SINGAPORE (AFP) – An emotional Lleyton Hewitt dedicated his International Premier Tennis League win to fellow Australian Phillip Hughes on Wednesday as the tragic cricketer’s funeral injected a sombre note into the glitzy event.
Hewitt said he watched all of Wednesday’s memorial for Hughes, whose death in a freak accident while batting plunged Australia into mourning.
Hewitt’s doubles win with Nick Kyrgios helped their team, the Singapore Slammers, to their first victory of the fast-paced new IPTL against the previously undefeated Indian Aces.
But Hewitt, 33, said his thoughts were in Australia as the country ground to a standstill for Hughes’ funeral in his hometown of Macksville.
“I sat and watched the whole funeral today – it was one of the toughest things I’ve sat through,” Hewitt told reporters in Singapore.
“I can’t speak how tough his family and friends are doing at the moment and the Australian cricket team but it’s really knocked the whole nation, not just the sport but the people in Australia as well.
“But this is when people have to come together, to come as one and I’ve been really proud of our country.”
Serbia’s Ana Ivanovic, who has family in Melbourne, said she had also been affected by Hughes’ death after he was struck by a cricket ball last week.
“It’s really sad to see. It makes you think a lot – you would dedicate your life to your sport and live a healthy life and then something like that happens. It’s scary,” she said.
On court, the atmosphere was very different as Tomas Berdych won a “super shoot-out” with Gael Monfils to give Singapore a thrilling 24-23 victory over the Aces.
Serena Williams beat Ivanovic 6-4 but Singapore had to overcome another loss from Andre Agassi, who banged a drinks cabinet with his racquet in frustration as he went down 6-2 to Fabrice Santoro.
Hewitt and Kyrgios won their doubles against Bopanna and Monfils on a shoot-out to level the tie at 23 games each, prompting the seven-minute super shoot-out which Berdych won 10-6.
“There’s no better feeling than that,” said the Czech world number seven.