Andy Murray hailed Lleyton Hewitt’s longevity, resilience and grasscourt excellence after joining the Australian on Sunday in the tennis record books.
As Hewitt continues to use his exclusive membership of the All England Club to fine-tune for his 17th and final Wimbledon appearance, Murray says it is amazing the 34-year-old father of four is even still playing.
It’s been 12 years since Hewitt was dethroned as world No.1, but the dual grand slam champion will still be the second-most accomplished grasscourt exponent at Wimbledon when the grand slam gets underway next Monday.
Only seven-time champion Roger Federer, who won the 15th grasscourt title of his career on Sunday when he hoisted the trophy for an eighth time at Halle, can top Hewitt’s eight successes on the surface.
“He’s had a fantastic career,” Murray said after joining Hewitt, Andy Roddick, Boris Becker and John McEnroe as a four-time Queen’s Club champion with a 6-3 6-4 finals win over Kevin Anderson.
“He was a great grasscourt player and (has) a fantastic attitude on the court.
“He was obviously a great player. He finished No.1 in two consecutive years, obviously an extremely difficult thing to do.
“Fantastic Davis Cup record, as well. He loves playing for his country.
“Yeah, amongst all of the players and stuff, I mean, he will be remembered as being just a fantastic competitor. He hated to lose.”
Like Murray did in 2013, Hewitt held the US Open and Wimbledon trophies simultaneously in 2002 after becoming the sport’s youngest year-end men’s world No.1 before his 21st birthday.
But he never won a third major as Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic dominated the grand slams for a decade after Hewitt’s Wimbledon triumph.
Hewitt, though, did beat Federer in last year’s Brisbane International final at age 32 before netting his eighth grasscourt title in Newport at 33.
And he could yet crown his career with a third Davis Cup triumph with Australia this year at 34.
“Obviously, the last few years of his career has been tough because he has had a lot of injuries and some surgeries on his foot,” Murray said.
“That’s probably taken its toll on him a little bit.
“But often, when players break through at a very young age like he did – he was a top player when he was 18, 19 years old – they aren’t going to play their best tennis when they are 32, 33.”