A Tribute to Rusty: The Resilience of Lleyton Hewitt
I don't know if I've ever been good enough
I'm a little bit rusty...
—Matchbox Twenty, "Push"
Resilience may be my darkhorse favorite word. That said, ladies and gentlemen, the resurgence of Lleyton Hewitt is officially a thing. It is present, it is now, and it is inarguably fun to watch. Unlike the lyric above, the player nicknamed "Rusty" has never thought himself not good enough. He has gone out for every match, even when he slipped out of the Top 100 on the ATP World Tour, believing he could clinch it. This is Hewitt 2.0, perhaps 3.0: Far behind him are the hijinks of the past—the controversial "cobra" gesture, the off-the-cuff remark during a match against James Blake—and now it's all about the literal blood, sweat, and tears of each match at hand.
I hope you watched his season-starting Brisbane final victory over Roger Federer, a 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 triumph that may have served to reinsert Hewitt in the sport's upper echelon. If you missed that match, well, here are highlights:
Forget for a moment that Federer completely whiffed a second serve early in that match, as Ed McGrogan rightly noted. Forget that the world's No. 6 star, the likely Greatest of All-Time (at least for now), lost to the indefatigable No. 43, a two-time major champ. Both of these guys are 32 years young, or old, depending on the match. But both, having accomplished so much—the well-documented plane full of trophies, the No. 1 ranking—continue to go out there and fist-pump and "Come on!" their ways to where they so stubbornly want to be.
Nothing passes as quickly or quietly as the future. Hewitt will turn 33 in a month and a half, "besting" Federer, who will turn that same age in August. For now, though, let's savor this showdown. What sticks out to me about the clip above is how often Federer sought to audibly energize himself. What brought the title match in Brisbane to a full stop, however, was Hewitt's resolve to see the job through. Eyes on the prize. The denoument. That's Lleyton Hewitt in a nutshell: He provides the emphatic punctuation mark at the end of so many points. This historically outspoken pro is certainly having his last say.
It may just be a significantly longer one than anyone, save him, expected.
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