Lleyton Hewitt, 1998

Vince Spadea on Lleyton Hewitt’s first ATP title, extract from Facing Hewitt by Scoop Malinowski:

I expected to steamroll the kid

I played against Hewitt in the 1998 quarters at Adelaide, his hometown in the south of Australia, when he was a sixteen year old wildcard. Everyone was wondering how he got a wildcard in the first place, because he was like No.500 in the world at the time and nobody had ever heard of him. Some of the other Australian players were mystified. He had just played a Satellite, which is an even lower pro tournament than a Challenger, that has since been mostly phased out in favor of Futures, the week before Adelaide, and he had lost to a nobody. Our match was a night match, center court. I see this little guy with long blond hair who looks like a surfer, walk out on the court. I figure: “I’m in the semis. This kid is sixteen and he looked weak, inexperienced, unrehearsed, and unpolished.”

The match begins and he’s holding his own. He keeps on hitting balls in the court. I wasn’t playing strongly enough or consistently enough to overpower him even though I’ve got him outweighed by about forty pounds. I end up losing the first set 7-5. Now I’m thinking: “What does this kid think he’s doing?” He didn’t miss one shot long the entire set. My dad, who was coaching me, said after the match “He missed into the net and he missed wide but he never missed past the baseline.” Whenever Hewitt won a big point he screeched out, ‘COME ON’ and punched the air with his fist. I thought that was a little annoying and cocky of him but I didn’t let it bother or initimidate me. I won the second set 6-3. I had been working with Jim Pierce (coach and father of Mary Pierce), so I was in great shape. I had been killing myself in training. I expected to steamroll the kid in the third set. But instead, he put his game into another gear and beat me soundly 6-1 to win the match.

The next day I was eating breakfast with my dad in the players’ cafeteria and Brad Gilbert, coach of Andre Agassi, walked up to us and completely ignored me. He approached my dad and said “Your son had Hewitt last night but he choked. Andre will show you how to handle the kid tonight.”

Of course, Hewitt straight-setted Agassi 7-6 7-6 and then went on to win the tournament. Hewitt has gone on to win almost twenty million dollars in his career, along with a Wimbledon and US Open title. He’s a true warrior on the court. He doesn’t get fazed by disappointment o failure? He doesn’t worry about if he’s hitting the ball great or if he’s winning or losing, he just enjoys the battle. The only other player who battled as successfully as Hewitt was Jimmy Connors. Hewitt will never give up and he doesn’t mind if he has to win hard or easy. He’s one of the greatest competitors in tennis.

Photo credit: Al Bello/Allsport – Lleyton Hewitt in 1998

Lleyton Hewitt wins his first ATP singles title as a 16-year old wild card ranked 550 in the world, defeating fellow Australian Jason Stoltenberg 3-6 6-3 7-6 in his hometown of Adelaide.
At the age of 16 years and 11 months, Hewitt becomes the youngest player to win an ATP singles title since Michael Chang, at the age of 16 years and 8 months, wins the title in San Francisco in 1988.

Says Stoltenberg after the match:

He just played like a 16-year old. You do what comes naturally rather than thinking what you should do.

Source: On this day in tennis history by Randy Walker

Show Court 3 - Nalbandian v Smeets

– The tournament was held for the first time in 1905 and was contested on grass from 1905 through 1987.

– The tournament was first known as the Australasian Championships, became the Australian Championships in 1927 and the Australian Open in 1969.

– The tournament has been staged twice in New Zealand: in Christchurch in 1906 and Hastings in 1912.

– Five australian cities have hosted the tournament: Melbourne (54 times), Sydney(17), Adelaide(14), Brisbane(7), Perth(3). The 1971 Open was the last time the tournament would be played outside Melbourne.

– Last Aussie players to win the Australian Open are Mark Edmondson in 1976 and Chris O’Neil in 1978.

– In 1982, for the first time in tennis history, a player wins two Grand Slam titles in the same calendar year, at the same tournament and against the same opponent: on December 13, 1982 Johan Kriek repeats as Australian Open champion, defeating number 2 seed Steve Denton 6-3 6-3 6-2. The two players played in the 1981 Australian Open final that is played on January 3, 1982, Kriek winning 6-2 7-6 6-7 6-4.

– In 1988, the tournament moved from Kooyong to Flinders Park (now Melbourne Park) and became a hard court event. The move to Flinders Park was an immediate success, with a 90 percent increase in attendance in 1988 (266 436) on the previous year at Kooyong (140 000).
Mats Wilander is the only male player to have won the Australian Open on both grass (1983 and 1984) and hard courts (1988).

– On January 21, 1990, at the Australian Open, John McEnroe becomes the first player since 1963 to be disqualified from a Grand Slam tournament for misconduct. Leading Mikael Pernfors 6-1 4-6 7-5 2-4, McEnroe is disqualified by chair umpire Gerry Armstrong after breaking a racquet and insulting the supervisor.
The last player to be disqualified from a Grand Slam for misconduct had been Willie Alvarez of Spain, in the 1963 French Open, 17 years earlier.

– The Extreme Heat Policy was introduced in 1998 after consultation with players. It comes into play when daytime temperatures hit 35 degrees and the heat stress level reaches 28.
Officials considered closing the roof for the final in 1993 due to a temperature of 104 degrees (40 °C), but Jim Courier threatened to boycott the match unless the roof remained open.

– Prior to the 2000 tournament, the Centre Court was named Rod Laver Arena to honour tennis legend Rod Laver, the only player in tennis history to have captured two Grand Slams (in 1962 and 1969).
Besides tennis, Rod Laver Arena hosts motorbike super cross, conferences, concerts and ballets.

– In the first round of the Australian Open 2000, Marat Safin became the first player ever fined for lack of effort at a Grand Slam. Under the Grand Slam “best effort” rule, the 19-year-old Muscovite was fined $2,000 for failing to make an appropriate effort in his 7-6 (7-4), 6-4, 6-1 loss to South African qualifier Grant Stafford.

– In 2003, the Show Court One was renamed Margaret Court Arena to honour Australian great Margaret Court.
With a capacity of 6 000 seats, it is the largest capacity fully outdoor court used at the Australian Open. Future improvements to the Arena include a capacity expansion of 1500 seats, to total 7500, as well as the installation of an retractable roof for the 2015 Australian Open.

– The highest ever day/night attendance in Grand Slam history was recorded during the first week of Oz Open 2010, with 77 043 fans attending on Saturday 23th January.

– The women’s singles winner is presented with the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup. The men’s singles winner is presented with the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup.