Only four nations across the world host the premier tournaments in tennis, which are more popularly known as Grand Slam tournaments: Australia, France, Great Britain and the United States of America.
Of the four, two nations have been most dominant on the tennis landscape, America and Australia. Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe and Pete Sampras are among the few stalwarts from America while Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Margaret Court enriched the sporting history of Australia.
However, there have been many other stalwarts from the four nations, who although managed to ascend to the summit of the rankings, failed to taste success in their home arenas, much to the disappointment of the ‘home’ crowd.
Let us now take a look at five former World Number ones, who were unable to win Grand Slam tournaments on their home turf.
Tennis has seldom seen as tenacious a fighter as Lleyton Hewitt. So impassioned is he about the game and so determined is he in his pursuit of victory, that the energy that he exudes in the course of a match is almost palpable. Unlike some of his more flamboyant contemporaries such as Andy Roddick and Marat Safin, Hewitt’s game would never serve as a delight for those who indulged in the exercise of watching sport for a more aesthetic experience. However, even Hewitt’s most vociferous detractor wouldn’t deny the fact that Hewitt’s perseverance and resolve produced some of the most exciting tennis contests in the early years of the 21st century.
In 2001, Hewitt won his first Grand Slam title, beating Yevgeny Kafelnikov in the semi-final before besting Pete Sampras in four sets in the summit clash. He also went on to win the year-end Masters at Tokyo, defeating Sebastian Grosjean in the final, to ascend to the World Number one ranking, becoming the youngest player ever to achieve the distinction.
2002 Wimbledon saw seven of the top 10 seeds being knocked out before the fourth round. Sampras, Andre Agassi, Roger Federer and Kafelnikov were among the casualties at an event that was largely dominated by baseliners. Along with Tim Henman, Hewitt was the only other top 10 seed to progress beyond the third round.
Hewitt went all the way, beating David Nalbandian in straight sets to pocket his second and what remains his last Grand Slam title. The win further consolidated his hold on the top ranking. However, he failed in his bid to defend the Wimbledon title in ’03, falling to Ivo Karlovic in the first round.
However, Hewitt will be haunted most by his failure to win the Grand Slam in his own backyard, the Australian Open. He came mighty close to winning the trophy at the Rod Laver Arena in 2005, when he made it to the finals. Playing Marat Safin, Hewitt took the first set with ease but squandered the lead as the Russian managed to wrap up the match in four sets.