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  Monday, 8 July, 2002, 11:46 GMT 12:46 UK
Can Hewitt rule the world?
Lleyton Hewitt lifts the Wimbledon men's singles trophy
Will this become a familiar sight at Wimbledon?

Lleyton Hewitt woke up on Monday morning as world number one, Wimbledon champion and hot favourite to retain his US Open title in two month's time.

All this, at the tender age of 21? Comparisons are hastily being drawn with the other men who have taken Grand Slam titles in such style at a similar age.

Does Hewitt have it in him to go on to be one of the all-time greats?


Hewitt covers the court so well that, as Tim Henman found out in the semi-final, his opponent often has to win the point twice.

Henman hit two smashes in the first set which would have been written off as winners by most players.

Lleyton Hewitt serves
Hewitt's serve is not yet the finished article
Not Hewitt. Each time he sprinted and stretched to get the ball back, effort that was eventually rewarded by an exasperated Henman putting another smash out.

Not until the umpire has called the point does he stop scampering and chasing.

Some critics have pointed at the example of Michael Chang, who, aged just 17, took the 1989 French Open with similar tireless running.

Chang never won another Grand Slam tournament, his style taking a heavy toll on his body.

But Chang did not possess the other weapons that Hewitt has - and the Australian's physical condition is almost without parallel in the modern game.


Hewitt's first serve is not particularly big - he averaged 110mph in Sunday's final - and his second has sometimes been exploited by opponents.

Pre-Wimbledon there were those who felt it simply wasn't good enough to win on grass.

But the slower nature of both the balls and court surfaces this year evened up the balance between the boomers and the baseliners - and in any case Hewitt's serve continues to improve at a rapid rate.

It's not up there yet with Pete Sampras' for power, accuracy and consistency, and in all likelihood never will be.

It may yet leave him vulnerable if Wimbledon reverts to type next year and favours the natural serve-and-volleyers again.

But Hewitt matches Sampras in terms of competitiveness and is stronger in other areas. His serve will not prevent him taking other Grand Slam titles.

Mental strength

Hewitt's trump card. His concentration, for a 21-year-old, is a thing of wonder.

Come up against the man from Adelaide and you know he will be utterly focused on defeating you, seldom wavering until you are beaten.

Lleyton Hewitt lifts the Wimbledon men's singles trophy
Hewitt's competitive nature will drive him on
Henman's focus comes and goes. His aggression is an occasional thing best summarised by that dreadfully awkward clenched fist.

Hewitt is at your throat from the shout of 'play' to the final point.

In that he carries echoes of Jimmy Connors at his peak. Daniel Nalbandian, nervous already, was taken apart in ruthless fashion.

Hewitt doesn't make as many mistakes as his rivals. Nalbandian made twice as many unforced errors in the final and it was the same story for Henman in their semi-final.

In contrast to Bjorn Borg, that concentration does not equal a lack of emotion on court. But did you really expect an Aussie to behave like a Swede?


In brutal terms, Hewitt lacks a killer shot. He hits with accuracy and aggression rather than sheer power on either side.

Andre Agassi and Sampras shared the ability to blow an opponent off court. Hewitt prefers to wear his down with a series of attritional shots rather than one big one.

Both Agassi and Hewitt are natural baseliners. But whereas the American goes for broke whenever he can, Hewitt is happy to hit heavy topspins, much like Borg, and bide his time.

Try to counter that by coming to the net and he'll sense a chance to unleash one of those punched passing-shots.

Stay back, and you're likely to be ground down, out-run and more likely to crack first and make a mistake.


Boris Becker was 17 when he won Wimbledon for the first time; Borg 20, Sampras 21 and Agassi 22.

At 21, Hewitt has made his breakthrough at the right time. Talent and determination have taken him to the top; now, like Sampras after he won his first Wimbledon in 1993, he can develop a game to suit the surface.

Hewitt has already become the youngest man to top the world rankings since the system came into being.

With at least 10 years to go in his career, injuries permitting, he has a chance of equalling Sampras' record 286 weeks at the top of the pile.

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