A rejuvenated Lleyton Hewitt may offer Australian Open competitors something to think about next week after the 31-year-old cruised his way into the Kooyong Classic final on Thursday.
Hewitt trod all over sixth seed Tomas Berdych 6-3 6-2 in just 88 minutes as the former world No.1 moves further up the men's singles rankings. Hewitt almost fell out of the top 200 during an injury plagued 2011, a spell that lasted around a year a half, but complied a decent run during 2012 and has lifted himself back to world No.88.
The confidence is clearly back. “I feel like I can compete with pretty much anyone out there,” Hewitt said.
“Obviously playing the best guys over five sets day in and day out is pretty tough but ... I hit with Roger (Federer) the other day and hit the ball extremely well at Melbourne Park.
“I feel like I can compete still against the best guys otherwise I wouldn't be putting myself through all the grind of getting up and doing all the hard preparation to be out there.”
The final will provide another tough challenge. He will play the winner of the Marcos Baghdatis-Juan Martin Del Potro matchup tomorrow.
Hewitt has been refining his game with coach Tony Roche, a move that has thus far paid off and for the first time in a long time Hewitt is pain free.
"(Being pain free) just leaves me with a clear mind. I have not said I can't do anything in training but you just have to push through the pain the whole time, whereas now I can push myself a little bit harder and still feel good."
The evidence suggests Hewitt can build on a strong 2012 return campaign. Around this time last year he reached the fourth round of the Australian Open and stole a set from eventual champ Novak Djokovic. Wildcard entrants saw him feature at what was a disappointing Wimbledon for the Aussie vet, but he reached the final at Newport and then the third round at the US Open.
Now, even healthier Hewitt may be up for a big 2013- the perfect send off for one of the game's favourite battlers.
Crave has Australian sport covered.
Follow Robert White on Twitter @RobertWhitebrrr.