For a while – for an afternoon at least – it was like the old days when fearsome Aussies were sod gods at Wimbledon, striding the lawns as conquerors.
People named Margaret Court and Evonne Goolagong, Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Roy Emerson and Lew Hoad – and others – were hoarding the championships.
The last one was combative little Lleyton Hewitt, who ruled 7 years ago, and startlingly popped up again to register a mammoth second round upset. In the other precinct sturdy Samantha Stosur came from behind to keep Australian womankind happy.
But, as a mournful “Alas!” sweeps from Perth to Melbourne, Samantha and Lleyton are the only survivors of the once proud and potent tribe. Neither is going to come away with a championship although Hewitt – apparently recovered from hip surgery – may stick around to fight longer than imagined after removing the young Argentine giant, 6-foot-6 Juan Martin Del Potro, 6-3, 7-5, 7-5. Del Potro, 20, who pushed Roger Federer to 3-3 in the 5th set of a French semifinal, was seeded 5th. He seemed a bit starstruck, relating how, as a boy, he had worshipped Hewitt, admiring his style. He had chances, but could never break serve.
Stosur, No. 18, barely overcame the difficulties presented by a wisp of a German qualifier, No. 101 Tatjana Malek, 4-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-4.
But there was no doubting the strength of the performance of Hewitt, who came in at No. 56. He was ecstatic, running and retrieving as well as ever in this, his 11th Wimbledon.
“I knew what I wanted to do, but whether I could go out there are execute…
“Yeah, I executed perfectly. Hit the ball great. Served unbelievable for most of the match. Took it to him right from the start.”
Right on all counts.
“Oh, it was a big win. I wanted to beat a top 5 guy. These are the places – Centre Court — you want to do it, too. It was fun. I was kind of the underdog, and there were a lot of Aussies in the crowd. This is the best I’ve played since the start of 2005.” Maybe life is re-beginning at 28. He was everywhere, even doing some volleying, a stroke he didn’t need in winning the U.S. Open in 2001 and Wimbledon in 2002 – credentials enough to get him into the International Tennis Hall of Fame one day down the road.
Now, with the hip OK he thinks that will be a long way off.
For Lleyton, Samantha and their compatriots in the throng, it was a rare and welcome day for singing “Waltzing Matilda.”