Melbourne: Andy Murray learned a lot about tennis by watching Lleyton Hewitt, a player he admired so much it inspired a pet's name.
Murray has broken a lot of droughts in tennis for British men, ending more than seven winless decades at the majors with his titles at the 2012 U.S. Open and 2013 Wimbledon and adding a Davis Cup crown last year.
After his 6-0, 6-4, 6-1 second-round win over Sam Groth on Thursday extended his unbeaten streak against Australians to 17, he took time to pay tribute to Hewitt — the last Aussie to win a men's Grand Slam title — who was scheduled to play the following match on Rod Laver Arena.
"He was someone I loved watching growing up. His attitude toward competition — I loved," Murray said. "He fought, well, fights extremely hard to this day. He still has the same passion to win.
"He was an idol for me — I actually named one of my dogs after him because he was someone that I loved growing up."
Hewitt's 20th bid to win the Australian Open ended in the second round in a 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 loss to eighth-seeded David Ferrer. Typically, it was a feisty affair. He launched a verbal volley at chair umpire Pascal Maria after the seventh game of the last set when he was angered by foot-fault calls at one end.
"Left nothing in the locker room. That's something I can be proud of," Hewitt, who turns 35 next month, told the crowd. "My whole career, I've given 100 percent."
Hewitt, who played his first Australian Open in 1997, won his first title at 16 and was the youngest player ever to hold the No. 1 ranking at 20 years, 8 months, was joined on court by his three children.
He thanked his family and his coach, Tony Roche — "Rochie, Love ya mate" — and his fans.
"I felt like this was the perfect place to finish," he said. "A couple of the roars during the match tonight was as loud as I've ever played in front of. I was getting goosebumps at times."
Hewitt won the U.S. Open in 2001, Wimbledon in '02, and held the top ranking for 80 weeks. His best run at his own national championship was when he reached the final in 2005, losing to Marat Safin.
Even before he retired as a player, he was hired as Australia's Davis Cup coach for 2016. As one of the respected elders on the tour, he had a combative response to reports published at the start of the tournament that match-fixing had gone unchecked in tennis.
Tennis officials have rejected the allegations. Like Roger Federer, Hewitt was aggravated that it was a topic of post-match news conferences despite the reports not identifying any players or presenting new evidence.
"It's just absurd," he said. "The whole thing (is) an absolute farce."
Murray has reached four finals in Australia, but never won the title. That's something the 28-year-old Scot wants to do before he becomes a dad.
With his pregnant wife back in Britain, due to have their first baby next month, he doesn't want to labor too many points. A dismantled Groth's biggest weapon — he has the fastest serve in tennis — before closing with an ace — his 10th — in 1 hour, 31 minutes.
"It's been a very good start," said Murray, who plays No. 32 Joao Sousa next. "But I can get better, for sure."
Fourth-seeded Stan Wawrinka, who won the 2014 Australian Open title and won the French Open last year, had a 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 win over 37-year-old qualifier Radek Stepanek, joining No. 10 John Isner, No. 13 Milos Raonic and No. 16 Bernard Tomic in the next round.
Fernando Verdasco lost 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4) to Dudi Sela, a surprising defeat coming two days after he beat 14-time major winner Rafael Nadal in five sets.
Seeded players went out in both draws, with No. 25 Jack Sock and No. 30 Jeremy Chardy ousted on the men's side and No. 11 Timea Bacsinszky, No. 18 Elina Svitolina, No. 19 Jelena Jankovic and No. 30 Sabine Lisicki defeated on the women's side.
Wimbledon finalist Garbine Muguruza , seeded No. 3, No. 7 Angelique Kerber, No. 9 Karolina Pliskova, No. 15 Madison Keys and No. 20 Ana Ivanovic had second-round wins.
Two-time Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka continued her strong recent run with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Danka Kovinic.
Published Date: Jan 21, 2016 09:07 pm | Updated Date: Jan 21, 2016 09:07 pm