Emotional farewell as Lleyton Hewitt goes down fighting
The intensely competitive Australian, roared on by a partisan crowd, couldn’t live with Spain’s David Ferrer and he went down 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 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.
“I gave everything I had, like always, and left nothing in the locker room and that’s something I can always be proud of,” Hewitt told the crowd.
“In my whole career I’ve given 100 percent and I love coming out here and competing.”
Although Hewitt fought all the way in the second-round match, the feisty two-time Grand Slam winner could not get close enough to the tigerish Ferrer, who broke the Australian’s serve five times.
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 got off to a shaky start, losing his third service game with a netted backhand to groans from the home crowd.
He was again broken in his next service game with a forehand error as Ferrer went on to take the opening set in 37 minutes.
Hewitt was again broken by a Ferrer crosscourt backhand in the fifth game of the second set as the Australian was treated at several changeovers for a troublesome right quad.
But he kept fighting and had seven break point opportunities in an epic 14-minute game before Ferrer managed to hold serve at 5-3, then served out for a two sets lead.
Ferrer, one of the fittest players on tour, again attacked Hewitt’s serve and broke again in the third game of the third set, running the Australian across the court for his fourth service break.
But Hewitt had his home crowd on its feet when he broke back to love in the sixth game to keep his hopes flickering.
But Hewitt was broken again in the next game as tempers boiled over, and he was given the warning for an audible obscenity and then had words with the chair umpire at the changeover.
But inevitably Ferrer worked his way to serving for the match and claimed victory when Hewitt’s forehand was wide. Hewitt, who turns 35 next month, remains the youngest player to reach the world number one ranking in 2001, aged 20 years and eight months.
He won two Grand Slam crowns -- conquering tennis great Pete Sampras in the 2001 US Open final in straight sets, and Argentina’s David Nalbandian at Wimbledon the following year. But a cherished Australian Open triumph forever eluded him in a record 20 straight attempts, coming closest in 2005 when he went down in four sets to Russian Marat Safin in the final.