Tennis Prose



Remember How Great Lleyton Hewitt Was?

By Scoop Malinowski

I’m gonna catch some flak for this but I think Hewitt, at his best, his feistiest, most fired up and tenacious, could put a beating on anyone from tennis history…Federer, Nadal and Djokovic included.

Heck, we saw what Hewitt did to Pete Sampras in that U.S. Open final of 2001. Hewitt slammed Poor Pete to the tune of 76 61 61. And it wasn’t like Pete was tired from a long semi – he bested Safin, the defending champ, in straight sets. In his semi, Hewitt blasted Kafelnikov 1-2-1.

Hewitt could do that. He could just annihilate quality players like a mini steamroller, even in the business end of major tournaments, which is quite rare. Can you remember Federer or Nadal just blowing through major semis and finals like Hewitt?

I vividly remember how tough Hewitt was, as his dominance happened when I first got serious about playing competitive tennis. Eyes bulging and burning, neck veins popping, fixing that necklace, fidgeting with his strings, those smirky facial expressions, which delivered messages of intimidation and even subtle taunting at times: “You don’t have any chance, mate.” No one could match Hewitt’s intensity. Remember the time he broke Alex Corretja in the first game of an indoor match and shouted a Come Awwwn! which really irritated the cool Spaniard. But that was how extraordinarily intense Hewitt was, it was far beyond the typical levels.

Another time Hewitt was en route to putting a triple bagel on Corretja at the Australian Open and he almost got it too.

Hewitt was quicker than a cat, about as consistent as anyone in history, very solid volleys and an underrated serve. I loved that running backhand slice he could drop down the line for passing shot winners. His backhand could pass with ease either up the line or cross court. Hewitt made it look easy. But best of all he had a fighting spirit second to none. Like a professional boxing friend of mine said with a hint of respect and also annoyance, “He looks like he wants to fight (the opponent).”

Man, could he fight on the court. Out-sized or out-manned, it didn’t matter, Hewitt fought and fought until the bitter end. He’s won over 570 matches since turning pro in 1998. He’s won 28 career singles titles, the first being Adelaide as a precocious and unknown sixteen-year-old ranked 550 in the world.

Hewitt could do amazing things on the court, like come back from two sets down and two points away from death against Federer in Davis Cup. Like beating a prime Gustavo Kuerten on clay in Davis Cup in Brazil. Like manhandling a guy named Pete Sampras in a major final.

No one played with more passion, more guts, more desire, more intensity than Lleyton Hewitt, ranked #1 in 2001 and 2002.

Just 5-11, 160 pounds, Hewitt could very well be pound for pound the greatest player in tennis history. He had exactly the qualities to overcome prime Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. Yes he could.

There. I just put the chip on Hewitt’s shoulder. I dare ya to knock it off.

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  • Scoop Malinowski · October 14, 2017 at 2:31 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Never took a little to conquest and hold on to No. 1 backhandslapper. It's always an unbelievable dogfight to get to the top in anything, especially tennis, regardless of how you perceive any era, it's always an epic Herculean effort. I don't care to nitpick the short reigns of Safin, Guga, Rafter, Muster, or anyone. They all got there. They all earned every damn single point. They did not get any free points. I think you Hewitt critics and doubters need to read Facing Hewitt and learn how the other players felt about Hewitt. Your opinions matter but please read the lofty praises of Hewitt by his peers. I think then you will better understand and appreciate Hewitt.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 14, 2017 at 2:35 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Catherine; Agassi was not really a great mover side to side. But yes he was brute strong, and his weightlifting numbers proved it. I remember reading he would throw around well over 250 pounds bench pressing and that's brute strength strong. I used to be able to do that for ten reps in my 20s and hockey playing days and it sure did feel nice to feel so strong. And Agassi was benching more than me. I think any height over six feet is the optimal size for longevity. But any height is okay and take a look now at the top 100 and there are dozens of players under six feet tall in the top 100. Also, regarding lefty right, did you know Rafa is the only lefty active now to win a major? Haven't we been told lefties have the advantage over righties? Why are no other lefties winning majors?

  • Backhandslapper · October 14, 2017 at 3:13 pm

    Oh OK, fetch me a copy man.

  • catherine · October 14, 2017 at 3:16 pm

    Scoop – lefthandedness is quite rare (I’m one) about 12% of the world population I gather. It’s more common among men. The chances of being both lefthanded and a high ranking tennis player would therefore be pretty slim, although there’ve been a few.It’s probably just a matter of chance – it’s true that lefthanded players have some advantages but it would be a bit difficult to turn yourself into a lefthanded player if you weren’t one naturally.

    Some players are ambidextrous in that they play lefthanded but the dominant hand is their right – Martina Navratilova was righthanded for writing etc but lefthanded for playing and Kerber is the same. There are probably other examples in the men’s game.

  • Backhandslapper · October 14, 2017 at 3:30 pm

    Nadal — I think — is naturally right-handed, deliberately turned himself into a tennis lefty on advice by his uncle.

  • Hartt · October 14, 2017 at 4:20 pm

    Doubles News: The Shanghai final will feature the No. 1 seed, Kontinen/Peers who won over Murray/Soares. They will face the No. 2 seed Kubot/Melo who prevailed over Rojer/Tecau. I wish I could see the final but it will be on in the middle of the night.

    Speaking of doubles, the SI tennis podcast has an interesting interview with Rajeev Ram, who is playing only doubles now.

    The Shangaho doubles final will be followed by Federer vs Nadal. The tennis sites are already going nuts with zillions of comments about the Fedal match.

  • Duke Carnoustie · October 14, 2017 at 6:49 pm

    I am going to give you more anti-Lleyton facts. So dominant he lost in the 1R of the ’01 AO at home to Alberto Martin.

    So dominant he made it to the QFs once in 20 tries at his home Slam. Then there is his 2-5 record in Masters finals.

    Fed ended his career by bageling him twice in the US Open final.

    The more you look into it, and I stand corrected; Hewitt was a fraud. Scoop keeps bringing up beating Sampras. Well I think this Alberto Martin loss needs to be brought up more.

    Hewitt exited in the first and second rounds of Slams a combined 26 times. Granted that includes his last 8 slams.

    Compare that to
    Fed: 7
    Nadal: 7
    Murray: 4
    Djoker: 5
    Wawrinka: 15
    Tsonga: 6
    Ferrer: 17
    Michael Chang: 28

    The cold hard numbers prove that Hewitt was hardly feared, especially in Australia.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 14, 2017 at 6:51 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    I wonder if there are about 10-12 lefties in the ATP and WTA top hundred to match population percentage of about 12% lefthanders in the world? I'd guess. But there should be a few more than 12 because lefties supposedly have an advantage over right handers.

  • Joe Blow · October 14, 2017 at 7:41 pm

    Scoop’s just trying to sell a few books..

  • catherine · October 15, 2017 at 3:38 am

    Backhandslapper – I’d heard that I think about Nadal but wasn’t sure. I’ve noticed he wears his watch on his left wrist which suggests he falls into the category of the ambidextrous, lefthanded for some tasks (tennis), righthanded for others.
    Years ago lefthanded children at school were often forced to become righthanders but this practice was abandoned around the 1950s I recall. Margaret Court was a natural lefty who changed and I believe she would have been a better player lefthanded, certainly a stronger serve.
    People vary – I can’t do much with my right hand but I know other l/handers who are much more towards ambidextrous.

    Scoop – it would be interesting to know the figures on lefthandness in WTA and ATP and how many players have changed or can use both. Bearing in mind result would be skewed toward men. If not, then that would be interesting too.

    Hartt – don’t want to sound like a wet blanket (yes I do) but hasn’t comment been pretty much exhausted on Federer/Nadal ? Fascinating yes, but there’s nothing new there.
    My prediction – if Federer wins then Nadal will lose and if Nadal wins then Federer will lose 🙂

  • catherine · October 15, 2017 at 4:24 am

    Sharapova squeaks past Sabalenka who is 102 in the world.
    Keep those w/cs coming Maria 🙂

  • catherine · October 15, 2017 at 6:21 am

    Federer in SS. Not worth a frenzy. And my prediction was
    spot on 🙂

  • Hartt · October 15, 2017 at 6:33 am

    Catherine, congrats on your prediction re Fedal! 🙂

    I missed the first few games, will watch them now. But Fed was very sharp, served very well. He has now won 5 straight matches over Rafa.

  • Hartt · October 15, 2017 at 7:39 am

    Doubles news: It looks like Kontinen/Peers had an easy win over Kubot/Melo. SS. 6-4, 6-2.

    The Hong Kong final for the women still to come. It will be Chan/Chan vs. Lu/Wang.

  • Hartt · October 15, 2017 at 11:40 am

    Doubles news update: The Chans had an easy win for the Hong Kong title, 6-1, 6-1 over Lu/Wang.

  • Hartt · October 15, 2017 at 11:45 am

    Some interesting results in Antwerp qualies – Tomic won a match! (over Sakharov). Almost as surprising, Pospisil won (over Maden). And a nice result – Tsitsipas won over Bergos. Would love to see the youngster in the main draw.

  • Duke Carnoustie · October 15, 2017 at 4:33 pm

    Escobedo v. Shapo in 1R in Stockholm! Get your popcorn and soda – or Soder! Get it, for Soderling.

  • Duke Carnoustie · October 15, 2017 at 4:34 pm

    Oops they are meeting in Belgium so no Soder needed!

  • Duke Carnoustie · October 15, 2017 at 4:44 pm

    I will admit the guys in Scoop’s book are correct that Hewitt was too good for them. Of course, most weren’t top players. Burn!

  • jg · October 15, 2017 at 5:09 pm

    Also interesting in Las Vegas, JC Aragone is playing Kozlov

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 15, 2017 at 7:14 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Duke; I was impressed by how the players spoke so highly of Hewitt, as they did with Rios. Top players and the fringe elites and the fringes. Hewitt commanded top respect. Silly to try to downplay a guy who was no. 1 for two years.

  • Dan Markowitz · October 16, 2017 at 8:14 am

    Is this JC’s first appearance since his qualying at the Open? That is a good match, Koz has been playing better else I’d go with Aragone who’s fast and flexible as a whip.

  • Eelco · October 19, 2017 at 3:30 am

    I always liked Miloslav Mecir. At his best he even made John McEnroe look like a talentless journeyman.

  • mcekovic · October 19, 2017 at 7:26 am

    Lleyton Hewitt records: Hewitt&tab=records

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 19, 2017 at 2:35 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Eelco, I totally missed Mecir, as he was before my time. I have heard it often said that Mecir played like Rios who is my favorite player of all time. I saw Mecir at US Open this year, when I was interviewing Mats Wilander about Facing Sampras, Mecir walked by us and Mats acknowledged Mecir like they were old friends. Not sure who Mecir was coaching.

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