It seemed like a scenario from a cheesy rom-com. Former World No.1 and Australian Open finalist, Lleyton Hewitt, coming out of retirement to help his friend, Sam Groth, compete in his last tournament in the Australian Open doubles. When writing about their tournament run, which came to an end today following a 6-4 7-5 defeat to Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, both of Colombia, it is hard to resist the urge to be sentimental about the Australian duo, and their careers.
But the fact of the matter is that Groth and Hewitt had a wonderful tournament, despite their loss today. Every match they played generated raucous support. They attracted plenty of media and public attention during their run, filling stadiums and putting doubles on the map for the first time in a Grand Slam, arguably since Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares won the US Open in 2016. Groth and Hewitt combined well together, with the big-serving Groth intimidating opponents at the net and the baseline, whereas Hewitt offered more versatility and raw drive to win. The pair claimed a number of important wins this fortnight, including a victory over Mikhail Kukushkin and Denis Istomin in the first round, and a memorable three-set win over Horia Tecau and Jean-Julien Rojer, in round two.
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Sam Groth begins retirement while Hewitt retires again
Although it may seem like they have been cheated a memorable encounter with the Bryan brothers in the semi-finals, their opponents were better on the day. The Colombian duo of Cabal and Farah took their chances when it mattered, converting two out of three break point opportunities and recording a higher first serve percentage. Moreover, Groth and Hewitt claimed a meager thirty-three percent of points on their second serve, which is not enough to win a match of such close margins.
In many ways, the result is a good reflection of Sam Groth’s career. He never won a career singles title, but he broke into the world’s top-60 in 2015, following a good run at Wimbledon that year. His serve-and-volley approach was different, but even so, Groth placed too much emphasis on his serve, and he could never quite replicate his serve’s power and accuracy in his groundstrokes.
Sam Groth was undoubtedly better suited to doubles than singles, and when Lleyton Hewitt announced that he was coming out of retirement to partner Groth in the doubles, it seemed like the perfect way for the big-serving Australian to call time on his career. The pair can now retire (in Hewitt’s case, for the second time) having made a good account of themselves this fortnight, treating tennis fans around the world to some wonderful sporting moments.
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