Retiring Hewitt ponders 'awkward' opener against Duckworth

Fri Jan 15, 2016 11:26pm EST
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By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - A center court opener was always a certainty for Lleyton Hewitt at his Australian Open swansong but being drawn against a compatriot he has spent years mentoring was an 'awkward' surprise, the twice grand slam champion said.

Hewitt kicks off his record 20th and final appearance at his home grand slam against another wildcard in 134th-ranked James Duckworth, only the second time he has faced an Australian at the tournament.

The last time was in 2003, when Hewitt was top seed and at the peak of his powers, and a straight-sets rout of local battler Todd Larkham in the second round was the result.

With his role as mentor to the nation's next generation now formalized as Davis Cup captain, Hewitt, now world number 306, will take on a player who was seeking grand slam tips from him just before the draw was announced.

"Always bound to happen, wasn't it?" the battle-worn 34-year-old remarked dryly to reporters on Saturday.

"Especially now that I've got a second hat on, a full-time job as Davis Cup captain.

"Yeah, it's awkward, but in another way it's fun to go out there with Ducks. I've been helping him the last few years.

"(We'll) see how good a student he is.   Continued...

Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki (L-R), Canada's Milos Raonic, Switzerland's Roger Federer, Australia's Lleyton Hewitt, Serbia's Novak Djokovic and Belarus' Victoria Azarenka pose with characters from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles during Kids Tennis Day at Melbourne Park, Australia, January 16, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter