The Australian Open of 2005 was a tournament I remember vividly as it was a tournament where I was perhaps one of only a few who weren't barracking for Lleyton Hewitt. This was a tournament also remembered for the arrogance shown from Hewitt towards fellow players, in particular the Argentinians.
Juan Ignecio Chela was so upset with Hewitt that he in fact spat in his direction but naturally the Argentinian was labelled the villain especially with the biased journalism in this country.
Perhaps there needed to be a 'neutral' newspaper reporting on the match as the provocative style of 'in your face' antics from Hewitt caused not just Chela to become infuriated. Hewitt's second round match against James Blake of the US was noted for the American mimicking the arrogant Aussie with a hand signal that unfortunately the Aussie is now famous for. We must not forget however that the 'vicht' hand signal from Hewitt was in fact 'stolen' from the Swedes.
Niclas Kroon invented it, Mats Wilander used it, Lleyton Hewitt then put a patent on it to make money. Smart business sense ? Perhaps, but he did nothing to endear himself to Sweden's vast number of pro tennis players who surely were entitled to have a say in it. It would be like Sweden putting a patent on 'C'MON'! That wouldn't be too well received in Australia now would it ?
Blake and Hewitt in fact were involved in a rather controversial match at the US Open in 2001 where Hewitt was accused of being racist. The incident in question was one where Hewitt was foot faulted by a line judge of the same skin color of Blake so Hewitt came out with "Look at him ( the linesman) and tell me what the similarity is" ( he motioned toward Blake ). Interesting comment Lleyton.
The match between Blake and Hewitt four years later in Australia was perhaps a bit of payback by Blake who went within a whisker of a two sets to love lead. I remember the mock from Blake, a minor incident compared to Hewitt's of 2001 yet Blake was booed by some of the uneducated Australian crowd. Do your sums before you make assumptions.
The quarter final of the 2005 Australian Open was also testosterone-fueled as Hewitt took on Chela's Argentine buddy David Nalbandian. The match was best remembered for a shoulder 'rub' between the two at a change of ends. For some reason the Aussie felt it necessary to be that close to his opponent as they walked to their chairs. Now have a look at the incident then look at Nalbandian's reaction and do the non biased Australian thing and work out who was to blame.
Lleyton Hewitt in Australia was a 'super hero' ( just ask him), what he was forgetting though was that he actually had to step outside of his home country to play many more tennis tournaments. Making enemies of fellow pro's was not the smartest thing he ever did. American Professional Michael Russell still calls Hewitt a racist to this day.
Now the Australian Open of 2005 was also where Hewitt's Coach Roger Rasheed openly criticized the court surface as did Hewitt, not sure why. The tournament had started, all players were in the same boat so to speak, did Hewitt and Rasheed expect the courts to be resurfaced overnight just because they weren't happy with it ? Fair dinkum.
You know what I did ? Now this is fair dinkum also. I wrote a letter to the Sunday Times giving Rasheed and Hewitt a blast on their 'weak as piss' attitude toward the tournament surface and suggested they concentrate on the task at hand.
A great letter if I do say so myself, it was published. It did however put some pressure on me as I suggested Hewitt was no chance to win the tournament as his mind was elsewhere.
AUSTRALIAN OPEN FINAL 2005. This is what I did. I went to my local punting shop and placed a $200 bet on Marat Safin to win then I visited my local liquor store, bought a carton of beer. I sat and watched the final and I got very, very vocal. I didn't panic after the first set win to Hewitt, I knew the Russian's game was far superior, it was just a matter of time.
Thank goodness the volatile Safin gathered his thoughts and sent Hewitt packing in 4, my letter did have some merit after all, but it nearly didn't go my way. I don't remember how many beers I had or how much I won but it was 'a few bucks', much more a moral victory however.
I don't like Hewitt, never have, never will. Thanks Marat for a great final and good luck to Roger Rasheed with his new coaching job. Don't blame the court, blame the opponent for simply being better than you on the day.
No player is bigger than the game and no player or coach should be suggesting court surface changes just because it does not suit their style of play. Find a 'real' coach to do some adjustments to the technique, that may just work, fair dinkum.......