A lot has happened to Lleyton Hewitt since
January last year. He’s found a wife and had a baby. He’s had a very public
falling out with friend and Adelaide Crows footballer Andrew McLeod, and has
maintained the rage against organisers of the Australian Open for not providing “their boy” with a surface that suits his game.
No wonder he hasn’t had the time to win a
tournament in almost 18 months. Thankfully for the former world number
one, all that changed over the weekend, with a comfortable win at Queen’s, the
traditional Wimbledon warm-up tournament.
Hewitt beat American James Blake in the
final 6-4 6-4 to become only the third player, behind John McEnroe and Boris
Becker, to win the title four times, with his previous victories from 2000 to
2002. On his way to the final, he overcame Tim Henman (current ranking 62) in
the semis, Rafael Nadal in the quarters (although the young Spaniard retired
with shoulder soreness with the match poised at one set all), and Max Mirnyi (52)
in the third round.
So is it a harbinger of better things to
come for Lleyton? After winning Queens in 2002, he went on to beat David
Nalbandian to claim the Wimbledon final, but that was also when he was world number
one, with Roger Federer only beginning his charge to the top. Prior to that,
good performances at Queen’s were not a positive omen for his Wimbledon
campaign. In 2000, Hewitt lost in the first round, and in 2001 he made it to
the fourth before Nicholas Escudet knocked him out in five sets.
But times have changed. Hewitt is five
years older. He’s coming off a lean two years, and after murmurings earlier
this year that he may move overseas to escape the scrutiny at home, his
performances have been improving, with a solid showing at Roland Garros
preceding his win in London.
While this certainly doesn’t signal a
return to the form that saw him win Wimbledon four years ago, following his performance
at Roland Garros, maybe it shows the calming effect family life is (finally) having
on his tennis. The real test begins next week, when he’ll have to outplay
people ranked well above him if he’s to continue along the path of rankings