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"Roger Federer was awfully tough to play in big matches" - Lleyton Hewitt on his most difficult opponents

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal
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Modified 05 Oct 2020, 12:47 IST
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With 27 matches against each other, Lleyton Hewitt and Roger Federer had quite a fierce rivalry in the early 2000s. However, this was a matchup largely dominated by Roger Federer, as evidenced by his 18-9 lead in the pair's head-to-head.

What makes this statistic even more remarkable is that the two players competed against each other during their absolute peak years. Unfortunately for Hewitt, his best performances were rarely good enough to get the better of the Swiss.

While speaking to Forbes after being nominated for the International Tennis Hall of Fame’s Class of 2021, Lleyton Hewitt was asked about the toughest opponents he had faced during his career. The two-time Grand Slam champion was swift in naming Roger Federer as ‘one of the toughest’ opponents.

The Australian also acknowledged the difficulty of playing Rafael Nadal, also known as 'The King of Clay', at Roland Garros.

Obviously, Roger Federer was one of the toughest players: Lleyton Hewitt

Roger Federer
Roger Federer

Roger Federer and Lleyton Hewitt played each other from 1999 to 2014. During these 15 years, both of them enjoyed their peaks roughly around the same time (even though Federer had a much longer one).

The Australian played some of his best tennis from 2001 to 2005 while Roger Federer was in the ascendency from 2003.

Despite being at their best in roughly the same period (2003-2005), Lleyton Hewitt massively struggled against Roger Federer at Grand Slams. They played each other in five Grand Slams during these three years, with Federer winning all of those encounters.

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Following Hewitt's decline, the duo played each other in three more Grand Slams - with Federer once again emerging victorious on each of those occasions.

Lleyton Hewitt and Roger Federer in 2014
Lleyton Hewitt and Roger Federer in 2014

Thus, it came as no surprise when Hewitt picked Roger Federer as one of his hardest matchups, elaborating that the 20-time Grand Slam champion was ‘awfully tough’ to face in big matches.

“I got to play players across different generations, you could say,” Hewitt said. “Obviously, Roger Federer was one of the toughest players (when) at his best. I was probably at my best at the time he was at his best, and he was awfully tough to play in big matches.”

There’s a reason why Rafael Nadal has won 12 French Opens: Lleyton Hewitt

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal
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Lleyton Hewitt also brought up Rafael Nadal, arguably Federer's greatest rival, in the conversation. The Australian said that facing the Spaniard on the clay courts of Roland Garros was one of the most brutal tasks in tennis.

“Rafael Nadal, on clay at the French Open is probably one of the brutally toughest single matches you can come up against,” Hewitt continued. “I played him three or four times there. There’s a reason why he’s won 12 of them.”

The duo played each other in the French Open on four occasions and Nadal won all of them with ease, dropping just a solitary set in the process.

Published 04 Oct 2020, 14:38 IST
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