Lleyton Hewitt leaves behind a legacy for the next generation

Lleyton Hewitt was not yet 16 when he stepped on court as the youngest qualifier in Australian Open history. It was easy to notice that many ball boys were older than Hewitt back in 1997. Now, at 34, Hewitt gets set to walk into retirement from professional tennis at the end of his campaign in his 20th successive home Grand Slam this year.

STREETER LECKA / AFP

Hewitt confesses that he did not believe he would be playing past the age of 30. “I guess a few injuries come up and you come back and you find you’re still motivated. I’m still going out there and trying to do all the right things, I’ve wanted to get my body into as good a shape as possible and prepare, I still feel like I’m hitting the ball pretty well out there,” Hewitt said.

For Sergi Bruguera, the two-time French Open winning Spaniard who played Hewitt in his maiden Grand Slam match, it is science fiction that somebody could play his home Grand Slam for 20 years. “As a tennis player, you knew you had to sweat blood to beat him and he was not going to give you anything. There was no weakness in his game,” Bruguera told Fox Sports Australia.

“He played to beat me, not just to play a good match,” he said. “I remember being impressed that a 15-year-old had qualified for a Grand Slam. He surprised me that he kept adjusting his game throughout the match to compete better and better. He went into the match thinking he would do anything to try to win. You could see his champion mentality even at that age.”

Rafael Nadal, owner of 14 Grand Slam titles, led the praise of Hewitt. “He keeps enjoying the sport, kept showing the passion on court every time he was healthy enough to keep on competing and that’s something great,” Nadal said. “It’s so important that people like him stay involved on the tour in the future and I hope that’s what’s going to happen because it’s great for tennis.

MATTHEW STOCKMAN / AFP

“He’s just a huge example for me and I think for the kids and everybody, he should be a reference and an inspiration for a lot of new generations,” Nadal said. “What he did was just amazing because he had amazing success when he was so young, almost a kid, and then he had a lot of injuries and he kept fighting until the end.”

As one of the best prepared and hardest working tennis players, Hewitt recently launched an app to share his training secrets. Developed with his long-time fitness trainer Nathan Martin, the app features a combination of more than 110 tennis-specific exercises to help anyone interested in improving their fitness, from beginners to champions.

Hewitt has an amazing record in Davis Cup. He has played the most ties over the most years for Australia and holds the national record for most total wins and most singles wins. In 41 ties, across 17 years, he boasts a 58-20 win-loss record, including 42-14 in singles. “I’m proud to have been trusted to lead the next generation. For me, it’s about instilling my experience and helping the younger players be their best,” he said upon being named captain of the 2016 Davis Cup team.

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