At last, a new Lleyton Hewitt emerges

A Ben Rollman pictureThis story contains predictions of the next Aussie tennis legend.

Please touch timber before reading.

For 18 years, Lleyton Hewitt has almost single handedly held Australian tennis together with his scrambling court play, never-say-die intensity and impassioned ‘C’mon’s.

There have been encouraging cameos from the likes of Matthew Ebden, James Duckworth, Peter Luczak and Chris Guccione, earnest toilers all of them but each lacking the wow chromosome to propel them to the top of the game.

There has been sporadic brilliance from Bernard Tomic and Marinko Matosevic but they’ve otherwise lacked the application to walk their big talk.

Ma-TOSSER-vic, ranked 54 in the world, gets this excited when he makes it past the first round of a slam.

Tomic hasn’t updated his website blurb since 2011 when apparently he was “quickly establishing himself as the next great player in the world of tennis”. About to fall out of the top 100, he might need to rethink his training regime of speeding tickets and Schoolies lap dances.

So the old man of Australian tennis has remained our top player, while we have waited in vain for a successor with his talent and ticker. Now, touch wood, our search may be over.

At the risk of putting the mockers on the kid, what Nick Kyrgios achieved in his first Wimbledon appearance is remarkable.

The comeback against Richard Gasquet from two sets down, rescuing nine match points in the final set, spoke of guts and determination.

To regroup after such an epic win and dispatch fellow wild card Jiri Vesely showed mental strength and maturity.

His unlikely victory against Rafael Nadal was a display of sheer self-belief. As John McEnroe remarked in the BBC commentary box: “He looks like he expects to win this!” Before the game, Nick himself had joked that he and Rafa had 14 grand slam wins between them.

Fronting up just 24 hours later to take on the brick wall of tennis, Milos Raonic, a bloke with an even bigger serve than our Nick, was always going to be a tall order. He gave it everything he had but exhaustion and the Raonic serve got the better of him.

Nick emerges from this tournament having reached plenty of milestones: the first man in a decade to reach Wimbledon’s last eight on debut, the lowest ranked player to beat Rafa at a slam, the first player ranked outside the top 100 to beat a world No. 1 in 22 years.

He played the shot of the tournament.

His ranking, somewhere in the 800s just 18 months ago, now climbs to around 66. Plus this week he’s reached his goal of 25,000 Twitter followers. At last count he was closing in on 70,000.

And he has earned plenty of respect from people who matter. Roger Federer saw Nick ‘playing unbelievably’ at this year’s Australian Open and invited him to Switzerland to practise with him.

Prior to Wimbledon, Andy Murray revealed his powers as an oracle, tweeting: “Next big Aussie star. We will be seeing a lot of him very shortly on the main tour.”

John McEnroe, who was slow to warm to Lleyton’s capabilities, has been keenly drinking the Kyrgios Kool-aid. “We keep saying, ‘Who’s the next guy?’ I think we found that guy right now.”

In the end, this result may work out better for Nick than if he had gone on, as the fairytale decreed, and hoisted the trophy on Sunday.

He comes out of this experience having learned: “If I was to go further, I’m going to have to get stronger” and with Rafa’s cautionary words – “everything is a little bit easier when you are arriving” – ringing in his ears.

He has the game. He has the confidence. He has the heart. He has the wow chromosome. Thanks to a family that supports rather than indulges him, he seems to have a level head on his shoulders.

Hunger will determine where he goes from here. He looks to me like he could eat a horse.

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. kazblah says:

    Indeed, Conrad. But I’ve got a good feeling about this one (if that counts for anything!)

    Like

  2. Let’s just hope he doesn’t crumble under the pressure of fame.

    Liked by 1 person

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