Veteran Lleyton Hewitt admits he doesn’t know what the future holds after losing in the first round of the US Open at Flushing Meadows.
Lleyton Hewitt admits he’s unsure if he’ll return to the US Open after completing the worst grand slam season of his celebrated 18-year-career.
Czech powerhouse Tomas Berdych handed the former world No.1 his heaviest defeat at Flushing Meadows in a decade on Wednesday, a 6-3 6-4 6-3 pummelling on the very court where it all really began for Hewitt.
The loss inevitably casts more doubt over the 33-year-old’s playing future after a miserable year at the four majors.
Hewitt’s only 2014 grand slam win came against world No.120 Michal Przysiezny at Wimbledon and even his former coach Darren Cahill admits “the window’s closing”.
In addition to his early US Open departure, Hewitt also crashed out in the first round at Melbourne Park and Roland Garros.
While he otherwise enjoyed a successful year on tour, taking out two ATP tournaments – including the Brisbane International where he beat Roger Federer in the final – the veteran baseliner will tumble out of the world’s top 50 after his Flushing Meadows flop.
It’s been 13 years since Hewitt dismantled the great Pete Sampras in straight sets at Arthur Ashe Stadium to land the first of his two grand slam trophies and pave a path to the No.1 ranking he held for 80 weeks.
Hewitt also made the final in New York a decade ago, falling to Federer.
But the world No.41 was no match for Berdych on Wednesday and questions about the father-of-three’s desire to carry on beyond Australia’s Davis Cup World Group playoff against Uzbekistan in Perth in September are already being asked.
“That window’s closing. He’s 33 now,” Cahill said.
“Obviously there’s been a lot of talk about how much longer Hewitt will play for.
“The fact that he’s back healthy for the first time in a number of years will mean he will play for however long he wants.”
But even Hewitt doesn’t truly know what the future holds.
“Don’t know. Get that asked every week,” he said when quizzed on his prospects of returning to New York next year.
Cahill, Hewitt’s coach when the teenage prodigy became men’s tennis’s youngest-ever year-ending world No.1 back in 2001, is tipping his former charge to play a full season in 2015 if Australia win their grasscourt playoff with Uzbekistan.
“That’s been a big driving factor, to see Australia back in the World Group, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him play a full year,” he said.
“He’s become probably Australia’s greatest-ever Davis Cup player.”
But, earmarked as Australia’s next Davis Cup captain, Hewitt conceded he may be equally happy to hand over playing responsibilities to young guns Nick Kyrgios, Bernard Tomic and other rising stars like Thanasi Kokkinakis and James Duckworth.
“I’d prefer them to be in good shape rather than playing in the minor leagues every year in Davis Cup,” he said after Wednesday’s defeat.
“Yeah, that’s a positive. Whenever I do stop, I think it’s in good hands.”