Sydney - Australia's former world No 1 Lleyton Hewitt has undergone radical foot surgery in a bid to prolong his playing career and play pain-free, reports said on Saturday.
The former Wimbledon and US Open champion will take to the courts of Roland Garros for next week's French Open with two screws and a metal plate now locking permanently into place in the big toe on his left foot, the reports said.
"Hewitt's toe, chronically arthritic and misshapen after years of digging into hard courts to launch his service action, is now reconstructed and irreversibly fused," The Australian newspaper said.
"Whatever cartilage there was in the first metatarsophalangeal (MPT) joint has been removed and painful bone spurs shaved off. The toe no longer moves, but nor should it give Hewitt any more grief."
His manager, David Drysdale, said the plan was for Hewitt, 31, to see out the rest of the tennis season.
"The aim is certainly to play out the rest of this year and get his ranking up again and then have a good 12 months, hopefully injury free, where he can have another crack at it," Drysdale told the newspaper.
"He has played spasmodically because he has had different injuries over the last three years so in some ways, it has actually protected his body.
"He has had time off. If anything he might be able to play a little bit longer."
Hewitt, now ranked 175, has had only two weeks of practice ahead of his first-round match with Slovenia's Blaz Kavcic at Roland Garros.
If Hewitt gets past Kavcic his second-round opponent will be world No 1 Novak Djokovic.