August 31, 2013
What a moment for Australia and for tennis romantics the world over to savour. Most of all, what a magnificent moment for Lleyton Hewitt.
In case you missed the 32-year-old Aussie’s stunning defeat of 24-year-old Juan Martin Del Potro, let me say that the scoreline – 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-1 – doesn’t tell the full story of those five electric sets.
Hewitt had a terrible psychological setback to overcome after the second. Lleyton was serving for that set, when he seemed to realise the enormity of what he was starting to achieve.
To go two sets up against Del Potro, the 2009 champion? Del Potro, the man who looked capable of winning Wimbledon a few weeks back, when he almost toppled Novak Djokovic in a classic on Centre Court?
That’s not supposed to happen to a thirty-something who won the US Open way back in 2001. Indeed it didn’t happen. Poor Hewitt double-faulted on set point. He double-faulted again to throw that set away. No one gave him a chance from there. And after he was shoved aside 3-6 in the third set, struggling to cope with his own wastefulness, it looked like another deeply disappointing moment for Australian tennis fans.
But Hewitt has become everything at this US Open that his compatriot Bernie Tomic wasn’t, especially in that defeat to underdog Dan Evans the other night – a true fighter. Hewitt has upheld Aussie traditions of battling until you prevail. He simply refused to be beaten. More than that, he hit back in some style to close out the match no one thought he could win.
That fourth set tie-break became such a crushing leveller that Lleyton knew he had the upper hand. The way he destroyed Del Potro in the final set was so emphatic that it almost defied time.
So congratulations Lleyton Hewitt, enjoy the party Australia, you deserve this success because your man thrilled us all when we least expected it.