Newsmaker: Street-fighter Hewitt goes down swinging in Melbourne
By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Andre Agassi did not think much of the 16-year-old Lleyton Hewitt when he marched out for their first match on a broiling hot day in South Australia in 1998.
A short and skinny kid with straggly hair spilling out of a backward-facing baseball cap, Hewitt looked more like an unkempt ball-boy than a promising junior wading into a tour event.
Some two hours later, a shell-shocked Agassi exited after a stinging 7-6 7-6 defeat in the Adelaide International semi-final, the world number one run ragged by a schoolboy with fire in his eyes and legs that simply refused to quit.
"I didn't give him enough respect. I think I was convinced he was going to go away," Agassi remarked at the time, running a rueful hand over his shaven head.
On Thursday, 18 years on from that watershed moment, the twice grand slam champion took a final bow in his record 20th and final appearance at his home grand slam, signing off with a 6-2 6-4 6-4 defeat to eighth-seeded Spaniard David Ferrer.
The loss under the Rod Laver Arena lights was emphatic but also showcased some classic Hewitt, as he scrambled for every ball, cursed a line judge and launched an angry tirade at the chair umpire before finally admitting defeat.
""I feel fortunate to finish here," he said courtside, surveying Rod Laver Arena for the last time.
He will not stray far from the court. He will now captain Australia's Davis Cup team, having carried it on his shoulders for many of the 17 years since his 1999 debut. Continued...