Family guy Hewitt relishes senior role

Lleyton Hewitt was conferred with senior citizen status when Juan Martin del Potro described the Australian as his childhood hero.

updated: June 26, 2009 10:28 IST
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Lleyton Hewitt was conferred with senior citizen status on Thursday when vanquished Wimbledon opponent Juan Martin del Potro described the Australian as his childhood hero.

But the former world number one has no intention of slipping gently into retirement.

The 28-year-old Australian rolled back the Centre Court years with a confident 6-3, 7-5, 7-5 win over the fifth seeded Argentine to reach the third round with a performance which echoed his 2002 title triumph.

Hewitt came into the All England Club with his ranking down at 56, a legacy of his battle for fitness after hip surgery.

Despite the pain, he never contemplated quitting even with 18 million dollars in the bank, a happy marriage to a TV soap star and the proud father of two young children.

"Once I made that commitment to have the surgery and go through the tough rehab and being off the tour for that long, the motivation was there," said Hewitt who missed the last five months of 2008 to recover.

"I think it probably hit home more when the US Open was on last year after I'd had the surgery and I was sitting back at home just twiddling my thumbs, changing nappies and stuff, but not doing a lot of other things."

Del Potro, expected to go deep into the tournament on the back of a French Open semi-final run, as well as being placed in the section of the draw stripped of injured champion Rafael Nadal, admitted he had been in awe of Hewitt when he was younger.

"He's one of my idols. I started to follow him was when I was young, like 11 years, 12 years-old," said the 20-year-old Argentine.

Hewitt finds it amusing to have hero status.

"Juan Martin gets on really well with my physio who was born in South America. My physio told me that he did look up to me growing up," said the Australian.

Hewitt's next assignment is a match-up with Germany's Philipp Petzschner for a place in the last 16 with potential clashes against Andy Roddick and Andy Murray further into the second week.

Hewitt believes he still has the game to worry the top players.

"There's been patches this year when I've played extremely well. It's taken some of the best players to beat me in the bigger tournaments," he said.

"I think if draws open up and the body feels good and I can play and execute that kind of style of tennis for over five sets, there's no reason why I can't put a bit of pressure on these guys."