Last hurrah ’a tad strange’ for Australia’s Hewitt

MELBOURNE: Lleyton Hewitt on Saturday said it would be tough to deal with his emotions at the last tournament of his career as he looks to go out on a high at the Australian Open.

The former world number one and two-time Grand Slam-winner called it “a tad strange” to contemplate his 20th and last home Grand Slam, where he reached the final in 2005.

Hewitt, 34, will end one of Australia’s great tennis careers after the Australian Open, where he will play compatriot James Duckworth in the first round.

“To tell you the truth, I don’t know how it feels,” he told reporters in Melbourne, when asked what it was like to be one defeat from the end of his career.

“A tad strange feeling, but I’m trying to soak it up as much as possible. I guess it’s different in the fact that if you do go out then, yes, it is the end.

“But you’ve got to try to block that out as much as possible. You could go through all the same emotions again two days later, as well. That’s going to be the tough part to deal with.”

Hewitt’s draw against Duckworth, 23, is a twist of fate as he has only played one Australian before in his 20 straight appearances at the Australian Open.

Duckworth is now one of Hewitt’s proteges in Australia’s Davis Cup squad, of which the veteran player is now captain.

“Always bound to happen, wasn’t it? Especially now that I’ve got a second hat on, a full-time job as Davis Cup captain,” Hewitt said.

“Yeah, it’s awkward, but in another way it’s fun to go out there with ‘Ducks’. I’ve been helping him the last few years. He’s been part of the Davis Cup squad on a number of occasions. He’s a great kid,” he added.

The draw against the callow Duckworth at least gives Hewitt a chance to extend his farewell into the second round.

The gritty competitor is well aware that he won his only previous match at Melbourne Park against an Australian, Todd Larkham in 2003, 6-1, 6-0, 6-1.

Asked for his memories of that match, Hewitt said: “It was pretty quick.”