Hewitt beats Federer in Brisbane
Australia's Lleyton Hewitt pulled off a stunning victory over top seed Roger Federer of Switzerland to win the Brisbane International title on Sunday.PT1M15S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-30cfy 620 349 January 6, 2014
When Lleyton Hewitt won his first career title as an unknown teenager in Adelaide in 1998, he walked away dreaming big dreams about making waves at a Grand Slam.
Sixteen years later, Hewitt is doing the same thing. A 6-1 4-6 6-3 victory against Roger Federer in the final of the Brisbane International has the 32-year-old buzzing sufficiently to think he can be far more than nuisance value in the upcoming Australian Open.
Hewitt's 29th career title was his first since 2010 in Halle, a grasscourt tournament in Germany in which he beat none other than Federer in the decider. Then, as was on Sunday, he was the raging underdog, a vantage point from where he plays his best tennis.
C'mon: Lleyton Hewitt kisses the trophy after beating Roger Federer in Brisbane. Photo: Reuters
The well has been dry since, ensuring this victory will be savoured by a man whose run of injuries makes it a small miracle he can even walk without a hobble. The big toe in his left foot is surgically fused but he says he is merrily free of pain and discomfort.
Federer's 22 unforced errors in the opening set, compared to three from Hewitt, didn't help the cause of the Swiss champion but Hewitt was hitting them as sweetly as he's done for years. This was a title earned, not gift-wrapped.
"For the first set I was seeing the ball like a football. Didn't really matter where he served, I was on it," Hewitt said. "I felt great out there."
Lleyton Hewitt plays a backhand against Roger Federer. Photo: Bradley Kanaris
Hewitt will turn 33 in February and after a decade of searching for the next Australian male to assume his mantle, remains the nation's best male player. That's great news for Hewitt, who has made a career of defying odds, if a worrying scenario for Tennis Australia.
His win takes his world ranking from 60 to the low 40s and has given him the confidence that even if another Grand Slam is a bridge too far, he's fully capable of taking down some of the game's biggest guns.
"A lot depends on draws and how I play (in Melbourne). I'm not looking at what round or whatever. I go out there and I'll compete exactly the same as I've competed here this week," Hewitt said.
"If I play like I did this week, then I have a chance of doing some damage against serious players."
Federer's star has slowly faded over recent years, just as those of Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic continue to rise. But as the world number six and all-time great, he remains one of the best in the business and a highly significant scalp for the veteran Australian.
"It just gives me a lot more confidence going out there believing in how well I'm hitting the ball at the moment and that I can match up with the best guys," Hewitt said.
Surgeon after surgeon told Hewitt in 2012 that he was unlikely to be able to continue his career given the state of his foot. To not only return to the court but to beat Federer in an ATP tour final adds extra layers of emotion to the triumph.
"I think the most pleasing thing is what I've had to come through and the tough times in terms of surgery. Before the last surgery I made no secret - there was no guarantees I would be able to play again at all," he said.
"There were still times when I came back from that surgery and played that Wimbledon straight after it and I was still doubting whether I was ever going to be pain free again. For me that's the most pleasing thing.
"I look to my bench and the guys on my team and they know exactly what we've all been through with it."
His first career title was on home soil and so may well be his last. Much has changed since he rolled into Adelaide as a wildcard ranked 550 in the world but victory in Brisbane, against perhaps the best of them all, will be almost as sweet.
At least he can have a beer this time.
"Obviously that's where it all started for me. I was 16. I was in my hometown. Yeah, it's hard to beat that," Hewitt said.
"But then winning here at a new tournament and it's only the second time I've been up here as well. I've won nearly every tournament there is to win in Australia.
"To beat possibly the greatest player in the final means a lot. So it's very hard to split them."