Lleyton Hewitt comes from a family of sporting achievers. His mother, Cherilyn Rumball, is a former
champion netballer. His father, Glynn Hewitt, was a AFL footballer, while his sister, Jaslyn, was a junior tennis player.
Lleyton’s controlled competitiveness is helped by his love of sport. He spends just about every waking moment either watching, discussing or playing sport. For years the family would get up early, jog to Football Park, run, do sprints, jog back and work out. He is an avid recreational golfer.
His family has a grass court at their West Lakes home. Here the young Lleyton began his tennis career. When Lleyton was hitting balls consistently over the net and with a reasonable stroke, his parents decided it was time to employ a coach. He was four years old.
“Rather than get into bad habits, it was best he learnt how to hit the ball correctly.” says Glynn Hewitt. Two years later, they sought out Peter Smith, a former player who had coached John Fitzgerald, Roger Rasheed, Louise Stacey and his own son, Luke Smith.
Each year, from the age of five, Lleyton and his family travelled to Melbourne for the Australian Open. He would spend up to 12 hours a day at the tennis, getting up at sunrise. Lleyton’s involvement with tennis was orchestrated by his parents who quite deliberately steered him away from football. There was a strong chance Lleyton could have played Australian Rules Football, however his parents’ concerns for all the physical risks involved in football brought him to tennis. “I guess we’ve guided him into things we felt were good for him before he did. I guess that’s just our gut feeling.”
By the time Lleyton was eight, he was winning matches against older children . A professional tennis career was a possibility. “It’s always a bit of a pipe dream,” says Glynn. “But there are many times along the road you think they’re not going to make it.” “It’s at the back of the mind,” says Cherilyn. “Then you think…..better keep the schooling going because it’s not going to work out”.
Lleyton’s first professional title was in 1998 in Adelaide. He consequently decided to forgo further education and joined the ATP tour on a full time basis.
Lleyton made his Davis Cup debut in 1999. It was a “baptism of fire”. Along side his hero, Patrick Rafter, Lleyton won both his matches, against far more experienced opponents, in a tense, hostile atmosphere in Boston. Lleyton then joined Wayne Arthurs in Brisbane to again emerge victorious against Russia, defeating Kafelnikov and Safin. His Davis Cup record at that stage was 4-0. Lleyton and Mark Philippoussis played the final in Nice against France. Lleyton played an emotional, hard fougnt but went down to Pioline in straight sets. Australia went on to win this tie and the Davis Cup for the first time in 13 years.