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The info on Lleyton's rise to the top
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Lleyton's former coach describes him as a freak genius
He's a freak genius, according to his former coach

When the Sport Academy caught up with Lleyton Hewitt's former coach and mentor, we insisted he give us all the inside info on Lleyton's rise to the top!

Tennis coach Peter Smith

Hi, my name's Peter Smith and I'm one of the world's leading tennis coaches.

I was one of the first people to spot Lleyton Hewitt's amazing talent.

I first saw Lleyton play when he was six years old and I worked with him for 12 years. We're still good friends.

I've coached lots of talented young players, but Lleyton and his sister Jaslyn are probably the best pupils I've ever had.

They were very good at a young age - but so are a lot of players.

I just remember them always being immaculately turned out, always totally professional and committed.

They always put in 100% effort and that's what made them different.

Lleyton Hewitt's sister, Jaslyn, is a junior tennis champion in Australia
Jaslyn Hewitt is a junior tennis champ in Australia

Lleyton was small for his age but by the time he was 10, he was winning under-12 tournaments.

By 14 he was clearly as good as any senior player in South Australia.

He qualified for the Australian Open at 16, but by then we already knew he was something special.

He was a tough, hustling young player.

They say you need good feet to play football. With tennis, you need good hands - and Lleyton had a unique feel for the ball.

By the time he was 13 or 14 he was getting balls back that didn't look like they should come back!

To this day his trademark is his ability to scratch balls back from almost anywhere on court.

Lleyton's pure passion for sport also stood out.

He comes from a sporting family. His mum is a former champion netballer and his dad played Aussie Rules football.

A game of cricket in the Hewitt backyard is probably as competitive as anything you'd see at Lord's!

Lleyton played Aussie Rules football until he was 13. He's also an avid golfer.

I'm sure he'd have reached the top whatever sport he'd have chosen.

Lleyton tries his hand at American football
Lleyton is passionate about sport - even American football!

I think it's important to develop good all-round athletic skills at an early age like Lleyton did.

It makes it easier to pick up the technical aspects later on.

Tennis has to compete with lots of other sports to attract good athletes.

And it's one of the toughest sports you could choose. It can get pretty lonely out on court, you know!

Getting to the top can be a 10-15 year task and few people have got what it takes to sustain that.

Only the players who learn to recognise their difficulties can ever realise the amount of work they need to put in.

Instead of being humbled by the game, there are too many players today worrying about the big bags on their backs and the ego value that goes with being a pro.

Lleyton's not like that. He can be pretty fiery out on court but really he's a shy, quiet guy.

I consider Lleyton to be a freak genius - just like the Agassis, Rafters and Williams sisters of this world.

We did some good things with him as a young player, but he'd have come through wherever he was.

It's a Lleyton thing!

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Peter's profile
Peter was the South Australian Director of Coaching for a five-year period during the late 1970s and early 1980s.
He was Australian coach of the Year in 1998 and 1999

The lowdown on Lleyton
Full name: Lleyton Glynn Hewitt
Date of Birth: 24 February 1981
Place of birth: Adelaide, Australia
Turned pro: 1998
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 65kg
Best shot: Topspin lob

Peter's prodigies
Reigning Wimbledon champ and World number one Lleyton Hewitt
John Fitzgerald - Australian Open/French Open/Wimbledon/ US Open doubles title holder and current Australian Davies Cup captain
Mark Woodforde - one half of the championship-winning Woodbridge/Woodforde doubles pairing. Also an Olympic gold medal winner
Switzerland's former Davis Cup captain Peter Carter died in a car crash last year
Darren Cahill who is Andre Agassi's current coach

Open Quote
A game of cricket in the Hewitt backyard was probably as competitive as anything you'd see at Lord's!
Close Quote
Tennis coach Peter Smith
Peter Smith
Lleyton's former coach

:: Wimbledon seeds guide
:: BBC coverage

:: Lleyton Hewitt website

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