Lleyton’s passion not enough to challenge tennis greats
Lleyton Hewitt craves an Australian Open title like no other Aussie tennis player.
It’s that drive and hunger that has seen Hewitt line up for 15 Australian Open campaigns.
Hewitt has come close to winning the men’s trophy just once. In 2005, Marat Safin whipped the spirited Aussie in four sets in the final.
All the positive imagery and self-belief in the world won’t help Hewitt advance to become a top finalist. Hewitt’s had too many ups and downs since 2005 and it’s this struggle that has prevented the South Australian taking his game to another level.
Like any patriotic Australian fan, I would love to see Hewitt become a finalist. Starting the tournament with a world ranking of 54, Hewitt will find the talented field - loaded with power, speed, agility and hunger – too tough to make a serious challenge.
Hewitt is happy with his preparation and his lead-up form was promising after winning the AAMI Kooyong Classic on Saturday, defeating Australian Open 12th seed Gael Monfils.
Quite rightly, Hewitt is optimistic about his chances in the Australian Open. However, Hewitt faces a dangerous match in round one when he plays rival David Nalbandian. If he can overcome his round-one hurdle, Hewitt will be looking to unearth some serious form.
Hewitt needs to reduce his unforced errors significantly to match the raw power of his younger and taller opponents.
Ultimately, top seeds Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are expected to lead this tournament in a classy display.
I am tipping a Nadal-Federer final if they stay healthy and injury-free. Undoubtedly there will be a string of upsets, but it’s hard to go past Nadal and Federer. They have exceptional character and poise to resist most rivals.
Australia’s presence in the draw is significant but only three women - Samantha Stosur, Jarmila Groth and Anastasia Rodionova – and Hewitt have qualified on merit. Ten other Aussies have been handed wildcards (or lifelines), featuring Peter Luczak, Bernard Tomic, Carsten Ball, Jelena Dokic and Alicia Molik.
It’s going to be tragic for Australia when the tournament wraps up and there will hardly be an Aussie who will make it through to a major final.
Australian tennis needs a massive injection of funds at the developmental level if it intends to keep up with the stars of Europe and North America. Without this investment, the fans can hardly expect to see many Aussies become finalists in forthcoming summers.
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