"I've got one mooooore". With these words, Lleyton Hewitt fell to the blue Plexicushion surface of Rod Laver Arena, triumphant after beating fellow Aussie James Duckworth in straight sets in round one of the Australian Open on Tuesday night.
And then, because he's Lleyton Hewitt, he said "come on" a whole lot and made his signature sock puppet symbol where he points his fingers at the bridge of his nose.
This wasn't vintage Hewitt. We haven't seen vintage Hewitt since about 2005. Nobody has. But it was a perfect exhibition of what has made his 20 year professional tennis career so compelling. Hewitt won this match not through the subtlety or brutality of his strokes. He won because he hung around more effectively. Because at some point, he knew his opponent would crack out of frustration and he just had to be there when it happened. It's worked out so many times that way before and that's how things played out tonight.
James Duckworth is a promising enough player, who the Channel Seven commentators believe will likely peak in five years or so. He has a strong serve and a good all-round game, handy both on the baseline and at the net. Seems a nice bloke too.
Lleyton couldn't and didn't blast Duckworth off the court. But he worried him off it. The key moment came in the third set which Duckworth was leading 4-3 with a service break. Serving to make it 5-3, Duckworth double-faulted twice and played a loose shot or two. 4-4. Lleyton smelled blood. He lifted and quickly closed out the match. Final score: 7-6 6-2 6-4.
"It was a tough situation absolutely to try and block out everything else going on," Hewitt said afterwards as the crowd cheeered his every word.
"Look at this… this is what I’m going to miss the most, the adrenaline buzz."
Hewitt's final act of the match was a beautiful lob which just landed in the court. That shot -- and some sumptuous drop volleys at the net which he'd played throughout the match -- are two shots which he still plays just about better than anyone. The problem is you can only play those shots once in a while. It's unlikely such flourishes will make up for a lack of meat-and-veg power shots against his next opponent, the Spanish World Number 8 David Ferrer.
But that's a worry for another day. For now, this was a welcome taste of everything we've come to love about Lleyton Hewitt, the little Aussie fighter who barely knows how to lose.
"It's been one of most satisfying things of my career," Hewitt said of a night which his entourage of children watched. "The kids are going to have lifelong memories of dad being an old man and limping out onto the tennis court."
It wasn't a bad show for an old man. And on a day at the Australian Open when former men's champ Rafael Nadal and women's world number two Simona Halep both lost their respective matches, it was a reminder just how well this 34-year-old Aussie treasure has aged.Suggest a correction