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Once upon a time, Lleyton Hewitt was the bright star of tennis, ahead of his juniors Swiss rival Roger Federer. He won two Grand Slam titles and became the No. 1 player in the world.
Injuries have since ravaged his body. He was cheated out of several prime years to challenge Federer, Rafael Nadal and other stars who followed his brief time at the top of the tennis world.
Hewitt seemed on the verge of retirement following the 2013 Australian Open and a fall out of the ATP Top 100. But his fighting spirit picked up his body, and he gathered momentum through the summer, including winning his U.S. Open second-round match against Juan Martin del Potro.
Now, he is ranked No. 43 and holder of the Brisbane title against old rival Federer. It was only his second win in 18 matches against Federer over the last decade.
Most importantly, his infectious intensity and grit have the Aussie faithful believing he can provide more retro magic and perhaps drive to the fourth round to take on Nadal. The humid night and rollicking atmosphere at Rod Laver Arena would be the essence of sports.
But in the opening round, Hewitt must will himself past 24-seeded Andreas Seppi. The Italian journeyman crashed the fourth round at Australia in 2013 and has consistently advanced in opening rounds. He will be steady, but can he overcome the pride and heart of Australia?
It will be one of the most emotional matches of the first round, and it should be highly competitive.