2016 Australian Open

Tennis: Hewitt's emotional, feisty goodbye

Australia's Lleyton Hewitt drinking champagne during a press conference after playing his last Australian Open match before his retirement. His children, (from left) Ava, Mia and Cruz, watch on.
Australia's Lleyton Hewitt drinking champagne during a press conference after playing his last Australian Open match before his retirement. His children, (from left) Ava, Mia and Cruz, watch on.PHOTO: REUTERS

Hewitt slams umpire in the last match of his career and also denies match-fixing claims

MELBOURNE • Former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt bade an emotional farewell from tennis yesterday after a combustible Australian Open defeat in which he slammed the umpire as an "idiot" and defiantly dismissed match-fixing allegations.

The intensely competitive Australian, roared on by a partisan crowd, could not live with Spain's David Ferrer and he went down 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 in two hours 32 minutes to exit what was his final tournament before retiring.

Afterwards Hewitt, wearing a shirt decorated with the Australian flag, was joined on court by his three children while his wife, former soap opera actress Bec, looked on in tears.

"A couple of the roars during the match tonight was as loud as I've ever played in front of. I was getting goosebumps at times," said the world No. 306. "It's sort of a strange feeling because you're obviously disappointed not to keep going, but obviously proud of everything you've done as well."

Although he fought all the way in the second-round match, the feisty two-time Grand Slam winner could not get close enough to the tenacious Ferrer, who broke the Australian's serve five times.

MIXED FEELINGS

You're obviously disappointed not to keep going, but obviously proud of everything you've done as well.

''LLEYTON HEWITT, on his swan song.

Emotion boiled over in the final set when, with the match ebbing away, Hewitt was given an audible obscenity warning before he clashed with the chair umpire, calling him a "frigging idiot".

Hewitt, 34, also responded defiantly to his name being linked in an anonymous online report with historic match-fixing claims that have rocked the sport, saying it was "absurd" and a "farce".

"I don't think anyone here would think that I've done anything (like) corruption or match-fixing. It's just absurd," he said in his after-match press conference. "Yeah, it's disappointing. I think throwing my name out there with it makes the whole thing an absolute farce."

Hewitt is known as one of the most tenacious fighters in the sport. Chants of "COME ON!!" in reference to the war cry Hewitt has trademarked filled the Rod Laver Arena air as fans cheered.

  • DAY 4 RESULTS

  • Men's 2nd rd (selected): Bernard Tomic (Aus) bt Simone Bolelli (Ita) 6-4 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 7-5, Milos Raonic (Can ) bt Tommy Robredo (Esp) 7-6 (8-6) 7-6 (7-5) 7-5, Lukas Rosol (Cze) bt Jack Sock (USA) 7-6 (8-6) 7-6 (7-5) 6-3, Stanislas Wawrinka (Sui) bt Radek Stepanek (Cze) 6-2 6-3 6-4 , Andy Murray (Gbr) bt Sam Groth (Aus) 6-0 6-4 6-1.

  • Women's 2nd rd (selected): Angelique Kerber (Ger) btAlexandra Dulgheru (Rom) 6-2 6-4 , Laura Siegemund (Ger) bt Jelena Jankovic (Srb) 3-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-4, Annika Beck (Ger) bt Timea Bacsinszky (Sui) 6-2 6-3 Garbine Muguruza (Esp) bt Kirsten Flipkens (Bel) 6-4 6-2, Denisa Allertova (Cze) bt Sabine Lisicki (Ger) 6-3 2-6 6-4, Johanna Konta (Gbr) bt Zheng Saisai (Chn) 6-2 6-3.

Every of Hewitt's 27 winners were met with full-blooded zeal, each of his 43 unforced errors with a collective sigh. Ferrer's winning shots were met with only polite applause, but he did not mind.

"Tonight was Lleyton's, not mine," said the Spaniard.

Video tributes from the likes of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were played on the screens on a day when rivals revealed their admiration for Hewitt.

"It's a sad day. I never had idols, but Lleyton was one for me," Ferrer told the crowd. "I have a T-shirt of Lleyton in a museum in my house."

Earlier yesterday, world No. 3 Andy Murray revealed he had named one of his dogs after the Australian star. Using Hewitt's nickname, Murray christened the border terrier "Rusty".

"I named one of my dogs after him because he was someone who I loved growing up," the Scot said.

Hewitt remains the youngest player to reach world No. 1, in 2001, aged 20 years and eight months.

He won two Grand Slams but a cherished Australian Open triumph forever eluded him in a record 20 straight attempts, coming closest in 2005 when he lost to Russian Marat Safin in the final.

Hewitt now takes on the non-playing captaincy role of Australia's Davis Cup team.

"I left nothing in the locker room. My whole career I've given 100 per cent," he said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

AUSTRALIAN OPEN
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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 22, 2016, with the headline 'Emotional, feisty goodbye'. Print Edition | Subscribe