© Getty Images

Lleyton Hewitt leaves Rod Laver Arena with his three children, Cruz, Mia and Ava.

Hewitt Bids A Fond Farewell

Australian's career ended by David Ferrer

The curtain came down on Lleyton Hewitt’s illustrious career on Thursday night in Melbourne as David Ferrer defeated the former World No. 1 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 in the second round of the Australian Open. Hewitt was competing in his 20th successive Australian Open.

As expected, the 34-year-old Hewitt left it all out on the court, but the No. 8-ranked Ferrer held off the Aussie’s challenge to claim victory in two hours and 32 minutes on Rod Laver Arena. Hewitt was watched from his box by his family, Tony Roche and Thanasi Kokkinakis among others.

“He was too good tonight,” Hewitt said in his on-court interview. “He’s a Top 8 player in the world, couple of times a semi-finalist here. He plays extremely well in these conditions and is at the top of his game at the moment.

“I came out and gave everything I had like always. I left nothing in the locker room. That's something I can always be proud of. My whole career I've always given 100 per cent. I love coming out here and competing. It's never hard to come out playing in front of such great spectators every time I play out here on Rod Laver Arena. It's like a second home for me and I'm just so fortunate to have this opportunity 20 years in a row.

Read & Watch: Hewitt Takes Stock In Final Presser

“It’s a weird emotion; I don't think it will fully set in for a couple of days' time. As I've always said, I'm such a competitor, I try and push myself all the time to get the most out of myself. Obviously it was in the back of my mind coming into every match this week, but I have had a fantastic last month. I feel honoured to have this support and this love from these crowds. It means so much to me. I’ve had so much success and big matches on this court; I feel fortunate to finish here.”

The Adelaide native did not go down without a fight. Leading by a set, Ferrer was on the verge of taking a double-break lead in the second set. But Hewitt saved two break points in the seventh game and almost recouped the break in a marathon eighth game, which saw Ferrer save seven break points.

Hewitt finally broke the Ferrer serve in the sixth game of the third set, levelling up at 3-3, much to the delight of the fans. But it was to be his final hurrah, as Ferrer broke again in the following game before closing out victory. In their exchange at the net, Ferrer asked Hewitt if they could swap shirts after leaving the court. The Spaniard goes on to face Steve Johnson on Saturday.

Speaking to Jim Courier for the host broadcaster afterwards, Ferrer admitted, “I was nervous because it's a different day. Finally I won the match, but if I'd lost, it might have been my last match! He gave a very good performance. He's one of the best players in history. I have a shirt signed by him from seven years ago, the only shirt from another player I have in my house.

“It’s a sad day, because Lleyton is finishing his career. He's an idol for me and an amazing player. In my career, tonight is going to be very special for me, playing in Lleyton's last match. The match was tough. Lleyton fought until the last ball. He's unbelievable. He deserves everything coming.”

Hewitt remains in the doubles at Melbourne Park, competing alongside Sam Groth.