Hewitt keen to toe line a little longer
Date published :
29 May 2012 - 01:46:54
As a grizzled veteran of 52 Grand Slam tournaments, Australia's former world number one Lleyton Hewitt isn't ready to throw in his courtside towel just yet as he gets to grips with his new bionic toe.
The former Wimbledon and US Open champion may ultimately have come off worst in a four-hour joust in Monday's French Open first round meeting with Slovenian Blaz Kavcic but just being out there scrapping was a victory of sorts for a driven competitor with two screws and a metal plate in the big toe of his left foot.
Hewitt, who was the youngest ever world number one at 20 and held the ranking across two seasons, had the surgery on a toe rendered arthritic and misshapen after years of digging into hard courts to launch his service action.
But it is a price worth paying - particularly as Hewitt says he is now painless in that area.
"I had to bite the bullet. Yeah, so it was a last ditch effort. Hopefully it gets better and better from here and I get more used to it as well," the 31-year-old told reporters after his four set loss to Kavcic.
"There will be probably be little other niggles more than anything, but the actual spot where I had surgery will be pain free, yes.
"Obviously moving is going to be totally different, but at least it was nice not to have pain. It was a good thing ... the last couple of years every practice, every match has been painful. It's more just adjusting now to the mechanics that I've got," said Hewitt, who won the last of his 28 career titles in Halle on grass in 2010.
Hewitt said having his toe fixed had given him renewed hunger to succeed.
"I was still hungry enough to have a shot. I feel like the last couple of years has been ruined by surgeries and trying to come back and playing within injections and the works.
"This was a last effort surgery that I had straight after the Australian Open. A lot of people didn't think it could be done, and here I am at a Grand Slam."
He added that he was now looking at a respectful showing at Wimbledon a decade on from lifting the crown at the All England Club.
"Today was about coming here and physically getting ready for that, I guess, and playing five sets."
Another target is a Davis Cup World Group playoff against Germany in September - "that's in the back of my mind as well," two-time champion Hewitt noted.
Against Kavcic, the Australian, now ranked 175, had to produce what he could after barely a fortnight of practice but what adrenaline he could muster seeped away as he drove long to end the contest.
Hewitt, who has never been past the quarters here in 12 visits, missed Paris last year with an ankle injury but earlier this season set a consecutive Australian Open appearances record with his 16th participation before dipping his toe into doctors' hands as he bids to show he is a long way from finished yet.