleasure in another man’s angst. However, when it comes to Lleyton Hewitt, it sure has been good to see him take some good ‘ol fashioned whuppings from Federer and some others.
The amazing part to me is that Hewitt still acts as though he is winning Grand Slams on an annual basis. Oh well, I guess some things – and some people – never change.