ATP HERITAGE PROGRAMME
ATP Heritage: Hewitt's No. 1 Anniversary
by James Buddell|
Twelve years ago today, one of the sport's most outstanding defenders and shot selectors, Lleyton Hewitt, first became No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings.
Aged 20 years and eight months, Hewitt became the youngest player to reach the summit of men's professional tennis on 19 November 2001.
"Growing up, the three things I wanted to do were win a Grand Slam, the Davis Cup and get to World No. 1," Hewitt told 'No. 1', the coffee table book published earlier this year. "In the end, the World No. 1 was the last of the three.
"An even better achievement, I think, was the following year when I held the No. 1 ranking the whole year, and won the Tennis Masters Cup [in Shanghai] when No. 1 was up for grabs again."
The Adelaide native spent a total of 80 weeks at No. 1, before he finally lost the position to Andre Agassi on 16 June 2003. During his tenure, Hewitt had compiled an 86-20 match record and lifted seven trophies.
Agassi, who had a 4-4 FedEx ATP Head2Head record against Hewitt between 1998 and 2005, admitted earlier this year, "I played Lleyton and I played him at my best. That guy was rough to beat.
"If you played him wrong, he was virtually impossible to beat. If you played him smart, he was still tough to beat. He was one of the greatest movers we've ever seen; a defensive player. He had a great transition game."
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Hewitt won his first ATP World Tour title as a 16 year old at Adelaide in January 1998. He had already won the Davis Cup in 1999 and also captured his first major at the 2001 US Open, with a flurry of winners past Pete Sampras.
Afterwards, Sampras admitted, "The kid is so quick it's unbelievable. I wish I had some of those legs for this old guy. I lost to a great champion. You're going to see this Lleyton Hewitt guy for the next 10 years like you saw me."
In 2002, Hewitt beat David Nalbandian to become the first Australian to win at The Championships, Wimbledon, for 15 years. He finished runner-up at the 2004 US Open (l. to Federer) and 2005 Australian Open (l. to Safin).
But injuries to his knees, hips, hand, wrist, back and feet curtailed his peak performance days. However, his determination remains undiminished.
As a winner of 28 singles titles, including the 2001-02 ATP season finales [now named Barclays ATP World Tour Finals], he has just completed his 17th year as a professional.
He finished 2013 at No. 61 in the Emirates ATP Rankings.
Read more about Hewitt in "No. 1", our special commemorative coffee table book, celebrating all year-end ATP World Tour No. 1s over the past 40 years. Buy Online Through Tennis Warehouse: Europe | Outside Europe
This year, the ATP pays special tribute to 25 former World No. 1s as part of the ATP Heritage programme, marking 40 years since the ranking system was introduced in 1973.