Lleyton Hewitt’s straight-sets second-round Australian Open loss to David Ferrer has drawn the curtain on one of the great modern-day tennis careers.
While he polarised fans early on, Hewitt will go down as one of Australia’s most-decorated players.
In 2001, after beating 14-time major winner Pete Sampras in the US Open final to secure his maiden grand slam title, he became – at 20 years and eight months – the youngest men’s world No.1 in professional tennis history.
In doing so, Hewitt joined John Newcombe, Pat Rafter and Evonne Goolagong Cawley as the only Australians to have scaled the summit since rankings were established in 1973.
He captured his second – and last – grand slam title the following year with victory over Argentine David Nalbandian in the Wimbledon final.
All up, Hewitt, turning 35 next month, spent 80 weeks as world No.1 between November 2001 and his last stint atop the rankings in June 2003.
Bringing an unrivalled intensity to the court, Hewitt reached two other grand slam finals, falling to Roger Federer in New York in 2004 and to Marat Safin in the 2005 Australian Open final.
He also made four more other semi-finals and six quarter-finals during a 66-slam career that began way back in 1997 when, at just 15 years and 11 months, the Adelaide-born baseliner became the youngest player to qualify for the Australian Open men’s singles draw.
The following year, two months shy of his 17th birthday, Hewitt stunned Andre Agassi en route to his maiden ATP singles title in his home town of Adelaide to become the youngest tour winner since Michael Chang in 1988 and – at No.550 in the world – also the lowest ranked in history.
Hewitt also won two season-ending championships in 2001 and 2002 and lost a third final to Federer in 2004.
The father of three collected 30 ATP singles trophies in all, including his last two in 2014 when he turned the tables on Federer, his career-long friend and rival, in Brisbane and then reigned at Newport to complete a rare set of grasscourt triumphs to go with his titles at Wimbledon, Queen’s, Halle and ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
Hewitt lived for the slams and Davis Cup and helped Australia win the prestigious teams’ competition twice – as a teenager in 1999 and again in 2003.
Australia made four finals in five years at the height of Hewitt’s career and he retires as the country’s most-prolific singles winner in Davis Cup history.
Australia’s longest-serving Australian player, the 17-year stalwart compiled a 42-14 win-loss record in Davis Cup singles and 58-20 overall – also the most wins in total by anyone from the 28-time champion nation.
After helping Australia regain – and retain – its status in the World Group after six years in the Davis Cup wilderness, Hewitt had one final crack at glory in 2015.
Australia lost to Great Britain in the semi-finals, with Hewitt’s epic five-set doubles loss partnering Sam Groth against Andy and Jamie Murray ultimately proving the pivotal rubber in the 3-2 defeat.
In November, Hewitt was appointed as Australia’s 19th Davis Cup captain – but just seventh in the past 65 years – with his first tie in charge to be at Kooyong in March against the United States.