Hewitt Cherishes Wildcard Opportunity
When Winston-Salem Open tournament director Bill Oakes first offered Lleyton Hewitt a wildcard, Hewitt hesitated.
At the time, Hewitt’s comeback from foot problems was on hold and Hewitt didn’t know if he’d be healthy enough to accept.
"I wasn’t going to commit if I didn’t feel I’d be able to go out there and compete close to 100 percent," Hewitt said Saturday. "Otherwise, you’re better off giving it to someone else. So for me it was a day to day thing just to see physically how I was going to be."
The good news is, the former World No. 1 and two-time Grand Slam champion is feeling good and is in the 48-player Main Draw, which starts Sunday at the new Wake Forest tennis complex.
Hewitt views this tournament as a great tune-up for next week’s US Open, and the goal is to get as many matches in as possible here.
"I’m taking it one match at a time at the moment," Hewitt said. "I haven’t played enough matches, so the more matches I get here, the better for the US Open. For me, the majors are what I play for now. When you’re getting towards the latter part of your career, when you’ve won majors and been No. 1 in the world, that’s obviously the big focus."
Hewitt is one of four wildcards in the tournament, joining Andy Roddick, Donald Young and Ryan Harrison.
He has been plagued by foot problems since undergoing surgery in March. His previous attempts to come back have not gone well. He felt good when he took Robin Soderling to five sets before losing in the second round at Wimbledon and played the next week during Australia’s Davis Cup tie against China, but he aggravated the foot again and has been shelved ever since.
In the process, he dropped to his current No. 165 in the South African Airways ATP rankings.
He played two matches in Atlanta, but "I played injured, so I wouldn’t read a whole lot into that."
He had hoped to play in Cincinnati, but was unable to go and had to withdraw.
"I haven’t been 100 percent for a long time," he said. "For me, it’s just a matter of getting healthy. I feel like im hitting the ball great. If my body holds up, then that’s the biggest the biggest key. It’s getting better. I’ve been doing a lot of training and rehab stuff."
Hewitt will play Blaz Kavcic in the first round, with the winner moving on to meet 15th seeded Santiago Giraldo.
Hewitt, by the way, is impressed with what he has seen of the new Wake Forest tennis complex so far. There were big crowds for Saturday’s qualifier, as local fans got their first taste of professional tennis since the last Davis Cup tie at Joel Coliseum in 2008.
"I’ve only been here two days but it’s been fantastic so far," he said. "Great complex, the courts are great and it seems like a good atmosphere. It’s qualifying and I mentioned to my coach people are already out and about and that’s great. That’s what tournaments need, the support and the public to come out anjd support it."