Hewitt upset Federer 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 on Sunday at Pat Rafter Arena in what was his 45th career final appearance and his first on home soil since he lost the Australian Open decider to Marat Safin in 2005. 

The first set was over in a flash, 27 minutes to be precise, reminding his Australian fans that despite a lean run of form, injuries and his ageing frame, Hewitt was once world number one. But that was more than a decade ago, and before the emergence of Federer who went on to dominate the ATP circuit until Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic took over recently. 

It’s easy to forget that in the 2001 US Open Hewitt beat Yevgeny Kafelnikov, a former world number one, in the semifinals and the next day won the final in straight sets against Pete Sampras – the second greatest player of the modern era. Hewitt finished that year, and the next, number one himself.

Federer wasn’t at his best, but as far as blasts from the past and Indian summers go, Hewitt’s victory in Brisbane is still a beauty. 

The second set was a struggle which Federer scraped through to take 6-4, but going the distance has never been problem for Hewitt provided he’s fit enough to take the court. 

The 32-year-old snagged the crucial break in the fifth game of the deciding set as he came over the top of his old rival – Hewitt won seven of their first nine in a total of 27 career encounters. The count now a lop-sided nine wins for Hewitt and 18 defeats. 

Federer failed to convert two break points at 4-2 and Hewitt went on to serve for the match.

On hand to present the winner’s trophy? None other than Rod Laver, the Australian legend and hero of not just Hewitt but Federer’s.  

This ideal start to his season sees Hewitt rocket from 60 to 43 in the world going into the Australian Open, the only Grand Slam off clay he hasn’t claimed.

“We’ve been through a rough few years. Five different surgeries and to come out and play this kind of tennis, I want to thank everyone,” said Hewitt, dripping with sweat in Queensland’s oppressive high summer humidity.

And he said he’s not rocking up to Melbourne Park from January 13 to make up the numbers. 

“If I play like I did this week I have a chance of doing damage to some serious players,” he said. 

“It gives me a lot more confidence going out there believing in how well I’m hitting the ball at the moment and that I can match up with the best guys.”

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