Lleyton Hewitt has loaded up his schedule in a bid to revive his battered world ranking after yet again suffering a deflating first-round defeat at the Australian Open.
Rankings-wise, Hewitt’s encouraging summer amounted to nothing with the former world No 1 set to drop from 81st to outside the top 100 again following his hard-fought straight sets loss to Serbian eighth seed Janko Tipsarevic.
Despite striking the ball as cleanly as he has in years, and feeling injury-free, Hewitt’s inability to defend the rankings points accrued from reaching the fourth round in Melbourne last January leaves him locked in a vicious circle.
Turning 32 next month, Hewitt has been unable to string enough tournaments together over the past three seasons to restore his position to anywhere close to the top-32 mark required for a grand slam seeding and early-round protection from the big guns.
The next four months offer Hewitt a critical window of opportunity.
Having undergone career-saving toe surgery last February, the father-of-three will be desperate to cash in at American hardcourt events in San Jose and Memphis and the lucrative Indian Wells and Miami Masters, where he has no points to defend but will most likely require wildcards.
Along with the Davis Cup, Hewitt’s priority this season is another big crack at Wimbledon in June.
The former Wimbledon champion is adamant he can still mix it with the best and a succession of victories over top-15 players Tomas Berdych, Juan Martin del Potro, Milos Raonic and Juan Monaco in his past four events give Hewitt cause to believe.
The 2005 Open runner-up was left ‘‘frustrated and disappointed’’ by his 7-6 (7-4) 7-5 6-3 loss to Tipsarevic, who came up with winner after winner on the big points in a high-quality contest at Rod Laver Arena.
‘‘I don’t think he plays like that all the time,’’ Hewitt said.
‘‘He played as well as he could play, there’s no doubt about it.
‘‘I didn’t do a whole heap wrong.’’
Hewitt’s immediate focus will now turn to Australia’s first-round Asia-Oceania Davis Cup qualifying tie in Taiwan from February 1-3. AAP