Now that he’s finally done, Lleyton Hewitt is crediting his “amazing” children for extending his record-setting tennis career.
Hewitt’s long and distinguished singles career came to a typically stubborn end with a gallant 6-2 6-4 6-4 second-round Australian Open loss to world No.8 David Ferrer on Thursday night.
But it could have so easily finished five years ago when doctors told him to give the game away after fusing a big toe.
Instead, he learnt to run again not long after his now seven-year-old son Cruz had learnt to walk.
On Thursday night, Hewitt cherished having Cruz, Mia, 10, and five-year-old Ava in his courtside box with the rest of his family and friends savouring the former world No.1’s farewell to tennis.
“It’s special. It is,” he said.
“I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve had such a great career that I had the opportunity to go out on my terms.
“A lot of great sporting athletes don’t have that opportunity.
“And especially if you play in a team environment where a coach makes a decision whether you’re going to play or not sometimes where you finish your career.
“I actually had the ball in my court in a lot of ways to do that here at the Australian Open. I feel really pleased about that.”
The 34-year-old hailed his children “the greatest gift of life”.
“It’s amazing to have the kids, see them grow up,” Hewitt said.
“For me, it’s been extra special the last 10 years because they’ve been able to be on this journey with Bec and I, as well.
“Especially the last few years where they’ve actually been able to come to tournaments and remember it.
“They’re going to have lifelong memories of being out there with me and Cruz hitting with the likes of Federer, Nadal, Murray, these guys. It’s pretty cool.
“It’s probably pushed me to play that little bit longer to enjoy it so they could get something out of it as well.
“Cruz, the last couple years, he came on a little boys trip to a couple of different tournaments. It’s been nice.”
Oldest daughter Mia is not all that much younger than when Hewitt made his history-making Australian Open debut as a 15-year-old way back in 1997.
He says that felt like a hundred years ago.
“When I look back and see the footage of me playing (Sergi) Bruguera, it does,” Hewitt said.
“I had really baggy clothes on. I was 15. I looked probably about 10.
“Yeah, no, when I see some of the old press conferences and stuff, I don’t remember those at all. They’re a bit embarrassing.”
But he certainly won’t cringe if tennis-loving Cruz follows in his famous footsteps and forges his own professional playing career.
“We’ll see. Yeah, hopefully he gets a chance to play in this great event if he wants to,” Hewitt said.
“Hopefully (he’s) 14. Hopefully he beats (my record).”