Hewitt back at hometown event where he won 1st tournament

Lleyton Hewitt's tennis career has come nearly full circle as he prepares to play in his hometown tournament for the last time.
Hewitt won the Australian men's hardcourt title in Adelaide 10 years ago as a 16-year-old wild card for his first professional tournament win. Since then, he's won two Grand Slams _ the U.S. Open in 2001 and Wimbledon in 2002 _ and held the No. 1 ranking for 75 consecutive weeks from Nov. 19, 2001.
Now ranked No. 21 and attempting to work his way back into the top 10, the top-seeded Hewitt will play at Memorial Drive beginning Monday for the final time. The Australian men's hardcourt tournament will head north to Brisbane, Queensland state, next year.
"It doesn't feel that long ago," Hewitt said Sunday of his win in 1998. "It would be great to win again here, it would be a good start.
"I have got to look toward mid-January and the Australian Open but obviously this would be a fantastic way to kick off January and the start of 2008."
Hewitt faces a tough draw in the 32-man tournament.
He plays Israel's Dudi Sela, ranked No. 64, in the first round and is in the same quarter as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Jose Acasuso, who both defeated Hewitt in their last meetings.
"There is going to be a lot of tough matches throughout the week," he said. "Maybe you don't have anyone in the top 20 at the moment but you look at the guys throughout ... I don't think it's going to be easy for anyone."
The tournament will be played on Plexicushion courts at Memorial Drive, replacing the previous Rebound Ace surface. The Australian Open has made the same switch this year.
In a new move by tournament organizers, matches will be played side by side in the Adelaide stadium.
"It's going to be a bit different, I probably haven't done it for a long time, since playing juniors," Hewitt said. "Obviously the later you go in the tournament you won't have to deal with that."

Updated : 2021-01-28 14:56 GMT+08:00