Whatever happens over the coming fortnight, Lleyton Hewitt knows he’s already living the dream entering his 17th and final Wimbledon.
Few athletes get to bow out on their own terms – and even less get to perform on tennis’s most hallowed lawns in front of their children.
But Hewitt will on Monday when he takes on Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen almost certainly for a second-round centre-court shot at world No.1 and defending champion Novak Djokovic.
While the South Australian accepts he’s unlikely to hoist the trophy with his two daughters watching from the stands, as Roger Federer did three years ago, Hewitt says it’s more than enough having Mia, almost 10, six-year-old son Cruz and youngest daughter Ava, four, even on hand.
“I didn’t think I’d be playing at 30, let alone 34 and having three kids,” Hewitt said as he reflected on a remarkable journey that began with a Wimbledon doubles debut alongside a teenaged Federer way back in 1999.
“All of them, especially the two eldest – but Ava now – will be able to remember being here and me enjoying it with them. It’s been great.”
The former world No.1 says Mia “totally understands what’s going on”.
“That it’s my last year and that I’m only playing a few big tournaments,” he said.
“She’s pretty switched on. It’s great, it’s fantastic.”
It’s impossible, though, for Hewitt not to savour the moment most with tennis-loving Cruz, whose been You-tubed hitting with Federer and following in his father’s footsteps wherever he ventures at the All England Club.
“Walking around with him, having him part of it, I’m soaking it up more,” Hewitt said.
“I’ve tried to enjoy that more than anything.
“He’s been in the locker-room with me. They gave him a locker down there. He’s got his own bag. I had to buy him a special Wimbledon bag.
“He’s been getting everyone’s autograph in his autograph book this week.
“It’s just been little things like that.”
An honorary life member by virtue of his championship success in 2002, Hewitt will undoubtedly be back with his son one day.
But he’s not quite ready to say goodbye just yet.
“Obviously Novak’s waiting in the second round. Assuming he was to get through, I’d love nothing more than to go out and have a crack at him,” Hewitt said.
“But I’m certainly not looking past Nieminen.
“He’s a tough competitor, really tough competitor. He always gives 100 per cent.
“It’s going to be a tough match and, even though I’ve had the edge on him in head-to-head matches, we’ve had some battles in the past and I’m sure Monday will be no different.”
Hewitt is unsure if he’ll be nervous, but he suspects not overly so.
He’s too focused for that.
“So far it hasn’t felt that different yet. I’m that much of a competitor and everyone knows that I’m going to do absolutely anything I can to get over the line,” he said.
“Once you’ve got your game face on – if I start thinking like that, I’m going to have issues. I won’t play at my best.”
LLEYTON HEWITT CAREER SNAPSHOT
Born: Adelaide, Australia
Lives: Nassau, Bahamas
Plays: right-handed (two-handed backhand)
Career-high ranking: 1 (2001-2003)
Career prize money: $US20,558,135 ($A26.57 million)
Career titles: 30
Grand slam titles: 2 (US Open 2001; Wimbledon 2002)
Grand slam win-loss record: 146-61
Career win-loss record: 612-258
Wimbledon win-loss record: 41-15
Best Wimbledon performances: champion 2002, semi-finalist 2005, quarter-finalist 2004, 2006, 2009