Melbourn – Lleyton Hewitt will rest this week instead of playing as expected at the AAMI Classic event, with the 32-year-old announcing the decision to withdraw on Tuesday.
The eight-man event at Kooyong club, former home of the Australian Open, had been left without a home player until organisers managed to get Aussie promising teenager Jordan Thompson, the number 320 who won a wild card entry into the Australian Open in a December national playoff.
Hewitt said he was not injured, but the strain of winning the Brisbane trophy at the weekend over Roger Federer had taken it out of his body and he would not be able to play his three matches at Kooyong.
Instead, the double grand slam champion did agree to a high-profile exhibition hit-out with match-shy Andy Murray on Friday, a day after Novak Djokovic plays an expo against Juan Monaco of Argentina.
“For the last four days in Brisbane, I played some tough matches in extreme heat,” said Hewitt, who turns 33 next month and will be playing in his 18th career Australian Open from Monday.
“I have to do what's right for my body before the biggest event in my country. “I take pride in having won this event twice. I want help support Australian tennis. I'm thrilled to get a practice match against another top player.” Hewitt, a former number one, has returned to a 43rd ranking after his Brisbane success.
“I want to enter the Australian Open in top shape, and the older you get the tougher it gets. It was really hot up in Queensland, not like Melbourne here (21 Celsius). The sun was brutal, there was no breeze and it was humid. “Going into the first major of the season, you have to do what's right for your body.”
Murray is well short of matches after winning one and then losing last week in Doha as he made a return after four months out from back surgery. The rest of the field at the prime tune-up fore the Open is comprised of Swiss Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka, who arrived in Melbourne early Tuesday after starting 2014 with the Chennai title in India.
Fellow top 10 players Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic and France's Richard Gasquet are also part of the field, supplemented by Frenchman Gilles, Spain's Fernando Verdasco and Kei Nishikori of Japan.
Wawrinka is confident with his tennis after breakthrough 2013 where he secured a place in the top eight and played the year-end World Tour Finals in London, reaching the semi-finals on his debut.
“I started really well for sure this year. Winning a title in my first event. It was a great week for me. I'm certainly happy with the start of this season.” In Wednesday's opening play, Berdych faces Verdasco, Dimitrov takes on Nishikori, Gasquet plays Thompson and Wawrinka begins with Simon. – Sapa-dpa