At Melbourne Park on Wednesday, former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt looked every inch the bronzed Aussie he has become over the past two decades.
Next January, the Davis Cup captain will join a ring of Australian greats in immortality instead of commanding the baseline at Rod Laver Arena. There were several announcements and prognostications at the launch of the 2024 Australian Open, but Hewitt’s induction into the Tennis Australia Hall of Fame was the ace.
The South Australian was a record breaker as the youngest man ever to hold the No 1 spot as a 20-year-old in 2001, a title now held by Spanish sensation Carlos Alcaraz. It’s also interesting to see Hewitt inducted alongside idols such as Tony Roche and John Newcombe at such a rapid pace – it’s only been three years since he played doubles at the Australian Open.
In a memorable Australian Open final in 2005, Marat Safin ended Hewitt’s bid to end a local champion drought that dates back to 1976. Although fellow bronzed Australian Todd Woodbridge asked about the style of the bust that will be placed among the ring of greats surrounding Garden Square at Melbourne Park, he was astonished. Would a backward-facing cap be placed on the Wimbledon champion’s bust?
Regardless of busts, there was plenty of commentary regarding next January’s Open. The Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley, who doubles as Tennis Australia’s chief executive, announced Rafael Nadal would return to Melbourne on the promotional trail. Nadal has been training on court for the past fortnight, but due to a serious foot problem, he hasn’t played since January.
“I don’t think there will be another one out there with the cap on backwards,” Hewitt said. “I don’t know. Does Cashy [Pat Cash] have his headband on?”