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
At the end of the media conference after Lleyton Hewitt's courageous semi-final win over Kei Nishikori at the Brisbane International, a TV cameraman approached, almost as bravely, from the back of the room and asked the former world No.1 to repeat an earlier answer, relating to the debilitating heat of a 42-degree day.
An awkward pause. Gulp. Poor bloke.
Roger Federer would probably have regurgitated his previous line about the terribly tough conditions, and that would have been that. Hewitt mentioned how ''cool'' it had been out on the cauldron that was centre court and then, after a little more prompting, declared that, well, he wasn't here to read the weather, mate.
True blue: Lleyton Hewitt faces the media in Brisbane. Photo: Getty Images
Eventually, there was an answer of sorts, before the camera chap retreated with what remained of his dignity intact. All of which was so, so typically Hewitt. Combative, blunt, uncompromising.
So, to Sunday, and the tournament's dream final against the great and gallant Federer. Despite his heroic exertions of 24 hours earlier, Hewitt did what he has always done: he fought as if he would rather die than retreat, surrender, or concede even a centimetre.
Federer was not at his best. Indeed, he was almost shockingly far from it in a slightly surreal first 27 minutes. There was an airswing, multiple shanks, and the Swiss champion's timing was so horribly awry in the first set that seasoned observers were left scratching their heads to recall another he had botched so badly.
But there was also some Hewitt genius: some vintage lobs, a superb lunge volley that saved a break point in the second set. Admitting, like the Adelaide Crows fanatic that he is, that he was seeing the ball like a ''football'', he struck some precision passes and quality returns and, of course, doggedly retrieved, hustled, competed. You knew that last bit, though. That's a given.
Admittedly, this was not a match between two players in their prime; Hewitt and Federer are both 32 and it has been some time (far longer in Hewitt's case) since they started the descent down from the rankings mountaintop where they resided for 80 and 302 weeks respectively.
But the huge TV ratings - a peak of 1.56 million viewers and average of 1.12 million on 7TWO - and social media enthusiasm would suggest that No.60 versus No.6 struck a nostalgic chord with sports fans who have admired, respected and/or loved the long-time rivals since a precocious 16-year-old Hewitt burst through for an astonishing debut title in Adelaide all those years ago.
He has since logged two grand slam singles triumphs and two Davis Cup wins, as well as five surgeries - the last with the potential to end his career - and career title No.29 came almost from nowhere on Pat Rafter Arena at the weekend.
Hewitt's victory speech was gracious, and his Australian Open outlook optimistic, even if a rankings revival to No.43 - nine slots ahead of Bernard Tomic - fell 10 places short of what was needed for the protection of a grand slam seeding.
His next stop is Kooyong, where the Bureau of Meteorology's outlook for Wednesday is for pleasant mid-20s temperatures. Hewitt, as feisty as ever, may not be here to read the weather but he is here, still, as Australia's great warrior, which is not worth just applauding and appreciating, but repeating too.