London - Lleyton Hewitt is keen to mentor the new generation of Australian
tennis stars and help them follow in his footsteps by becoming Grand Slam
Hewitt, 34, who will retire after the Australian Open in January, is eager
to pass on the benefits of his vast experience to Bernard Tomic, Nick Kyrgios
and Thanasi Kokkinakis.
Australia is home to some of the greats of men's tennis, such as Roy
Emerson, Rod Laver, John Newcombe and Ken Rosewall, not to mention Grand Slam
winners like Pat Cash and Patrick Rafter.
However, Australia has not produced a single Grand Slam finalist since
Hewitt, who won the 2001 US Open and Wimbledon 2002.
Hewitt feels the new generation are coming into their prime and can at last
stop the rot.
"The biggest thing about the three young guys we have now is they all
handle pressure and expectation differently but they all thrive on getting out
there on the big courts and playing well under pressure," Hewitt said.
"Since me... we've really struggled with guys who can go out there and
handle that - and these three guys can."
Tomic is the oldest of the trio at 22 and Hewitt said he had a solid
relationship with the world number 26.
"I like all three guys. I think the last probably three years I've
worked pretty hard with Bernie and I think I've built up a good bond there
where he certainly trusts me," said Hewitt.
"Just with small things, whether it’s about his schedule or
preparation. I feel a lot better that he's comfortable coming to me and talking
about certain stuff now," he explained.
Hewitt feels it is good for Tomic to have Kyrgios and Kokkinakis racing up
"With the two younger kids coming through, I think that's been good for
Bernie. For a while there, Bernie was just seen as 'my successor'. He was the
only one, and that was weighing pretty heavily on him.
"So now there's two other young guys and they all get along well.
That's great for Australian tennis. Because if you've got three guys that could
possibly be pushing for Grand Slams and second weeks of slams in the years to
come, if they all get along well it's perfect."
Kyrgios, 20, has found himself in hot water at Wimbledon over his on-court
verbal volleys, but the world number 29 insists he was firing the abuse at
himself rather than the officials.
"As much as Nick is different, he does things his way but he is still
able to get the result most of the time," said Hewitt.
Nineteen-year-old Kokkinakis, who jumped at the offer to partner Hewitt in
the doubles at Wimbledon, said he had grown used to Kyrgios's unorthodox
"It's always a circus when Nick hits the court. I like watching it
because I don't know what's going to happen next," the world number 72
"He's just a different cut. But I find it funny to watch him.
"He does say some stuff which a few people take as disrespectful but
I've known him for so long so I'm used to everything he's doing, the way he
Hewitt said he was revelling in his role as the elder statesman of
Australian tennis on the tour and is hungry to keep the mentor role once he
hangs up his racquet.
"I enjoy helping these guys," he said.
"I try and lead by example more than going out there and actually
"Even though my game style is totally different to all three of these
guys -- they have a lot more weapons and firepower than me - if they can take
some of my big strengths that have helped me over my career then it could
really help them too."