James Duckworth conceded he struggled with the role of spoiler at Australian Open, having succumb to hero Lleyton Hewitt in straight sets.
Hewitt will retire after his 20th Open campaign, meaning Duckworth was gunning for not only a second-round berth but also the end of Hewitt’s career on Tuesday night.
The 23-year-old started positively but Hewitt took control after winning the first-set tiebreaker, eventually triumphing 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 6-4.
“I’m disappointed about the loss,” Duckworth said.
“It was a great atmosphere … I’ll look back when my career ends saying that I shared the court with one of the best players ever in his last tournament on a big court.
“We played some good tennis out there … but, yeah, there is a lot of disappointment right now.”
Duckworth admitted he found it difficult to be cast as the bad guy in his home grand slam.
“It’s always tough playing a good friend and also someone I’ve looked up to for a number of years,” he said.
“It was a little bit different. It’s not exactly common to go out at your home grand slam, playing on the biggest court and most of the crowd’s not really on my side.
“Just the massive roar when he came out, when he was winning points was a bit odd. But it is what it is.”
Duckworth had a brief conversation with Hewitt at the net after the match.
“You’ve had a great career. You’re a legend,” he told the former world No.1.
Victoria Azarenka, who entered Rod Laver Arena after Hewitt’s emotional win, also paid tribute to the 34-year-old.
“What made my day today was the sign from Lleyton’s son – go Lleyton,” Azarenka said.
“Just seeing him warming up and boxing, to see so much passion after so many years is remarkable.
“I really admire that.
“I hope he does well and I hope you guys support him even more because he really deserves that.”