Matt Brown: Hewitt's undeniable spirit will be missed

Lleyton Hewitt of Australia gestures during his second round match against David Ferrer of Spain at the Australian Open tennis championships. Photo / AP.
Lleyton Hewitt of Australia gestures during his second round match against David Ferrer of Spain at the Australian Open tennis championships. Photo / AP.

It's the end of an era.

We've heard the last trademark "come on" from Lleyton Hewitt and seen the last fist pump from a player who will be remembered as one of the greats of Australian sport.

While not the best tennis player the country has produced, (Rod Laver won 14 majors) Hewitt typified the Australian mentality with his sheer determination to win, gritty approach and incredible fight.

He was the youngest ever player to be ranked No 1 and spent a total of 80 weeks on top. Hewitt won two Grand Slam singles titles, beating the great Pete Sampras to win the 2001 US Open before achieving his holy grail at Wimbledon the following year. He was an incredible fighter and always put his country first; an ever-present in Australia's Davis Cup team, one of the few players to put Davis Cup on the same pedestal as a Grand Slam.

Perhaps his greatest victory came against Roger Federer from two sets to love down in a Davis Cup tie against Switzerland in Melbourne after Federer had won his first Grand Slam at Wimbledon in 2003.

Sure Hewitt was at the top in an era before Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray emerged to dominate the men's tennis scene. But in a 20-year career he was the ultimate competitor, testament to the fact two of his nine wins against Federer have come in the last three years in ATP tournament finals in Brisbane and Halle.

He was maligned at times in his home country over the years, often called the player Aussies love to hate, perceived as being arrogant, but that view mellowed over time. He was never far from the headlines off the court, first with his engagement and subsequent split from "Aussie Kim" Clijsters, the Belgian superstar who became a darling to Australian fans, and his marriage to soap star Bec Cartwright.

But the lasting impression Hewitt leaves is that undeniable spirit he displayed on court, his feisty attitude, tenacity and honesty. He will be well suited to the role of Australian Davis Cup captain and if he can instill the same approach and beliefs into the likes of Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic, Australia will be a force to be reckoned with.

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