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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Hewitt warns young pretenders

Photo Titled Lleyton lift off
Lleyton Hewitt dispatches a serve to his second round opponent Juan Martin Del Potro.
It's called getting old, Lleyton. That’s why your opponent on Centre Court looked up to you when his was a kid. That’s why you’re getting asked to offer parental advice to expectant father Roger Federer. That’s why you need to put ice on more parts of your body after every match.

But it is also why you beat 20-year-old Juan Martin Del Potro. You can’t buy experience.

By his own admission, Lleyton Hewitt had wound the clock back with his 6-3, 7-5, 7-5 victory over the fifth seed on Centre Court. John McEnroe said Hewitt had not played that well since his Wimbledon-winning year of 2002, but the Australian considered it not that long ago.

"I don't know about 2002," Hewitt said. "The end of 2004 I played extremely well. The start of 2005, I played very well, as well.

"[Today] was a big win. I wanted to beat a top five guy. These are the places you want to do it, too. The body felt great as well. So I felt like I could actually go out there and compete 100%. Lay it all on the line. That's what I like to do.

"You don't want to go out there and have excuses. Yeah, I wanted to lay it out on the line, playing one of the best guys in the world, and see how you go. I felt like I was able to do that. I competed as well as I've ever competed."

Hewitt had clearly enjoyed his match, and he was grateful for the support from the Centre Court crowd, particularly from a row of hardcore Aussies. But he was more grateful that he had fully recovered from last August's hip surgery.

"It's been great since I really got on the clay. So around Houston time [in April] I haven't had any problems with the hip at all. At the start of the year after the surgery it was more scar tissue and that from the operation and having to keep doing a lot of rehab on it.

"Once I made that commitment to have the surgery and go through the tough rehab, being off the tour for that long, the motivation was there. I think it probably hit home more when the US Open was on last year after I'd had the surgery and I was sitting back at home just twiddling my thumbs, changing nappies and stuff, but not doing a lot of other things. I was really missing not being at the US Open, which is one of my favourite tournaments."

Hewitt has effectively beaten the top seed, since Del Porto replaced the injured Rafael Nadal in the number one spot. He showed his experience again by swatting away post-match questions about winning Wimbledon or a possible semi-final against Andy Murray.

But he did sound an ominous warning to all the young bucks in the field. “I think there's been patches this year when I've played extremely well. It's taken some of the best players to beat me in the bigger tournaments.

"I think if the draw opens up and the body feels good and I can play, execute that kind of style of tennis for over five sets, there's no reason why I can't put a bit of pressure on these guys."

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