At 34 and more than a decade removed from his best tennis, there will still be some small part of Lleyton Hewitt that thinks he can win the Australian Open.
How do we know this?
Because he’s a dreamer. He’s a Pisces. Rocky is his favourite film.
Like anyone who worships at the church of Balboa, he thinks he can shake up the world.
But more than that, he tortures himself. Late last year he began an intensive eight-week training block to ensure he hit his final grand slam tournament in the very best shape he could.
So can Lleyton Hewitt write the ultimate sporting fairytale and win the Australian Open in his final try?
Well, yes he can. He’d likely need a few of his second-week opponents to get hit by gastro, or migraines, but anything’s possible.
And if you don’t believe us, here are a few examples of players beating father time and the odds to go deep at grand slams.
Martina’s on cloud nine
The inimitable Martina Navratilova was 33 years, eight months old, when she went all the way to win Wimbledon in 1990.
Having last tasted grand slam success in 1987, few gave her a hope of lifting a ninth Wimbledon title.
But after dispatching Gabriela Sabatini in the semis, and watching American Zina Garrison upset Stefi Graf on the other side of the draw, the Czech cruised through the final 6-4 6-1 to lift her 18th grand slam singles title, half of them at SW19.
Connors’ US Open run
Jimmy Connors turned 39 during his barnstorming run to the 1991 US Open semi-finals. Needing a wildcard to enter the tournament, Connors accounted for Patrick McEnroe, Karel Novacek, Aaron Krickstein and Paul Haarhuis before being annihilated by Jim Courier.
But what an effort from a man nudging 40 and eight years after his last grand slam win.
Ivanisevic goes all the way
Alright, he was still only 29 when he took out the 2001 Wimbledon by beating Pat Rafter, but Ivanisevic’s Wimbledon win is a pure sporting fairytale.
After being a three-time runner-up at the All-England club, he entered the 2001 draw with a wildcard but defeated Marat Safin, Andy Roddick and Tim Henman before outlasting Pat Rafter in a classic final.
Ken Rosewall was just a few months shy of 40 when he made the decider at Wimbledon in 1974.
But unlike Ivanisevic, there was to be no glorious finish. After a hard quarter-final against John Newcombe and a five-set semi-final marathon against Stan Smith, ‘Muscles’ had little left in the tank for the young lion Jimmy Connors, who romped to a straight-sets win.
But while Rosewall may have been denied, his 30s were a very lucrative time. From the ages of 35-37, he won two Australian Opens and a US Open, perhaps the most fertile period ever by a tennis player over 35.
Agassi’s last hurrah
Andre Agassi always excelled himself in Australia, but his final grand slam triumph – at the ripe old age of 32 – was masterful.
Sure he was aided by a soft draw, and his opponent in the final, Rainer Schuttler, offered little resistance in one of the most disappointing finals Melbourne Park has seen, but Agassi’s eighth grand slam trophy was a cherry on what had already been a sweet career.
Clijsters’ does mums proud
She was only 26 at the time, but Hewitt’s former partner Kim Clijsters confounded the experts in 2009 when, just 18 months after giving birth, she defeated Caroline Wozniacki to take out the US Open – four years after her last grand slam title.
The win was the beginning of a late-career revival for the Belgian, who defended her title at Flushing Meadows a year later, then picked up the 2011 Australian Open before calling it a day.
Spain’s Andres Gimeno was just two months shy of his 35th birthday when he defeated local boy Patrick Proisy to take out the 1972 French Open.
Although he made the final of the Australian Open, and the semi-finals at Wimbledon, his triumph at Roland Garros was the only grand slam success of Gimeno’s career.