Don't write me off, says battler Hewitt
Australian veteran Lleyton Hewitt backed himself to compete with top seed Novak Djokovic after he battled his way into a fourth-round clash with the defending champion at the Australian Open.
The two-time grand slam winner has slipped to 181 in the world rankings but has turned back the clock in Melbourne, seeing off big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic to reach the round of 16, after earlier beating injured Andy Roddick.
When asked whether he gave himself a chance against Djokovic, Hewitt said: “Yeah, I’ll prepare as well as possible again. I’ll do all the right things. Yeah, he’s the number one player in the world for a reason at the moment.
“I’m going to enjoy going out there and having a crack.”
Veteran Hewitt, who has won Wimbledon and the US Open, has never lifted his home grand slam but said he had worked hard even to play in Melbourne after undergoing foot surgery last year.
“A couple of months ago I didn’t know if I’d be able to play. Yeah, obviously I didn’t play much tennis last year,” he said late on Saturday.
“I think in terms of how much pain and stuff I played with last year, it’s really only my team and people close to me and probably the Davis Cup boys sort of know what I’ve had to deal with,” he added.
“So, yeah, it’s pleasing to come through like I have the last three matches.”
The 30-year-old said he had no sense of disbelief after downing Raonic, the 23rd seed, adding: “I never write myself off.”
“I don’t think a lot of people would have given me a lot of hope when the draw came out to be in the fourth round going into the second week,” added Hewitt, handed a wildcard to play at the Open.
“I’ve done everything right so far, laid it all out on the line.”
Raonic said despite his advancing years, Hewitt remained a cunning and dangerous player — with undiminished fighting spirit.
“He’s a very smart player. He knows how to win. When he smells a little bit of weakness, he just really pounces on it and he knows how to expose it. He’s not the type of person that will give you really anything,” Raonic said.
“Doesn’t matter how hurt he’s been, how old he is, he’s as much of a competitor as he ever was. He got me with that.”