Earlier this week, Lleyton Hewitt was named the ATP Third Best Player of the Decade. Only including results from 2000-2009, Hewitt’s achievements over this period had him adjudged only behind Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
With a modest current ranking of 22 in the world and dogged by injuries and illness over the past few seasons, too many forget how good this determined Australian was at the start of the decade.
Winning his first career title in his backyard of Adelaide in 1998 as a then 16-year-old (defeating none other than Andre Agassi, mind you), Hewitt then went on to win his first Grand Slam title at the 2001 US Open and become the youngest ever year-end player to be crowned the ATP World Tour Champion in the same year.
In 2002, he won his first Wimbledon title and defended his ATP World Tour Champion crown. Along the way, Hewitt was ranked the No. 1 player in the world for 80 weeks until June 2003, amassed 27 career singles titles, and has become Australia’s most successful and prolific Davis Cup player in history.
His grittiness and will for a fight has earned him a reputation as one of the toughest competitors in history on a tennis court. His come-from-behind victories are famous and his ability to get the most out of his talent is legendary.
Many other tennis greats over the years have stated, “If there was one player you would want playing to save the world, I would have Lleyton on my team.” There can be no higher accolade to a player who has prided himself on his mental toughness.
Lleyton Hewitt is a true champion. He is passionate about tennis, passionate about his country, and loves to compete to win. Without doubt, he deserves every bit of recognition in the dwindling stages of his career.
2009 has proven that while Hewitt may be a bit slower than he was 10 years ago, his court craft and determination ensures he is still one of the most feared players on the ATP Tour.
In what may be his last Australian summer in 2010, he deserves another strong showing at the Australian Open.
What's more, the Australian tennis public deserve another opportunity to properly appreciate one of the greatest-ever competitors.
Being ranked as the third-best player of the decade is only just the start of the accolades that will flow Hewitt’s way over the coming years. And he deserves and should be proud of every single one.
A third Grand Slam title at the 2010 Australian Open might just be something else that he becomes proud of.
After all, he definitely deserves it.