Talk about a perfect birthday present: On the day that he turned 40, it was announced that former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt will be inducted into the International Hall of Fame this summer.
Given his achievements, it’s only fitting that the fiery Australian will be going in on his first appearance on the ballot. Here’s a look at some of the amazing feats Hewitt accomplished over the years. (All Photos Getty Images)
At an age when most young players seeking to pursue a career in professional tennis are digging in for the grind of the juniors, Hewitt was making history at the senior level. Playing in the ATP event in Adelaide, the 16-year-old captured the title, with his run to the championship including a win over former world No. 1 Andre Agassi in the semifinals.
King of New York
By the time of the 2001 US Open, Hewitt had firmly established himself as a member of the world’s top 10. In New York, the fourth seed won his first career Grand Slam singles title, defeating none other than Pete Sampras in the final.
Ruling the Grass
With four of his first 15 career titles coming on grass, Hewitt had proved that his baseline game worked well on the grass and at Wimbledon in 2002, he claimed the game’s most prestigious prize. In the process, he became the first pure baseline since Agassi a decade earlier to triumph at the All England Club.
Settling in at the Top
The two-year stretch of 2001-’02 was clearly Hewitt’s time. Not only was he winning Grand Slam titles, but he managed to finish atop the men’s rankings in both years. He ended those seasons proving he was the best of the best with consecutive titles at the Tennis Masters Cup, the end-of-the-year championships featuring the top eight players in the world.
The Hometown Hero
Every Australian tennis player’s dream is to win their home Slam, but with that goal comes a tremendous amount of pressure. In 2005, Hewitt became the first man from the continent to reach the final since Pat Cash in 1988, but was stopped in four sets by Marat Safin.
A True Team Player
Hewitt’s currently the Australian Davis Cup captain as he relies on his playing experience in the international team competition to guide the next generation. Hewitt was part of championship teams in 1999 and 2003 with plenty of notable victories racked up over the course of his career, such as his come-from-behind win against Roger Federer in the ’03 semis.
Not Done Yet
After several years of battling injuries and falling out of the top 100 at one point, Hewitt showed that he should still be considered a threat right at the start of 2014. Playing his first tournament of the year in Brisbane, the unseeded Australian won the 29th tournament of his career, defeating the second seed Kei Nishikori in the semifinals and his longtime rival Federer, the top seed, in the championship match.
He would pick up the last title of his career later that year in Newport, R.I., the site of his future home among the game’s immortals. The Aussie would play his last singles match in 2016 at the Australian Open, winning one match before bowing out to David Ferrer.