Defiant Hewitt refuses to toe doctors' line

Defiant Hewitt refuses to toe doctors' line

Defiant Hewitt refuses to toe doctors' line

Seven surgeons told Lleyton Hewitt his tennis career was finished if he had an operation on his troublesome toe but the gritty Australian is merrily defying them by battling on and making himself a force to be reckoned with once again.

Hewitt underwent a radical operation in February 2012 when he had bone cut from the big toe of his left foot and two screws and a metal plate permanently locked in.

It was a last ditch attempt to prolong his career but, at the age of 32, the former World No 1 is eyeing a solid run at Wimbledon, where he lifted the crown in 2002.
Hewitt stormed into the second round of Wimbledon in impressive fashion, knocking out Swiss 11th seed Stanislas Wawrinka, 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 on Monday.

The World No 70 said he had been told his career would be over if he went under the knife. His big toe was rendered arthritic and misshapen after years of digging into hard courts to launch his service action. “There were two surgeons, the guy who ended up doing it and one other guy. There were probably five, six, seven that I spoke to worldwide. They said if I had it done, you’re done,” he said. “In all my research beforehand -- which was very extensive -- I never found another athlete that had it done, or had it done and tried to come back and play any kind of sport. So that’s something I’m pretty proud of as well.”

The surgery -- and persistent problems since his comeback -- meant his ranking had slumped to 233 by July last year but he is now at his highest ranking since May 2011.

However, he is not getting complacent. “I’ll take it one match at a time. The moment that you knock off a decent player, then let your guard down, that’s when you’re going to go out of the tournament,” said the 2001 US Open champion. “I still have to stay composed, be confident. Know that I’m hitting the ball well. Still got to go out there and do the job, though.

“I know that I can still play the game. I compete against the best guys. I play well in the big tournaments, I think. That’s why I’m still playing.”

Hewitt entered the All England Club in good form, getting to the Queen’s semifinals.
Despite his ranking, he is one of only six Grand Slam champions in the draw and few players would take him lightly on his favourite surface. With 115 wins, he is the second-most successful active player on grass behind Roger Federer.