| Hewitt vehemently denies court case affecting game
Anaheim: His critics suggest victory in a bitter legal battle with the ATP has become more important to troubled Lleyton Hewitt than success on the tennis court.
An extended run at the US Open, therefore, would provide the Australian with a perfect riposte and a positive finale to a Grand Slam season, which has been nothing short of miserable for the former world Number One.
Hewitt filed a court case in June against the ATP, emanating from his row with the governing body over his refusal to give a media interview in 2002.
It is a messy situation, which Hewitt will be confronted with time and again by media in New York, and it will be interesting to see how a player famed for his mental fortitude will cope.
The 22-year-old vehemently denies the affair is affecting his game but a poor run of results prove otherwise.
Even his demeanour on court — a betrayal of the intense competitor many have come to love or hate — has at times shown Hewitt in a different light.
A fourth round exit at the Australian Open in January ensured his ambition of winning in his home country remains unfulfilled, while he made it to just the third round of the French Open in May.
But it was a first round defeat to unheralded Croatian Ivo Karlovic at Wimbledon in June — the earliest exit for a defending champion in the Open era — which represented the nadir of Hewitt’s year.
“I guess this loss will stay with me for a while,” said Hewitt at the time. “I hope I can learn from it. You know, the big one for me now is the US Open, the last Grand Slam of the year. Maybe this defeat will make me more hungry for that last Grand Slam. I’ll have to wait and see.”
To add to the maelstrom around the south Australian, people are now calling for him to replace his coach Roger Rasheed.
Aside from making the Los Angeles final on August 3, his early exits on the hardcourts of the Montreal and Cincinnati Masters events do not bode well.
“I’d probably like to have had more matches going in to the Open,” Hewitt, the 2001 US Open champion, said last week.
“But Grand Slams are different. If you can get through a few matches and the draw opens up and you get confident, then everyone knows (what can happen). Look at Pete Sampras last year, and even the two occasions I’ve won Grand Slams — I’ve got better as the tournament has gone on.”
Sampras won against all odds at Flushing Meadow 12 months ago, yet New York and the US Open remain the most unforgiving of Grand Slam environments.
It will be a shame if one of the game’s most interesting competitors is crushed by both.