Federer gives Hewitt the highest accolades at US Open send-off

After bowing out of the US Open in a grinding defeat at the hands of Bernard Tomic, Lleyton Hewitt has received the highest accolades from one of tennis’ top performers.

World No.2 Roger Federer had a lot to say about the Australian he had come up against on numerous occasions, including the US Open final in 2004.

“He was a big challenge in my career. To understand how in the world can you be so tough physically and mentally at such a young age, it was for me an impossible thing to understand,” Federer said.

“He changed the game to some extent. I think he can be very proud of that because he was the player who just wouldn’t miss, the best counter-puncher we’d ever seen at that point. He would just grind you down, you would attack him and he would pass you. He would do it time and time and time and time again, it was just fascinating to see.”

“I think he really changed things around and showed me how it's done. He made me work harder in practice, get my act together on the court, play tough but fair.”

The veteran Aussie, who is due to retire from professional tennis following next year’s Australian Open, showed he belongs among the world’s classiest players in his response to the Swiss’ praise.

“Everything that he can do on a tennis court, it’s second to none. I’ve had a lot of practice sessions before every major tournament the last couple years with Roger and I’ve really enjoyed that as well,” Hewitt said.

Hewitt, the singles performer, made a most fitting US Open farewell with a gallant 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 5-7, 7-5 second-round loss to Tomic. Following the match, the former Wimbledon champion reflected on his 16-year Open career.

“The night matches are always special,” he said.

“That’s probably the biggest difference to a lot of the other tournaments. When you play at night here, great atmosphere here, obviously 23,000, 24,000 people. You really feel like you are the showtime, prime-time match.

“When I beat Juan Martin del Potro in the second round in five sets (in 2012), I came back from a foot surgery and didn’t know if I’d have the opportunity to compete out there on the centre stage against those guys again.

“To beat another former winner here in the night match, that was probably, apart from winning it, one of my biggest ones.

“Obviously my first breakthrough year in 2000 of making the semis in singles and winning the doubles the year before I won it. This has always been result-wise one of my more successful slams.” Hewitt had two match points on Thursday night to add to the legend.

But for the sixth five-setter in a row, stretching back to his mighty win over del Potro, the veteran was unable to close it out.

“I felt like once I got to the fifth, if I could have broken that first game as well, I could have really opened it up,” he said.

“Bernie’s got such an easy serve, though; he hits his spots well. He was able to do it in that first game from love-40 down.

“That sort of just kept the momentum going for him there. If I was able to break it open early in the fifth... but then obviously had 15-40 at 5-3. He was kind of in that mood of just going for everything. Couple of shots went in.

“The first backhand he hit, hit the tape. Went for a winner. The next one I felt like I scrambled as much as I could have. He was sort of just redlining on every shot.”

Date: 5th September 2015, Source: AAP


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