There are a lot of good reasons not to make your retirement official in tennis.
Watching your ranking slide into the abyss, week by week for the first 52 weeks is probably not one of them. But you don’t have to look, unless you’re a masochist.
One reason to stay technically active (and risk potential early-morning visits from Mr. Antidoping) is that you can come back and play whenever you want to.
And so, as countryman and fellow Aussie icon Pat Rafter did before him four years ago, Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt come out of retirement to play doubles at the Australian Open.
He will help give loyal Davis Cup foot soldier Sam Groth a proper career sendoff.
Groth is still just 30 – six years younger than Hewitt. But his 6-foot-4, 220-pound body has said no más as he arguably maximized during his career.
Currently ranked No. 248, he was due to take part in the AO wild-card playoff this week to try to earn a wild card into one last main draw in singles. But his back had other ideas.
So Groth will play doubles with Hewitt, and mixed doubles with Samantha Stosur. And it’s still possible he’ll get a singles wild card.
Steve-O at Channel 7 had the scoop.
— 7 News Melbourne (@7NewsMelbourne) December 14, 2017
“It’s going to be a bit of fun. That’s what the Australian Open’s about, it’s the Happy Slam to be around. And for me, going out there in a different way, I’m going to really enjoy it,” Hewitt told Channel 7.
“We’ve been hitting a lot of balls, hitting every day. We’re not going out there to make up the numbers, we want to give it a fair crack,” Groth said.
Hewitt played his final Australian Open in 2016, an emotional farewell on Rod Laver Arena. Before the event began, he had a couple of final hits with longtime foe Roger Federer.
For years before that, the Adelaide native had fought against a body that was willing, but ultimately could go no more.
But that doesn’t mean Hewitt is not still in top shape. Being the Davis Cup captain, he leads by example with a still-rigorous work ethic.
And he did return later in 2016, to play doubles in Davis Cup and also at Wimbledon.
Even before he was officially named captain two years ago, Hewitt would take the young Aussies out on the court, even go up against two of them, and have them dripping sweat as he looked fresh and ready for more.
Dejà vu, on the swan song side
So it will be a bit of a different situation than when Hewitt and Rafter teamed up in 2014.
Rafter was 41 then. But other than a couple of doubles matches in 2004, he hadn’t been out on court in 13 years, after a premature retirement. He seemed rather abashed by the whole experience.
Groth and Hewitt are pretty good at the doubles together.
No doubt they’ll schedule that one for Hisense Arena, the second-biggest court and one that’s open to everyone including grounds-pass holders, to send both off properly.
And they could well win, depending on the draw.