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Wednesday, 12 September, 2001, 10:32 GMT 11:32 UK
Sky is the limit for Hewitt
Hewitt celebrates as Sampras fades into the background
Hewitt celebrates as Sampras fades into the background
BBC Sport's Iain Carter says new US Open champion Lleyton Hewitt has the potential to become an all-time tennis great.

Whenever a new Grand Slam champion is crowned, particularly one as young as 20-year-old Lleyton Hewitt, predictions of greatness always follow.

In the case of Hewitt, there is reason to suggest a future which could put him among the legends of the sport.

Minutes after he was handed the US Open trophy, having dismantled the challenge of Pete Sampras, good judges were predicting a great future.

The man who first picked Hewitt to play Davis Cup for Australia, John Newcombe, was predicting eight or nine Grand Slam crowns are within the grasp of the new champion.

Hewitt has the game and mind to be able to win all four slams
Carter on Hewitt
The distinguishing factor that puts Hewitt ahead of the rest is not his astonishing speed and consistency about the court.

Sampras said his returning game was as potent as that of Andre Agassi, but it is Hewitt's mental toughness that really marks him out.

Hewitt won this title despite being vilified for his outburst in the second-round match against James Blake.

It was interpreted by many as being racially motivated, something the Australian vehemently denied.

Even so, he met a hostile reaction from the media and the Flushing Meadows' crowds. It did not matter a jot to this street-fighter of a player - he just got on with claiming the title.

Ultimately he won his semi-final against Yevgeny Kafelnikov, and the final against Sampras, for the loss of just 12 games.

Hewitt showed he had the strength to last a slam
Hewitt showed he had the strength to last a slam
Throughout both matches there was barely a flicker of emotion until the job was done.

He also confounded those who believed he did not have the physical strength to go seven rounds of five-set matches.

By winning the US Open, Hewitt confirmed his credentials for glory on the similar surface of the Australian Open.

He has already enjoyed enormous success in the ATP events in Adelaide and Sydney which provide the build-up to his home Grand Slam.

And then there is his heroics in beating a baying crowd and Albert Costa on a Spanish clay court in the Davis Cup final.

That tells you that he can succeed at the very highest level on the red stuff, so the French Open cannot be discounted.

Passport to legendary status

Nor can Wimbledon - you do not beat Sampras on grass in finals and semi-finals en route to claiming the Stella title at Queens without being able to play on turf at the very highest level.

So the deduction is simple - Hewitt has the game and mind to be able to win all four slams.

That is the passport to legendary status. Agassi was the last to do it, joining Rod Laver, Fred Perry, Roy Emerson and Don Budge in the sport's most exclusive club.

So far it is only one US Open for Hewitt, but there is every reason to expect plenty more.

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See also:

12 Sep 01 |  Tennis
Hewitt reflects on tragedy
09 Sep 01 |  US Open tennis
Hewitt destroys Sampras dream
09 Sep 01 |  Sports Talk
Your views on Hewitt's victory
Links to more US Open tennis stories are at the foot of the page.

Links to more US Open tennis stories

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