BRISBANE (Reuters) - Lleyton Hewitt will go into the Australian Open as the player the top seeds will hope to avoid in the first round, after digging into his famed store of resolve to beat Roger Federer in the Brisbane International final on Sunday.
Hewitt dominated Federer in the first set and then survived seven break points in the third to capture a morale-boosting 6-1 4-6 6-3 victory ahead of the first major.
“If I play like I did this week I have a chance of doing damage to some serious players,” the 32-year-old Hewitt told reporters.
“It just gives me a lot more confidence going out there believing in how well I’m hitting the ball at the moment and that I can match-up with the best guys.
“Obviously it’s a different stage, winning three (sets) out of five against those guys (but) that’s why I still play the game.”
The 2005 Australian Open finalist will move back into the world top 50 on the back of his success and could enter the Australian Open as his country’s number one player with Bernard Tomic defending ranking points in the Sydney International this week.
The win made Hewitt reflect on his injury battles in recent years, having been forced to undergo surgery on five occasions, most recently in February 2012, when he had a plate inserted into his toe in an attempt to extend his career.
“I think the most pleasing thing is what I’ve had to come through and the tough times in terms of surgery,” Hewitt said.
“Before the last surgery I made no secret. There were no guarantees I would be able to play again.
“There were still times when I came back from that surgery and played Wimbledon straight after it, I was still doubting whether I was ever going to be pain-free again. For me that’s the most pleasing thing.”
He has little chance of becoming the first home Australian Open winner since Mark Edmondson in 1976, but his form will surely lift the spirits of fans at Melbourne Park later this month.
Reporting by Ciaran Baynes; editing by Toby Davis