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Lleyton Hewitt's fiery attitude helped him raise his game against Top 10 players throughout his career, but especially in 2001.

How Hewitt Raised His Level Against The Top Players

Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers shows how Hewitt improved against the best

Nobody spoils more for a fight than Lleyton Hewitt.

The bigger the match, the higher ranked the opponent, the more on the line, the better he was. The Aussie firebrand would summon his burning “fire in the belly” to raise his game to unprecedented levels when his opponent also occupied a spot in the coveted Top 10.

Hewitt’s dogged determination to succeed produced the unthinkable at the height of his powers in 2001 – a better return record against Top 10 opponents than against the Top 50. If Hewitt looked over the net and saw one his peers ranked in the upper echelon of the Emirates ATP Rankings, his iron will to succeed became the single biggest weapon on the court.


In 2001, Hewitt went 80-18 and won six titles, the most of any year in his career. The Tennis Masters Cup – the equivalent of the current Barclays ATP World Tour Finals – was one of his biggest hauls in a magnificent season that saw him become the youngest No. 1 player in the world after winning the year-end championships in Sydney, Australia.

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of Hewitt’s 2001 season, his first of two consecutive years as the year-end No. 1, highlights just how good he was when push came to shove against fellow Top 10 opponents. Hewitt’s return game was where he created separation against the Top 10. His strength simply got stronger.

The table below highlights Hewitt’s 2001 performance against Top 50 opponents and against the Top 10. How he compared to other year-end No. 1 players dating back to 1991 is in parentheses. For example, with return games won against the Top 50 in 2001, he had the fifth best season of any year-end No. 1, winning 30.7 per cent of his return games. But that elevated to 37 per cent against Top 10 opponents in 2001 – the highest season average of any player who finished No. 1 from 1991-2015.

Lleyton Hewitt: 2001 Performance vs. Top 50 & Top 10

 Hewitt's 2001 Season  Versus Top 50   Versus Top 10
 Return Rating  160.2 (Eighth)  178.8 (First)
 Return Games Won  30.7% (Fifth)  37% (First)
 First-Serve Return Points Won   33.4% (Ninth)  35% (First)
 Break Points Converted   43.4% (Seventh)  51.4% (First)
 Tie-Breaks Won  58.3% (16th)   100% (T-First)
 Second-Serve Return Points Won   53.7% (Ninth)  55.4% (Third)

The ATP Stats LEADERBOARDS shows Hewitt’s return game in 2001 against Top 10 opponents was by far the best of any year-end No. 1 since 1991. The ATP Stats LEADERBOARDS Return Rating, powered by the Infosys Information Platform, is determined by adding his winning percentage in four return categories: return games won, first-serve return points won, second-serve return points won and break points converted.

 No.   Year  Player  Return Rating
 1   2001  Lleyton Hewitt  178.8
 2   2013  Rafael Nadal  168.2
 3   2011  Novak Djokovic  165.2
 4   2014  Novak Djokovic  163.2
 5   2015  Novak Djokovic  162.7
 6  1997   Pete Sampras  158.8
 7  1998   Pete Sampras  157.9
 8  2006   Roger Federer  156.2
 9  2007  Roger Federer  156.1
 10  2012  Novak Djokovic  155.8

Interestingly, Hewitt would also be year-end No. 1 the following year, in 2002, but his ATP Stats LEADERBOARDS Return Rating would drop all the way to 15th best since 1991, at 146.8 per cent. The year 2002 was stellar for Hewitt, but 2001 was positively lights out.

There are many qualities that come together to create a champion, and Hewitt’s ability to mentally and emotionally find another level against his Top 10 peers fueled his best season on tour.

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