Shanghai: The Andre Agassi poster has long gone from Lleyton Hewitt’s bedroom wall but the American dynamo will still be filling Hewitt’s thoughts in the days leading up to next week’s Tennis Masters Cup.
Agassi, 32 years of age and as sharp and fast as ever, is the only player in the exclusive eight-man Shanghai field capable of toppling Hewitt for the end-of-year number one spot.
To do so, he will more likely than not have to win the season-ender for the first time since 1990. Despite having won five titles this year Agassi is without a major crown in 2002. Victory in Shanghai would put that right.
Certainly Hewitt knows that the man who was his tennis hero as a child is more than capable of ruining his party.
“Age doesn’t come into it... not if your name is Andre Agassi,” the feisty Australian said as he looked ahead to Shanghai.
“A lot of guys wouldn’t be able to do it at 32 but he is in such great shape that I’m not even going to put a time line on when he is going to finish.
“He is moving as well as ever — his fitness is definitely not dropping off. It is gonna be tough to finish number one the way that Andre has been playing... ”
Hewitt found that out at painful close quarters in September when Agassi blew him away in the semi-finals of the US Open.
“If Andre is too good and gets number one you have to take your hat off to him. But if I get to keep number one it will be fantastic.”
Hewitt heads to Shanghai 88 points ahead of Agassi. With 150 points available to an unbeaten champion, he is well within range.
Hewitt himself overhauled a number one in the final week of the season — Gustavo Kuerten — when he became the youngest year-end world number one aged 20 by winning the Tennis Masters Cup in Sydney last year.
Then, rankings were far from his thoughts in the run-up to the year-ender. This year they are paramount. (Reuters)