Estoril (Portugal) (AFP) – He may have played his last singles match in the 2016 Australian Open, but Lleyton Hewitt says he never really retired from doubles.
The 37-year-old Aussie Davis Cup captain, who reached the last eight with Sam Groth at the Australian Open in January, is teaming with 19-year-old countryman Alex De Minaur in the doubles at this week’s Estoril Open.
Hewitt, who appeared in Portugal at the Masters Cup year-end event 18 years ago when it debuted in Lisbon, will be re-living his tennis past when he and De Minaur face second seeds Raven Klaasen of South Africa and New Zealand partner Michael Venus.
“I don’t know if I ever retired from doubles,” the two-time singles Grand Slam champion said in the run-up to his team’s Portuguese start.
“I quit singles because of different reasons and situations at the time. But I played with Sam Groth.
“I was surprised at how well I played. Now I have the chance to play with Alex.
“It will mean a lot to him, he’s based in Spain and grew up on clay.
“I’m still competitive on the court. I don’t know what I’ll play this year, but I certainly will be playing some.”
The former world number one can’t praise the youngster, who he handed a Davis Cup debut for Australia in February, enough.
“Alex is pretty special, he’s a good kid. I enjoy working with him, giving him some knowledge.”
Hewitt said he has few lasting memories of the Lisbon Masters Cup nearly two decades ago, where he failed to exit the group stage with losses to Marat Safin and Alex Corretja despite upsetting Pete Sampras.
“It was quite rushed here in 2000, I had a Davis Cup final in Spain the next week on a different surface. It was really hectic and a massive goal to make the Masters Cup for the first time.
“I’ve heard nice reports about this tournament from some of the guys, it’s nice to be back.”
Hewitt said that he feels fitter than he did toward the end of his singles career.
“When you retire, you miss the big events, playing Grand Slams is pretty special.
“But to play week-in, week-out is tough. After six months, my body actually felt better, I feel better now than at my last Australian Open.”