Lleyton Hewitt has played his last French Open after confirming he’ll skip this month’s clay court grand slam to focus on Wimbledon and Davis Cup.
Hewitt forecast such a likely scenario in January when he revealed this year would be his last full season on tour before drawing the curtain on his celebrated career after making a record 20th consecutive Australian Open appearance in 2016.
The 34-year-old former world No.1 has only played five ATP singles matches this year and hasn’t been sighted since suffering a three-set first-round loss to Go Soeda in Houston last month.
That last outing was on clay, signalling the two-time grand slam champion may be reconsidering a rethink of his schedule.
But his manager on Tuesday confirmed Hewitt would bypass Roland Garros and head to Europe next month for the grasscourt season before returning home for Australia’s Davis Cup quarter-final against Kazakhstan in Darwin from July 17-19.
Hewitt will contest Wimbledon lead-up events at `s-Hertogenbosch and Queen’s, two tournaments he has won a total of five times, and presumably be granted a wildcard entry into Wimbledon starting on June 29.
“That’s yet to be confirmed but we would anticipate he’d get one,” Drysdale said.
Drysdale said skipping the French Open had been a tough call for his veteran charge, who made the quarter-finals twice in Paris amid a rare run of 10 consecutive appearances to the third round or beyond.
“But Davis Cup and Wimbledon have always been the focus,” he said.
“He just wanted to really do well hopefully at Wimbledon, but obviously the draw will have a lot to do with that.
“The Davis Cup is right after that so he’s hoping to get some good grasscourt practice in before heading to Darwin.”
Under-rated on clay, Hewitt carved out a commendable 28-14 win-loss record in Paris.
He was the top seed in 2002 and 2003 and reached the quarter-finals in 2001 and 2004.
But it was in epic fourth-round losses to nine-times champion Rafael Nadal in 2006 and 2007 and a gallant five-set defeat to former runner-up David Ferrer the following year that Hewitt best showcased his claycourt class.
While Hewitt won’t be lining up for a 15th tilt, Australia’s French Open stocks are looking relatively strong this year.
Australia already have five direct entrants in both the men’s and women’s singles draws, including seeds Bernard Tomic and 2010 runner-up Samantha Stosur.
Nick Kyrgios is also pushing hard for a grand slam seeding for the first time, while fellow young gun Thanasi Kokkinakis is close to direct entry.
Two Australians will also be granted wildcards into the main draw under Tennis Australia’s reciprocal arrangement with the host federation.
LLEYTON HEWITT’S MOST MEMORABLE FRENCH OPENS:
2000: The then-teenager showcased his potential with a first-ever run to the last 16, eventually falling in four sets to Albert Costa, the year before the Spaniard hoisted the trophy.
2001: Took out Nikolay Davydenko, Andy Roddick and Guillermo Canas in successive matches to reach the quarter-finals for the first time, stopped in the quarters by future champion Juan Carlos Ferrero.
2002: Top seed in Paris for the first time, Hewitt went down in a four-and-a-quarter-hour, four-set, fourth-round epic against classy claycourter Canas.
2003: Top seed again, Hewitt suffered a rare career loss from two sets to love up against Spanish claycourter Tommy Robredo in the third round.
2004: Recovered from two sets to one down to engineer a signature fightback win against former big-hitting finalist Martin Verkerk before losing to eventual champion Gaston Gaudio in the quarter-finals.
2006: Dictating from the baseline, Hewitt had the great Nadal stretched to the limit and running from side to side before losing the high-quality fourth-round encounter in fall four sets to the claycourt colossus.
2007: Wound back the clock to pull off an improbable victory from two sets down against former champion Gaudio in the second round before losing again to Nadal in the last 16.
2008: Coming off a limited claycourt preparation, Hewitt marvelled fans with a remarkable performance to lead Spanish finalist David Ferrer by two sets to one before fatiguing.
2009: Made the third round after withstanding a record 55 aces and rallying back from two sets to love down in his opener against Ivo Karlovic before running into Nadal for the third time.
2010: In a remarkable show of consistency, Hewitt reached the third round at Roland Garros in his 10th straight appearance before – yet again – coming up against Nadal.