Lleyton Hewitt has built a reputation over the years as being a fighter on court, enduring gruelling five-set matches and regularly clawing back after facing early deficits.
“My movement’s been great, the foot’s not giving me any problems whatsoever which is a nice thing to say for a long time,” the world No.82 said at the launch of the 2013 AAMI Kooyong Classic.
“Obviously my movement is such a key part of my game and always has been so to have confidence back in my movement and my foot, it gives me a lot more self belief... my practice sessions so far at Melbourne Park have been as good as I could have hoped for.”
The former Wimbledon and US Open champion kickstarts his 2013 campaign at Kooyong -- where he won in 2011 -- and will look to carry sound form into the Australian Open .
While the veteran conceded he no longer plays for ranking points in the twilight of his career – instead focusing more on just being competitive in the majors – there’s no doubt he’ll be looking to replicate his 2012 success at Melbourne Park where he reached the fourth round, going down to eventual champion Novak Djokovic.
And while his age may be seen as a hindrance, Hewitt said the thrill and pressure from playing in front of the Australian faithful is always a key motivator.
“It’s always fun for me, obviously playing in Australia and getting the opportunity and playing big tournaments in front of my home fans,” he said.
“The support I’ve always got wherever it is in Australia is amazing. Obviously it’s hard to beat playing a night match at the Australian Open in front of 15,000 people barracking for you.
“It’s something I’ve really enjoyed and I guess even towards the end of your career it’s moments like that you’re going to miss when you do retire and I guess I try and take it in my stride as much as possible and enjoy it out there.”
But thriving on the pressure and excitement generated by home-field support isn’t a trait shared by all players on the pro circuit. World No.9 Sam Stosur has had a particularly hard time on Australian soil recently, triggered by her shock opening round loss last January at the Australian Open.
Another one-and-done performance at the Sydney International on Monday marked her fifth straight loss on home turf, a trend that fellow countryman Hewitt concedes is a worry.
“(Stosur’s) sort of digging a bigger hole for herself and putting more pressure and expectation on herself every time she goes out there, and it’s a matter of going out there and enjoying it,” Hewitt said.
“’Bernie’ (Tomic) and I are in somewhat the same situation in that we both enjoy being out there in that situation, sort of under the spotlight in our home country, whereas Sam’s sort of struggled a little bit and played her best tennis at a couple of the other majors where she’s not quite under the same spotlight as here."
And so, now fighting fit and with a full bout of health, Hewitt is eyeing a successful 2013 that begins with a first round match against Canadian up-and-comer Milos Raonic at Kooyong on Wednesday.
Win or lose, one thing is for certain -- he’s going to fight for a win.