Lleyton Hewitt’s intense tune-up this month with coach Tony Roche as he plots his return to tennis five months after hip surgery has drawn praise from senior Australian icon John Newcombe.
“The last 10 days they’ve really picked it up and worked hard, and his biggest problem lately — his hip — is responding well,” Newcombe told Sydney’s Sun-Herald.
“He wants to go hard for another two years, at least, and he believes he can get back into the top 10,” he said.
Hewitt’s goal is to finally win the Australian Open which start on Jan. 19.
To get up to speed, the former world No.1 and two-time Grand Slam champion will compete for Australia at the Hopman Cup starting a week tomorrow in Perth — a tournament that will feature Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Lu Yen-hsun — then move onto Sydney for his “home” event.
Hewitt currently lies 67th in the world rankings as Australian tennis struggles to find a new generation of tennis stars. He and Chris Guccione (98th) are the lone rangers in the ATP Top 100 for the one-time tennis titans.
“Give him 12 months, and if he stays healthy, I’d be surprised if he’s not in the top 10,” Newcombe said.
“If Lleyton plays defensively and relies on counter-attack, he’s not going to get back in the top 10,” he said. “If he backs himself, hits backhands down the line, gets his forehand going down the line and doesn’t get stuck in this thing of hitting everything cross-court, he can do anything.”
While Newcombe gives Hewitt his best wishes, he is keen on the chances of Andy Murray to continue his breakthrough in the face of stern competition from Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Melbourne title holder Novak Djokovic.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STAFF WRITER