Why should Lleyton Hewitt retire?

by whyilovesport

Lleyton Hewitt

Lleyton Hewitt is getting old, he’s 31 and married with three children. It’s been almost a decade since his last victory in a major.

After a swifter than expected recovery from foot surgery which saw a metal plate and screws inserted in his left big toe, Hewitt is injury-free for the first time in two years.

He lost his comeback match at the French Open in four sets to Blaz Kavcic, a little know qualifier from Slovenia. And, as so often happens after he loses, the plea for him to ‘retire already’ rears its head again.

What needs to be understood is tennis is an individual sport, with a totally different set-up compared to team sports like cricket and the major football codes. There is no need for Hewitt to retire.

The Aussie is a former world number one and a two time Grand Slam winner but a large group of people are in the boat that believe he should retire sooner rather than later, believing he’s embarrassing himself and spoiling his record. It’s almost as though they are cringing at him losing.

That attitude is a very narrow-minded one. It is an attitude that winning is everything. In sport, even in professional sport, winning is not everything. It’s cold-hearted to support Hewitt when he’s winning and then, needlessly, call for the noose when he’s losing.

If he wants to continue playing, he can go on for as long as he wants. Unlike football or cricket, he is not hindering the future pathway of any young Australian team members.

The whole tennis world will agree that his best years are beyond him and he will never win a Grand Slam again. But just because he can’t win a major again doesn’t mean he should retire. That argument is insensitive nonsense, an opinion that lacks substance.

With that rationale, we’d only have three or four players enter the 128-field main draw because 27 of the last 28 Grand Slam winners have been shared between just 3 – the ‘big 3’ of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

While Grand Slams are universally agreed by the tennis world as being the pinnacle of tennis, it is not the be all and end all. There is more to it than that.

Hewitt has been a key part of Australia’s Davis Cup set-up for many years now. He, with Mark Philippoussis, spearheaded Australia to win the ultimate team trophy in the sport in 2003 when they beat Spain 3-1 in the final. For the last few years, Australia has been absent from the elite 16-team World Group, but Hewitt, who holds the record for most singles wins in Davis Cup for Australia, is desperate to lead the nation back in that World Group.

He has the heart of a lion and as long as he is motivated should ignore the haters and continue for as long as he is motivated.

When his professional career does finish, ‘Rusty’ has a lot to keep him occupied. His three children will be growing up and into heading into primary school. He also has received a warm reception for his stints in commentary. Many feel his analysis on the game is very insightful and so a commentary career is very much on the cards. His love of the game means he will still want to be involved to an extent. He seems destined to be a future David Cup captain following his retirement.

Sometimes our attitude is very negative towards our Aussie tennis stars. Some people seem to love to hate.

“Stosur, she’s a choker and fluked the US Open”, they say. “Tomic is an arrogant prick that cheated.” “Hewitt is a loud bastard that is very disrespectful.”

These comments in forums are very much unwarranted and blasphemous.

Have they ever thought Hewitt might just continue playing purely because he just loves playing? His guts and determination are to be admired. Anatomically, he doesn’t look cut-out to be a tennis player.

Standing at 180cm tall, he is towered by some of the newer batch of players who use their height to win easy points with big serves and explosive shot-making which Hewitt does not possess. He is not the tallest or strongest player on tour. Hewitt is not a natural athlete but he has been resourceful to get the most out of his body and, through willpower and a strong mentality, has been able to achieve beyond what most would have expected.

As for those claiming he is only continuing for money, that is a very uneducated opinion. It’s simple really. If he still enjoys playing, why should he have to stop? Only Hewitt himself knows what’s really motivating him. Whatever it is, there should be no rush or pressure to ‘retire already’.

The man from Adelaide nicknamed Rusty can play a little longer before he hangs up the racket.