Former World No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt, who announced that he would be retiring following the 2016 Australian Open, has seen his glittering career come to an end after a straight sets loss to Spain’s David Ferrer, who beat him 6-2, 6-4, 6-4.
It was the second round match for both players – Hewitt previously beat compatriot James Duckworth in straight sets – 7-6, 6-2, 6-4, while Ferrer took a similar win over Peter Gojowczyk of Germany, whom he beat 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.
The pair had met each other three times before on the professional circuit, with each of those meetings also coming at Grand Slams.
Ferrer spoke fondly of Hewitt after the match, saying that he “did not have any idols in tennis, but Lleyton has been like an idol to me... 7 years ago, he signed a t-shirt for me in the locker room, and I kept it.”
The prodigiously talented Hewitt continues to hold the record for being the youngest World No. 1 – a title he held in 2001, when he was only 20.
Today, he faltered in the first two sets, but came back in the final set to test his Spanish competitor. Ultimately, the eighth-seeded Ferrer got the best of Hewitt, who committed 43 unforced errors in the three setter.
With today’s loss, Hewitt draws the curtains on a career that saw him win 3 Grand Slams, two Davis Cup titles and 30 ATP titles across every surface possible.
A number of his contemporaries paid tribute to the Australian legend following the match, with Roger Federer the first to speak out in praise of the 34-year-old. Rafael Nadal, who has himself crashed out of the Open, described Hewitt as an ‘inspiration’, saying he had shared many great moments with him in the past.
World No. 2 Andy Murray spoke of how he had ‘watched Hewitt growing up’ and been inspired by his game, and that the ace had contributed immensely to the sport of tennis.
Novak Djokovic, reigning champion at the Australian Open, said tennis would “miss Hewitt,” who had been “...a great friend, a great competitor” who had “...brought so much to the sport. Tennis will miss you,” he signed off.
An emotional Hewitt himself paid tribute to the game and players, expressing his gratitude for Australian tennis legend Tony Roche, who first picked Hewitt for the Australian Davis Cup squad; Hewitt said he had been “proudest representing the country at the game.”