The tennis world will say good-bye to Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt’s playing days at the 2016 Australian Open. Rusty, a worldwide fan favorite, has carried the torch for Australian male tennis players for much of the past twenty years. Retiring from the pro-circuit has not led to any slacking off for the Adelaide native. True to form, the two-time grand slam champion embarked on an arduous summer training regiment to be prepared as best as possible for his final professional appearance at Melbourne Park. “I still want to get the most out of myself and push myself to the limit,” he said. Hewitt played in the Hopman Cup (including a win over American Jack Sock – world number 26) and exhibition matches in Sydney and Adelaide in preparation for his last Australian Open.
This is Hewitt’s 20th consecutive appearance at the Happy Slam, the first player in history to appear at the tournament on 20 separate occasions. In 1997, at 15 years and 11 months old, Hewitt was the youngest qualifier in Australian Open history. Although he went down in the first round to two-time French Open champion Sergi Bruguera of Spain, the young Australian already showed himself as a fierce competitor with incredible energy.
Hewitt went on to lose in the first round at his home Grand Slam six more times (1998, 2002, 2009, 2011, 2013, and 2014), three times in the second round (1999, 2006, and 2015), and twice in the third round (2001 and 2007). Despite these early exits, Hewitt always gave 100%, sometimes fighting illnesses and injuries.
At just 18 years old and already in his fourth Australian Open, Hewitt reached the fourth round in 2000, but went down to Magnus Norman, ranked 11 at the time. He was ousted in the fourth round five more times (2003, 2004, 2008, 2010, and 2012), four of which were by the eventual champion, twice by Roger Federer and twice by Novak Djokovic. As the 15th seed in 2004, Hewitt defeated a young Rafael Nadal in straight sets in the third round. Waiting for Hewitt in the next round was Federer. The Australian took the first set but Federer was “too good” and won the next three sets on his way to his first Australian Open title. In 2008, Hewitt faced Djokovic in the fourth round after beating Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus in a third round five-set marathon that ended just after 4:30 a.m., the latest-starting and latest-finishing match in tournament history. The Serb won in straight sets and went on to win his first Australian Open crown.
Hewitt had his best performance at the Australian Open in 2005 as the fourth seed when he reached the Final but lost to Russian Marat Safin. It was an impressive run despite the extremely tough draw. In the first round, he dismissed Arnaud Clement of France in straight sets. He dropped the first set in the second round to American James Blake, but prevailed in four sets to advance. Another tough four-set win over Juan Ignacio Chela followed in the third round. Hewitt has said, “I think he half spat at me during the match at one change over. There was a whole lot of issues happening at the time. I was able to get through them. It was an epic feeling.” Hewitt reached the quarterfinals at the Australian Open for the first time by besting the young Nadal for the second straight year, this time in five sets. In the quarterfinals, Hewitt and David Nalbandian played a five-set classic. “To win epic five-setters in Melbourne Park, there is no better feeling,” Hewitt said. The Australian then beat a fresh American Andy Roddick in four sets in the semifinals. The hopes of winning a home Grand Slam ended with a loss to Safin in four sets. Even though he did not get the title, Hewitt thinks that it was one of the “best rides” of his career.
Hewitt is the youngest male ever to be ranked No. 1 in the world in singles, at the age of 20. He has thirty singles titles to his credit including two Grand Slams. He captured his first Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open in 2001 and his second at Wimbledon in 2002. He won two tournaments as recently as 2014 – Brisbane and Newport.
Not surprisingly, Rusty will continue to be involved in Australian tennis with his beloved Davis Cup team. He will take charge as captain in March. Hewitt’s first challenge will be against the United States. The United States and Australia are the two most decorated Davis Cup nations with 32 titles for the U.S. and 28 titles for Australia.
Recently, Hewitt has said “…for me playing in Australia in front of my home crowd, that’s the biggest thing I’m going to miss from the game. I just love doing it, I love competing, I love pushing myself and I’ve had one hell of a ride.” C’mon!
Svetlana Kuznetsova Wins First Title Since Return From Surgery In Washington
The two-time grand slam champion has returned back to the winners circle following her six-month absence due to injury.
Former world No.2 Svetlana Kuznetsova saved four match points to defeat Donna Vekic 4-6, 7-6(7), 6-2, in the final of the Citi Open in Washington.
Kuznetsova, 33, fought back against the aggressive play of her opponent. Saving seven out of the 10 break points she faced in the match. Eventually, it was the experience of the Russian that guided her to the finish line as she hit 34 winners to 36 unforced errors to win her first title on the tour since the 2016 Moscow Open.
“It was a difficult week,” Kuznetsova reflected afterwards. “Tennis is always mental, if you lose or if you win, you always gotta stay focused.”
With both players contesting their first final of the season, it was Vekic who battled through what was a roller-coaster and tense opening set. At first, the seventh seed appeared on course to clinch the opener with ease after breaking Kuznetsova in the fourth game as she raced out to a 4-1 lead. Only to be pegged by the 2014 champion. Serving for the set at 5-3, a forehand error rewarded Kuznetsova the chance to break back. Prior to the following point, the Russian complained about the movement of the crowd just as Vekic was about to serve. Then the Croat hit a double fault with the two players exchanging words at the changeover.
Despite feeling hard done by, Vekic soon restored order in the match. As Kuznetsova served for a chance to level 5-5, she pounced one again as the former world No.2 faltered. Recovering from a 15-40 deficit to seal the opening set with the help of a Kuznetsova double fault on set point.
Vekic continued to fight with the help of her of some rapid shock-making. Fending off a break point to nudge ahead 4-3 in the second set. Although Kuznetsova refused to go away. Saving two match points, it was in the tiebreaker where the Russian managed to turn her fortunes around. Vekic missed out on another two chances to win the match, allowing Kuznetsova to nudge ahead 8-7. She was then able to force proceedings into a decider after a Vekic forehand slammed into the net.
Kuznetsova’s resilience eventually wore her opponent down, who was close to tears after the match. Vekic admitted afterwards that she was dealing with leg pain and took a medical time out just before the start of the final set.
A double break in Kuznetsova’s favor in the decider guided her to a 5-0 lead. Enough of a cushion to enable her to close out the match after two-and-a-half hours of play to win her second Washington title.
“I know I’ve been a little bit lucky today,” she said.
“There’s something going on with Washington. I never lose here. I played two times and I won both.”
The victory comes after what has been a testing first half of the year for Kuznetsova. Left wrist surgery forced her to miss six months of the tour. Meaning that she didn’t start the 2018 season until March. Prior to the Citi Open, she had only won four matches in 10 tournaments played. Making her latest triumph even more special.
“Those times I had after the surgery, I had difficulties everywhere — personal, working different things. I switched coaches. I had lots of issues,” Kuznetsova explained. “But still, I rise again, and it’s really good for me.”
As a result of her latest win, Kuznetsova has risen 41 places in 87th in the world. Meanwhile, Vekic has jumped seven places to 37th.
Davis Cup Reforms Face Late Opposition As Vote Looms
The proposed Davis Cup reforms have received strong criticism from Tennis Australia and Tennis Europe ahead of this month’s vote.
The upcoming Davis Cup reform vote has received some strong opposition and criticism from Tennis Australia and Tennis Europe.
The vote is set to take place on the 16th of August, where federations will vote to change the 118 year old format to a one week season finale at the end of the year. The proposed move by Kosmos, has received fierce criticism and will need a two-thirds majority in order for it to be approved.
However with the vote just two weeks away Tennis Australia has been among the federations to oppose these reforms and have pushed this even further as they have wrote a letter expressing their discontent at the idea. The letter has been signed by the likes of John Newcombe, current Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt and Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley.
The letter raises the following concerns, “We have written and spoken to the ITF President for several months now requesting clarity on the proposal from Kosmos, but this has not been forthcoming,” explained the letter, which is even signed by former ITF president Brian Tobin.
“Very large numbers are being referenced, but there is not enough detail to give us confidence this proposal will genuinely deliver enough additional value to players and the nations to offset the loss of home and away camaraderie and all the local marketing, facility investment and player development benefit that comes with those ties. In the absence of such important information, we have no choice other than to vote against the proposed amendments.”
However Tennis Australia isn’t the only federation to be against this move as Tennis Europe, who represent more than 50 member nations have also expressed their concern at the idea, “I am particularly concerned that there is hardly any information received from the ITF regarding bank guarantees for the proposed US$120 million per year which would be the $3 billion deal over 25 years, according to the original proposal,” President Vladimir Dimitriev explained in a separate letter.
“I have not yet seen a final and feasible explanation on how the business model or the governance structure will be either.”
The ITF do have the backing of Germany and France ahead of the move though with the AGM meeting set to take place in Orlando, Florida between the 13th and 16th of August.
Serena Williams Withdraws From Montreal Due To Personal Reasons
Serena Williams has withdrawn from the Coupe Rogers in Montreal next week due to personal reasons.
Former world number one Serena Williams has withdrawn from the Coupe Rogers in Montreal next week as she deals with some personal issues.
The American suffered the worst defeat of her career last week when she lost 6-1 6-0 to Johanna Konta in San Jose. The 23 grand slam champion clearly wasn’t at her best and it now turns out that she had personal problems to deal with as this is the reason for her withdrawal in Montreal next week.
The recent Wimbledon finalist also felt that she could not play Montreal and Cincinnati in back to back weeks as she continues her comeback from pregnancy. The tournament director, Eugene Lapierre, admits that he is disappointed but still recognises the high quality field that is left, “Of course, we are disappointed that Serena will not be joining us, Fans were very much looking forward to seeing her in action,” explained Eugene.
“But beyond the disappointment, the tournament, as a whole, remains a high-level competition. The entire Top 10 is here, along with 22 of the Top 25. There are exciting matches in store from the outset.”
The American was set to play in Canada for the first time since 2015 before withdrawing today. The 23 time grand slam champion has played five events since returning from pregnancy and the results have been mixed as you can see below:
Indian Wells – Third Round
Miami – First Round
Roland Garros – Fourth Round
Wimbledon – Final
San Jose – First Round
Tatjana Maria will now replace Serena Williams in the main draw and the German faces Alize Cornet in the first round.
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