On Saturday evening, Lleyton Hewitt will officially receive his sport’s highest honor when he is inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The 41-year-old was due to be enshrined last year as one of three Class of 2021 selections, until COVID-19 travel restrictions prevented him from making the trip to Newport, R.I.

During his standout career, Hewitt became the youngest player in history to reach No. 1 on the ATP singles rankings. He raised two major singles trophies at the 2001 US Open and 2002 Wimbledon and also triumphed once in men’s doubles at the 2000 US Open (with Max Mirnyi). Hewitt’s greatest joy however, came when contributing to his nation’s rich tradition of Davis Cup excellence, helping Australia to a pair of titles in 1999 and 2003—all while racking up the most total wins (singles and doubles) of any player to ever don the green and gold.

The Hall of Famer looks back on his journey, career connection to Newport, importance of mentorship and more:

You’re finally here! You had to wait an extra year for this occasion. What’s the anticipation been like and how are you feeling now that the milestone weekend is here?

HEWITT: It has been a longer buildup I guess, than other people, but I enjoyed it as well. It probably wouldn't have been right trying to rush off with Australia, the borders, pandemic and everything that was going on the last couple of years. I’m going to be able to enjoy this weekend with my family and friends that are here. If you're just here getting inducted by yourself, I don't think it would nearly mean as much. So, the proudest part is having my family and friends here—people that have been such a big part of my career on and off the tennis court and made me the person that I am to here today.


Those joining Hewitt this weekend include wife Bec and their children, Ava, Mia and Cruz.

Those joining Hewitt this weekend include wife Bec and their children, Ava, Mia and Cruz.

Friends and family joined you for a tour of the renowned museum. In seeing your name alongside all of these incredible champions and contributors, what went through your mind?

HEWITT: You’ve sort of got to pinch yourself really as you're walking through, because it's a very surreal moment. It's nothing that I ever thought about as a player, or even as a kid growing up, that I wanted to be in the Hall of Fame, have my stuff alongside these greats. I just thought it was kind of out of reach. These were legends and stars of tennis and I just one day wanted to play on a Grand Slam court.

So, for me to be part of it and even to get messages from some past Hall of Famers and people that I looked up to and idolized over the years, is something incredibly special. As well as knowing that I was able to have that impact on this sport over numerous years. It’s quite remarkable to walk through this museum, see the history and tradition of this great game and know I've played a small part in that.

A huge part of your enjoyment was the competition itself. And your ties to Newport lie well beyond this weekend’s induction ceremony. You won 129 matches on grass in your career, but your very first victory on the surface came in Newport when you were 17. What do you remember about your first trip?

HEWITT: I beat Lorenzo Manta in the first round. There's the row of courts just behind center court, and I played on one of those. I think it was the first court. And then I lost to Jason Stoltenberg in the second round. I had beaten Stolts in the final of Adelaide when I won my first tour title at 16, in January that year. It's funny, because Stolts went on to be one of my coaches and helped me when I won Wimbledon.

I'd actually just changed racquets for the first time as well. it was my first event with Yonex, which I've used ever since. And I still remember, I wasn't a massive fan of grass courts back then either. I hadn't played on it a lot. A lot of people think that growing up in Australia you play on a lot of grass, whereas pretty much it was all hard courts by the time I came through. A few big changes happened that week and it's a lot of good memories.

And then bringing that full circle, your 30th and final singles title came eight years ago. What stands out specifically about that run? Was the number 30 something you were chasing at the time, or simply a bonus of winning?

HEWITT: My focus was purely on just winning the tournament in the end. I'd come awfully close the two years before losing in tight finals. Plus I knew the history and tradition around here, playing on these grass courts. So that probably drove me to make sure I got my name on the trophy here at the tournament. I was able to do that in 2014 beating Ivo Karlovic, who I had plenty of tough matches with throughout my career. He was a very awkward opponent, especially on grass courts. It was very satisfying to win that week, What made it more special was winning the doubles with my good mate, Chris Guccione. That was the only time in my career I was able to win the singles and doubles in the same week.


Hewitt is the last Australian man to bring home a Grand Slam singles trophy.

Hewitt is the last Australian man to bring home a Grand Slam singles trophy.

Love the shoutout to Gooch. Well, speaking of teams. You had the pleasure of working with many respected names in your career, including some fellow Hall of Famers. Tony Roche, who surprised you at dinner Thursday night, comes to mind. How important was mentorship to your development? And is carrying that torch a motivating factor in staying involved with the sport?

HEWITT: Yeah, absolutely. I kind of throw in Rochey the most, but John Newcombe as well. The two of them, it first started with their belief in me. They molded me into the person I am today in terms of how passionate I am about Australian tennis, how passionate I am about the Davis Cup competition. What it means to try and keep that great legacy going [by] representing the green and gold and doing it for our country. And that's certainly something in the last five to 10 years that I've really worked on with a lot of the younger players in Australia, too. What it means and what responsibilities come with getting handed a golden jacket and playing for Australia. It's not like any other time that you walk on the court and play for yourself.

I'm so fortunate to have the likes of Newk and Rochey in my corner. And then to have someone like Pat Rafter who took me under his wing. He was basically like my older brother when I first came on the Davis Cup team. He was No. 1 in the world and won Grand Slams. In a lot of ways, I wanted to be just like Pat as well. They all played a massive part in me being here today.

One person who can come to you for anything he wants to know about tennis is your son Cruz. Just curious what it's been like over the years to watch his passion for the sport you've loved for so long blossom. And are you able to keep the nerves in check when you’re in the role of a parent versus coach?

HEWITT: Yeah, it's been great. Cruz, even though he was around tennis from a young age, he was similar to me in a lot of ways, playing AFL football and doing other sports back home. He played soccer when we were living in the Bahamas. He didn't really get into tennis until we were settled down and was around the Davis Cup boys, Alex de Minaur, Nick Kyrgios, these guys, and that's when his love for tennis hit. He wanted to go out there and have more of a go at that particular sport. It’s fantastic for me to see the full journey, see him out playing junior tournaments and getting the same love out of this great sport that I got so many years ago.

It's hard watching him play sometimes. That's for sure. For me though, it's like watching Davis Cup and sitting on the sidelines. There's very little impact I can have on the match, whereas when you're out there playing, it's all in your control. That's something I've had to learn to deal with being Davis Cup captain, and just trying to help here and there where I can. It’s kind of the same with Cruz.


Hewitt poses with Roche inside the museum.

Hewitt poses with Roche inside the museum.

Just on the subject of having family there. Your major role in the induction ceremony besides showing up is making a speech, You’ve had an extra year to kind of think about what you want to say. Has that helped or increased the stress levels in wanting to get it right?

HEWITT: It’s probably made it more stressful, to be honest (laughter). Speeches are not something I really think about too much. Normally, I find it comes quite naturally when I'm talking. I kind of wing it in a lot of ways in terms of what I'm thinking about and how I feel. But in terms of this, it's something I wanted to put into writing more. One, so I could reflect on it more and go through it, but also not to miss out on certain aspects. And it probably got me thinking more about certain things that have happened in my life to put me in a position to be here today as well.

To finish, there are the triumphs, there are the titles, there's all the “C’mon!” moments that you've had. What is the legacy you want people to take away from who Lleyton Hewitt was on the court?

HEWITT: I think it's someone that left it all out there. Played with their heart on their sleeve, gave absolutely a hundred percent every time they stepped on the tennis court, no matter what the situation was. Someone that took great pride in playing for their country, playing for their teammates, their captain, coach. Loyalty was a big, big thing for me in my life in general. For me, repaying those people that had that belief in me and backed me, I felt like I had to do a lot of things for them throughout my career. So they're the things I’d like to be remembered for.