Whether he was on a practice court with coach Tony Roche or Centre Court at Wimbledon, Australian Lleyton Hewitt played tennis at full speed, the only way he knew how.
That drive also landed him in the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I.
He was officially inducted Saturday, in an evening ceremony on the same court he played his first match at the venue.
In his commemorative ITHF blazer, he stood in front of family, friends, and tennis greats to give his speech, thanking all that had helped him get to this point, including his first coach, Peter Smith.
“I would continually try to impress Peter but nothing ever felt good enough,” he said. “But I look back now and I realize how important that mindset was. He kept me grounded and kept me striving to improve.”
The 41-year-old Hewitt, who joined 261 other players and contributors enshrined in Newport, said his work ethic and preparation for long matches are what helped him make the most of his talent.
“I gave 100 percent every time I stepped on the court,” Hewitt said during a news conference prior to Saturday’s induction. “It wasn’t just the match court, it was the practice court as well and I felt training with the likes of Tony Roche, every time I stepped on the practice court, It was about having a purpose.”
Hewitt was initially told Roche, his former coach, mentor, and fellow member of the Hall of Fame, would not be able to make the trip to witness the enshrinement, but Hewitt was surprised Thursday night at a dinner with friends and family in Newport when his mentor walked up to the table, and the two embraced and shared gleaming smiles.
Roche joined in welcoming Hewitt into the Hall of Fame, by introducing and awarding Hewitt with his medal similarly to how Hewitt awarded him the Tim Gullikson Career Coach Award in 2020.
Hewitt’s love for Australian football was addressed in his speech as he recounted a crucial moment in his teens.
“I wanted to be playing for the Adelaide Crows [AFL team],” said Hewitt. “That was my dream at that stage. At 14, I had to make a decision. So within the next year after that, I quit football and went full time, steam ahead, with tennis. Really didn’t look back after that.”
Hewitt’s accomplishments include victories at the 2001 US Open and 2002 Wimbledon, more than 600 match victories, and 30 tournament titles.
Hewitt competed in his 20th and final Australian Open in 2016, but remains a part of the game and Australian tennis as captain of the Davis Cup team.
“It’s not always easy,” he said. “There’s certainly challenging times and I think I’m fortunate to have someone like Tony Roche around who has been there and done that and instill this culture that we expect when representing Australia and Davis Cup or in any team competition.”
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Before the ceremony, Maxime Cressy stopped John Isner’s 10-match winning streak at Newport with a 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 victory in a semifinal match. In Sunday’s final, Cressy will play Alexander Bublik, a 6-3, 6-2 winner over Jason Kubler.