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  Sunday, 7 July, 2002, 16:24 GMT 17:24 UK
Hewitt ready for greatness
Lleyton Hewitt
Hewitt saw off Tim Henman on the way to the title

When Lleyton Hewitt blew away Pete Sampras in the 2001 US Open final, the American tipped his opponent to take over his mantle as the dominant player in the world.

"You're going to see this Lleyton Hewitt guy for the next 10 years like you saw me," he said after winning just eight games against the Australian.

Early exits for Hewitt at the Australian Open and French Open suggested Sampras may have been a bit premature.


I like playing in big occasions, the big matches
Lleyton Hewitt

But his performances at Wimbledon have seen him reassert the belief that he has the world at his feet.

On the way to the title he dropped just two sets and showed the sort of unplayability that was once reserved for Sampras.

Hewitt and greatness discussions are hardly a new thing.

People have been talking about the kid from Adelaide since he made his debut in the Australian Open at 15 years of age.

At 21 he is already world number one and went into the tournament as the top seed and many people's favourite for the title.

But the manner of his victories have led to renewed belief that he is about to begin a period of dominance in the men's game.

Lleyton Hewitt is congratulated by Pete Sampras after last year's US Open final
Hewitt looks set to take over from Sampras

Hewitt possesses the sort of mental strength that only the great players have.

He has shown in crucial Davis Cup matches since making his debut as an 18-year-old that he is not one for backing down when the going gets tough.

He was made a hate figure by the Flushing Meadows crowd after he made disparaging remarks about James Blake at the US Open last September.

It only served to stoke his fires as he bulldozed his way past Sampras to his first Grand Slam.

"I like playing in big occasions, the big matches," he said after demolishing Tim Henman in the semi-final in front of a sell-out Centre Court crowd.

Hewitt's toughness is hardly surprising.

His dad is a former Aussie Rules player and Hewitt played the bruising game at a high level until he was 13.

Despite his slight frame, Hewitt is an intimidating character on court.

The screaming, the clenched fist and the beating of the chest after winning crucial points have become his trademarks.

'Little mongrel'

Now that he has replaced the ponytail with the crew cut he even looks the part.

And the fiery Hewitt is never afraid to let an umpire know his feelings.

While he may go on to dominate like Sampras, his style will be more reminiscent of McEnroe.

His compatriot Pat Rafter labelled him "a little mongrel" for his refusal to be beaten.

Hewitt's athleticism around the court is unmatched, which is also unsurprising as his mother was a professional netball player.

BBC pundit John Lloyd believes that only a big server like fellow Australian Mark Philippoussis would stand a chance against him in the sort of form he has shown at the All England Club.

Henman, who is widely regarded as the best volleyer in the world, was reduced to chipping the ball back from the baseline, such was Hewitt's ability to pass.

"If you serve and volley against Hewitt, unless you ace him it's probably a negative because you're playing to his biggest strength - his return of serve and passing shots," said Henman.


I don't think we've got to a situation where he is going to dominate it
Tim Henman

"The best way to beat him is to border on being a little negative in the rallies, keep the ball in play. Stay at the baseline and give him no pace to work with."

A straight sets win over Argentina's David Nalbandian in the Wimbledon final gave him his second Grand Slam title.


And he has the sort of all-round game that could see him become only the sixth person to win all four of the major titles.

But Henman believes all is not lost for the rest of the world.

"He can be beaten," said Henman. "He was number one last year but I don't think we've got to a situation where he is going to dominate it."

That proved easier said than done for Henman, who has lost all six meetings with the Australian.

And with plenty of time on his side, the "little mongrel" has a chance to follow Sampras in achieving true greatness in the game.

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