Just when you’d expect Lleyton Hewitt to bemoan another torrid opening-round Grand Slam challenge, there would be no feeling sorry for himself, no public plea for pity.
Six times he has drawn a Grand Slam finalist or champion in the opening round at Melbourne Park. Sergi Bruguera was his opponent on his Australian Open debut in 1997, while Magnus Larsson, Arnaud Clement, Cedric Pioline, Fernando Gonzalez and David Nalbandian all followed in the years to follow.
Any frustration at drawing eighth seed Janko Tipsarevic first up at Australian Open 2013 will be taken out on court, and given Hewitt’s confidence after dismantling three top 20 players on his way to the Kooyong title this past week, Rod Laver Arena could well prove an unhappy hunting ground for his Serbian opponent on Monday night.
With a deadpan Australian response – partly serious, partly sarcastic – Hewitt let on he wasn’t fazed at being dealt another tough opener in Melbourne.
“I don’t care. I’ll knock him off, try to take his spot in the draw,” Hewitt quipped.
“I feel like all I can control is my preparation and doing all the right things. I’ve done absolutely everything in my power. I look forward to the challenge tomorrow.”
This year is the 31-year-old’s 17th straight appearance at the Australian Open, and he comes into his home Grand Slam tournament in his best condition and form for many years.
Despite some harrowing five-set encounters failing to fall in his favour before a hugely supportive home crowd at the Australian Open, Rod Laver Arena provides an atmosphere he relishes, a domain where he’s able to channel the energy into positive play.
“It's not something I think before I go out there. I'm more worried about my game, getting off to a good start, getting my teeth into the match more than anything,” he said.
“Once I'm out there in the atmosphere, the adrenaline is pumping, it sort of takes care of itself ... I just use it to my advantage when I need to, I guess. It gets the adrenaline going. I enjoy being in that situation. Obviously I'd rather 15,000 barracking for me than against me.”
Canadian world No.15 Milos Raonic, sixth-ranked Czech Tomas Berdych and seventh-ranked Argentine Juan Martin del Potro all fell to Hewitt in succession at his Kooyong warm-up, with the Australian buoyed by his improvement with every match.
“My sharpness and cleanness, even my moving ... yeah, a lot of positives to take out of it,” he said.
“The last couple matches I’ve hit the ball as well as I can remember when I hit it. I feel confident with where my game’s at at the moment ... All in all, when my moving comes together and I’m serving well, my returns and obviously passing shots and counterpunching has been pretty good anyways. Yeah, I've been practising well on my off days. So far I haven't put too many feet wrong.
“I felt the way I was able to be aggressive with the bigger, stronger guys, all three matches are three of the biggest hitters out there. I was not able only to get their serve back but put them under pressure on their service games. So that gives me a lot of confidence moving forward.”
With Bernard Tomic’s breakthrough tournament victory in Sydney coming only hours after Hewitt’s Kooyong success on Saturday, the home nation could have its best chances in the men’s draw for years.
“We probably had higher expectations when myself, (Mark) Philippoussis and (Pat) Rafter were in the top 10, top 15 in the world, and seeded at the majors,” Hewitt said.
“But obviously with how the Australian rankings have been the last four or five years, yeah, we're both hitting the ball well, obviously confident coming in.”