LONDON: Lleyton Hewitt, the last man to win Wimbledon outside the big four, tipped Roger Federer to face Andy Murray in this year’s final, though Marin Cilic could break their stranglehold.
Hewitt won Wimbledon in 2002, before Federer won the first of his seven titles, interspersed with three wins by Novak Djokovic and two each from Rafael Nadal and Murray.
The Australian former world number one said Murray and Federer were both experts at managing their bodies and stepping up a level when pushed by their opponents.
But the 36-year-old did not rule out Croatia’s seventh seed Cilic, the 2014 US Open champion, causing an upset.
“Murray and Federer are my two favourites. Novak is going through the draw nicely and quietly but Cilic has come through unscathed and his section of the draw opens up with Nadal out,” Hewitt told reporters.
“Federer’s looking pretty good. I wouldn’t rule Murray out. I’d love to see that final.”
In Wednesday’s quarter-finals, defending champion Murray faces Sam Querrey and Nadal’s conqueror Gilles Muller plays Cilic, while in the bottom half of the draw, Federer takes on Milos Raonic, while Djokovic could face Tomas Berdych.
Hewitt said it was extraordinary to think that when 35-year-old Federer took over from him in 2003, he would still be competing for the Wimbledon title 14 years later — and looking none the worse for it.
“He’s not playing that different. This year, the way he played in Australia was pretty incredible — after six months out he can flick a switch and start lighting it up again,” Hewitt said of Federer’s title run in Melbourne in January.
“He looks after his body so well. Roger has an uncanny knack of being able to step it up when he needs to,” he said, citing his fourth round demolition of Grigor Dimitrov on Monday when he “took it to another level”.
MURRAY HANDLING THE PAIN
Meanwhile, Hewitt said world number one Murray’s handling of his hip injury and overcoming his lack of grass-court warm-up matches had been “impressive”.
“If you look at Andy walking around he looks pretty sore. But he finds a way. He does everything right. It’s not easy turning up of you’re the defending champion and under a little bit of an injury cloud.
“Now he’s played himself into form. Querrey is a tough player but it’s a good match-up for Andy, then Rafa Nadal’s out of the section — does that open up against Cilic or Muller? Andy handles those big servers well with his returns.”
Hewitt, who also won the 2001 US Open, knows a thing or two about the tail end of a Grand Slam. He said the atmosphere was odd, as a tournament that started with 128 players in each draw comes down to the final two or four.
“Always the end of Grand Slams is a strange feeling because in the first week, it’s such a big buzz around the players’ areas, so busy, but by the semi-finals and finals there’s very few people around.
“But the buzz is around the grounds.”
Published in Dawn, July 12th, 2017