Tennis

Lleyton Hewitt's singles career came to an end in Melbourne.

Lleyton Hewitt waves emotional goodbye to tennis in Australian Open farewell

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Two-time grand slam champion Lleyton Hewitt waved an emotional goodbye to tennis after the Australian lost the final singles match of his career to Spain's David Ferrer.

Hewitt typically fought to the very end in front of a packed crowd in Rod Laver Arena but he was unable to beat the classy Ferrer, who won 6-2 6-4 6-4 to reach the third round.

The 34-year-old had made clear his intention to retire at the end of this year's tournament, his 20th Australian Open, and bring an end to an iconic career that has included winning the US Open in 2001 and Wimbledon in 2002.

In an interview on court after his defeat, Hewitt told his home fans it had been the perfect way to go out.

"It's a weird emotion, I don't think it'll fully settle in until a couple of days time," Hewitt said.

"It was obviously in the back of my mind coming into every match this week but I've had a fantastic last month playing in what feels like every major city in this great country.

"I feel honoured to have the support and love from this crowd, it means so much to me.

"I've had such great success on this court and I feel fortunate to finish here."

Hewitt remains the youngest ever world number one, after he reached the top of the rankings aged 15, and he spent 80 weeks of his career in the coveted peak spot.

Winning 30 singles titles in total, Hewitt narrowly missed out on clinching the Australian Open title in 2005 when he was beaten by Marat Safin in the final.

Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and Nick Kyrgios all paid tribute to Hewitt in a video shown inside the stadium after the match.

Hewitt said: "Playing for Australia has always been my biggest honour. Getting the number 89 gold jacket off John Newcombe and Tony Roche when they picked me to play Davis Cup was one of the great days of my life."

He added: "It's something I can always be proud of - my whole career I've given 100 per cent.

"I love coming out here and competing, it's never hard coming out and playing in front of such great spectators.

"I love 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."

Hewitt's fighting spirit often boiled over in his career and it did against Ferrer too when the Australian took exception to a linesman handing him a foot-fault.

At the change of ends Hewitt told umpire Pascal Maria: "You're a fr****** idiot. That's why everyone in the locker room thinks you're so full of yourself."

The pair shook hands, however, at the end of the match and Ferrer now goes through to meet American 31st seed Steve Johnson in the next round.

Murray, Stan Wawrinka and Milos Raonic also made progress but Nadal's conqueror Fernando Verdasco is out after he lost in four sets to Dudi Sela of Israel.

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