Tue June 26, 2012 6:11pm
LLEYTON Hewitt will not countenance that this could be his final Wimbledon.
Even though he is ranked No 202 in the world, with a steel plate in his left foot, the signs are that it would need a couple of attendants with a straitjacket to wrest him from this place.
When Hewitt, 31, walks out on No 1 Court tonight to face the No 5 seed, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, of France, those who are expert at spotting the subtle nuances of tennis may notice a change in the way that he moves.
The insertion of screws and that plate into his big toe has required the Australian to find a different way to manoeuvre.
"The last operation changed the whole mechanics of my movement and how I walk naturally," Hewitt, who received a wild card into the Championships, said.
"It has been a real adjusting period and testing it out on a tennis court is totally different from just walking around. You almost have to go back to basics but it is something that, after a few matches, you get confidence in."
When he was at his finest, there were few players so sound in their movement, who so ripped up the back of the court, who chased down so much and ran so far as the little terrier from Adelaide. This approach, allied to heart as big as the Great Australian Bight, helped Hewitt to world No 1 status and two grand-slam tournament titles: the 2001 US Open and Wimbledon the following year.
It was deteriorating bone and cartilage in a battered left foot that gradually dulled the baseliner's effectiveness, stripping him of his greatest weapon. Since he pushed Novak Djokovic to four sets in the fourth round of the Australian Open in January - after which he showed himself to be an excellent analyst for Channel7, where his future surely lies - Hewitt has missed virtually all of the season.
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