Hewitt, a two-time grand slam champion, scrapped for all his worth
against the tenacious eighth seed but was unable to extend his
record 20th and final appearance in the Australian Open men's
singles to the third round.
Once he has completed his doubles duty with Sam Groth, Hewitt's
playing career will be over and he will turn his thoughts to
becoming Australia's Davis Cup captain.
"I left nothing in the locker room. My whole career I've given 100
percent," the watery-eyed 34-year-old said on court after video
tributes from the likes of Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were played
on the Rod Laver Arena screens.
"I love coming out here and competing. I've been so fortunate to
have that opportunity 20 years in a row."
Ferrer was in no mood for sentimentality as he hustled his way to
victory after Hewitt's periodic fightbacks brought the crowd into
the match, but was generous in his praise for the former Wimbledon
and U.S. Open champion.
"It's a sad day. I never had idols, but Lleyton was one for me,"
Ferrer told the crowd.
"I have a museum in my house and I have a T-shirt of Lleyton. It's
the only T-shirt I have of a tennis player."
Fans on Rod Laver Arena, including the Fanatics who have followed
him everywhere, did their best to motivate the man.
Chants of "here we go Rusty" or simply "COME ON!!" in reference to
the war cry Hewitt has trademarked throughout his career filled the
Every Hewitt winner was met with full-blooded zeal. Every unforced
error with a collective sigh.
Ferrer's winning shots, meanwhile, were met with polite applause, no
matter how brilliantly played, but he did not mind.
"Tonight was Lleyton's, not mine," he said.
The crowd sensed this was to be Hewitt's last stand when Ferrer won
the first set after breaking serve twice despite some typically
pugnacious defence from the Australian who will go down in the
history books as one of the game's true warriors.
[to top of second column]
Ferrer needed just one service break to seal the second set, though
it was a hold by the Spaniard when he was leading 4-3 that
encapsulated the entire match.
Sensing the possibility of one of his characteristic fightbacks, the
'Fanatics' whipped the crowd into a frenzy as Hewitt eeked out seven
break points in a game that lasted more than 15 minutes.
He was unable to land the killer punch though and Ferrer moved two
Ferrer grabbed an early service break in the third but still Hewitt
would not budge, breaking for the first time in the match to level
the score at 3-3.
Hewitt's temper boiled over in the next game, however, when he was
called for a foot fault, which led to an expletive being directed at
He was warned by chair umpire Pascal Maria, who then was called "a
freaking idiot" by Hewitt, though it did not fire him up enough to
halt the inevitable.
"He was too good," Hewitt said as his wife and family watched on.
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Alison Williams and Martyn
[© 2016 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2016 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.