Sport Tennis Think you know Lleyton Hewitt? Think again…
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Think you know Lleyton Hewitt? Think again…

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It’s tough to imagine a summer of tennis without Lleyton Hewitt, but next year that’s just what we’ll get.

The sight of Hewitt shouting c’mon is as much a staple of an Australian summer as blowflies – some would argue just as annoying.

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But for as long as he’s been around, there’s still a bit of mystery about the 34-year-old.

Like how did he get his nickname ‘Rusty’? And what does he have in common with Lebanese comedian Rob Shehadie?

1. He attended Immanuel College in Adelaide, a Lutheran school also attended by AFL footballers Brad Ottens and Shaun Rehn. It was founded in 1895 and the school motto is Plus Ultra (Ever Higher).

2. He is often referred to as Australia’s greatest ever Davis Cup player. He played his first Davis Cup at the age of 18 in 1999 against the United States in Massachusetts where he achieved upset wins over Todd Martin and Alex O’Brien. Last year he was appointed captain of the Australian Davis Cup team.

Young love: Hewitt and Kim Clijsters in 2002. Photo: Getty
Young love: Hewitt and Kim Clijsters in 2002. Photo: Getty

3. Hewitt was a promising AFL player at school, but opted to concentrate on tennis. He is joint number one ticket holder for the Adelaide Crows along with Federal Labor MP Kate Ellis.

4. He is the youngest player, at 20, to be ranked as world number one in singles. He also won the Wimbledon singles in 2002 and the US Open in 2001.

5. Hewitt has been coached by all of the following: Peter Smith, Darren Cahill, Jason Stoltenberg, Roger Rasheed, Scott Draper, Tony Roche, Nathan Healey, Brett Smith and Peter Luczak.

6. His brother-in-law, married to Lleyton’s sister Jaslyn, is Australian-born Lebanese background actor and comedian Rob Shehadie. Jaslyn is also a former tennis pro and body builder.

7. His most enduring rivalry has been with Roger Federer. Hewitt is six months older than Federer. They have played each other 27 times, with Federer winning 18-9.

8. He was a close friend of indigenous Adelaide Crows player Andrew McLeod, but the two had a falling out in 2005. Hewitt had produced a DVD called Lleyton Hewitt: the other side which included footage of several Aboriginal sites, to which McLeod objected.

9. Of all the controversies in which he has been involved, Argentinian players seem to have featured frequently. Among those he clashed with are David Nalbandian, Guillermo Coria and Juan Ignacio Chela. Hewitt’s trademark cry of “come on!” was not a hit with any of them.

Hewitt had a tense relationship with David Nalbandian, who he defeated in the 2002 Wimbledon final. Photo: Getty
Hewitt had a tense relationship with David Nalbandian, who he defeated in the 2002 Wimbledon final. Photo: Getty

10. Hewitt and Belgian tennis champion Kim Clijsters became involved during the Australian Open of 2000. They became engaged at Christmas 2003, but broke up in October of 2004.

11. He became engaged to Australian actress Bec Cartwright after a six-week romance. They married at the Sydney Opera House in 2005 and now live in Nassau, Bahamas, with their three children.

12. Hewitt’s nickname is Rusty. This was bestowed on him by Australian tennis coach Darren Cahill who decided Hewitt looked like the character Rusty from the National Lampoon film series.

13. During the French Open of 2001, Hewitt caused a stir when he referred to two officials as “spastics”. This resulted in an official complaint from the Cerebral Palsy Association in Australia. Hewitt later said: “If I did say that in the heat of the battle, then I apologise. I didn’t intend to offend anyone.” He further made headlines in 2005 when he was caught on television making an anti-gay slur against a Davis Cup official.

14. As far back as 2000, Hewitt was sponsored by Nike. He is currently sponsored by the American athletic apparel company Athletic DNA. He is also sponsored by the Japanese sports equipment company Yonex, who supply his racquets, shoes and accessories. His shoes are endorsed with his nickname Rusty, and an Australian flag.

15. When he met Cypriot player Marcos Baghdatis in the Australian Open of 2008, an unusual record was set. It turned into the latest ever match in Grand Slam history, ending at 4.45am. Hewitt won.

Doug Aiton is a newspaper journalist and radio broadcaster. He has worked for The London Times, The Age, ABC Radio and 3AW.

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