Tennis

Hewitt slams umpire match-fixing allegations in farewell match

Departing Hewitt calls umpire an 'idiot' and match-fixing allegations 
a 'farce'

Former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt bade an emotional farewell from tennis yesterday, after a combustible Australian Open defeat in which he slammed the umpire as an "idiot" and defiantly dismissed match-fixing allegations.

The intensely competitive Australian, roared on by a partisan crowd, couldn't cope with Spain's David Ferrer as he went down 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 in two hours and 32 minutes in what was his final tournament before retiring.

After the match, Hewitt, wearing a shirt decorated with the Australian flag, was joined on court by his three children while his wife, former soap opera actress Bec, looked on in tears.

"It was an unbelievable atmosphere out there. A couple of the roars during the match tonight were as loud as I've ever played in front of. I was getting goosebumps at times," Hewitt said.

"It's sort of a strange feeling because you're obviously disappointed not to keep going, but obviously proud of everything you've done as well."

Although Hewitt fought all the way in the second-round match, the feisty two-time Grand Slam winner could not get close enough to the tenacious Ferrer, who broke the Australian's serve five times.

OBSCENITY WARNING

Emotions boiled over in the final set when, with the match ebbing away, Hewitt was given an audible obscenity warning before he clashed with the chair umpire, calling him a "frigging idiot".

Ferrer paid tribute to Hewitt, saying: "He is one of the best players in history.

"His performance in this Australian Open was very good. Tonight is the night for him and also for me."

Hewitt also responded defiantly to his name being linked in an anonymous online report with match-fixing claims that have rocked the sport, saying it was "absurd" and a "farce".

"I don't think anyone here would think that I've done anything (like) corruption or match-fixing. It's just absurd," he said in his post-match press conference.

"Yeah, it's disappointing. Throwing my name out there with it makes the whole thing an absolute farce."

Hewitt, who turns 35 next month, remains the youngest player to reach world No. 1 in 2001, aged 20 years and eight months.

He won two Grand Slams - conquering Pete Sampras in the 2001 US Open final in straight sets, and Argentina's David Nalbandian at Wimbledon the following year.

But a cherished Australian Open triumph forever eluded him in a record 20 straight attempts, coming closest in 2005 when he lost to Russian Marat Safin in the final.

Hewitt now takes on the non-playing captaincy role of Australia's Davis Cup team. His first tie is against the United States in March. - AFP.

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