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“The Hall of Fame seemed so far away”: the moving Lleyton Hewitt inducted in Newport | ATP Tour

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It was an emotional weekend for Lleyton Hewitt. Surrounded by family and friends in Newport, the Australian relived his growth from a boy with a dream in Adelaide to one of the greatest tennis champions in recent memory. On Saturday night, it culminated in his induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

“The Hall of Fame seemed like something so far away from me,” Hewitt said at the induction ceremony. “It was never something I thought about as a player, and it was always, I thought, for the people who were my idols growing up and the absolute legends of the sport.”

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In an emotional induction speech, the 41-year-old took fans around the world on his journey to the podium in Rhode Island. When Hewitt was a boy, his favorite sport was AFL football, which was played by members of his family, including his father, Glynn Hewitt.

But after a period of searching, Hewitt’s parents found a tennis coach for their son in Peter Smith, who had a weekly slot available at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday morning. “Rusty” has never looked back.

One of the most important encounters of his life came as a teenager, when he was introduced to Australian legend John Newcombe at his camp in Texas. Hewitt asked to interview Newcombe for a school project.

“The most important thing he said to me was about Kipling’s famous poem ‘If’, and in particular the famous two lines that are written above the catwalk on center court at Wimbledon,” Hewitt said. . “If you can meet triumph and disaster and treat these two imposters alike.”

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No matter what obstacle Hewitt faced or what high he celebrated, the Aussie gave it his all. Whatever the challenge, he did his best to meet it and overcome it.

Hewitt became the youngest No. 1 in Pepperstone ATP rankings history at the age of 20 in 2001. The plucky right-hander has won two major singles titles, two year-end No. 1 finishes, two Nitto ATP Finals trophies and led Australia to two Davis Cup titles.

Before Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic reached the pinnacle of the sport, Hewitt held the top spot for 80 weeks, good for 10th in history. Even when these stars made their mark, “Rusty” scratched and clawed, proving he would never back down.

“I feel lucky to have been able to play with different generations,” Hewitt said. “I was able to be on the same court as my heroes that I looked up to like Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras and then go on and face three of the greatest tennis players our sport has ever seen in Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak. Djokovic.

Hewitt was introduced by Australian legends Newcombe and Tony Roche, the latter having flown around the world to join his mentee for a special weekend.

“The first meeting I had with Lleyton was at a charity event in Adelaide,” Roche said. “He must have been 12 or 13 years old. I was even impressed by his playing at that young age. I was most impressed with her mullet haircut really. All the kids in Adelaide seemed to have these awesome mullet haircuts. But Lleyton, you could tell, was going to be something special.

Lleyton Hewitt poses with one of his mentors, Tony Roche” />
Hewitt poses with Roche after the induction ceremony. Photo credit: Andrew Eichenholz/ATP Tour
The 41-year-old was most emotional as he spoke to family and friends who were in the crowd, especially his wife, Bec, and three children Mia, Cruz and Ava.

“It was such a special moment,” Hewitt said. “I loved traveling as a small family around the world and having this adventure together.”

Hewitt is a member of the Class of 2021, but his induction was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. He still remembers when Stan Smith called him to announce his appointment,

“It was a fun time because, as Stan said, I was actually at a junior under-12 tennis tournament in the middle of nowhere in Pakenham near Melbourne watching my son play. a junior tournament,” Hewitt said. “I had to ask Stan if he could wait a minute so I could step off the pitch to chat so no one could hear what we were talking about. After that phone call, that’s when that I really started to understand that it was something quite special.

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In a way, that moment was almost a decade in the works. Hewitt won his last ATP Tour singles title at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2014 and also won the trophy in doubles with close friend Sam Groth. Eight years later and just a minute’s walk away, Hewitt gave his speech to a cheering crowd on the lawns of Newport.

“I just want to thank all the former Hall of Famers for being here this weekend. It wouldn’t be the same if you weren’t here and I didn’t have people to look up to who l ‘ve done before me too,” Hewitt said. “It’s been an amazing experience for me, all the preparation for the past two years, but especially this weekend. I think it’s so fitting for me to be inducted here in Newport in such a special place.

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