Roddick v Hewitt: Who Was Better In Their Peak?

Tennis is at a peak level in 2017, with a plethora of superstars strutting their stuff with Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer all able to claim they would have dominated the sport in another era. But at the turn of the millennium, the less talented but more notorious pairing of Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt were at the top of their respective games. But who was the better?

The argument could be settled right here by stating that only the American has been inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame out of the two thus far, but that wouldn’t make for exciting copy, and so we delve deeper into the battle between the two.

While tennis is largely a gentlemen’s sport on par with cricket and croquet, each player brought a feistiness to the sport which made it more compelling viewing for spectators not simply content with watching two men hitting a ball back and forth across a multitude of surfaces.

Out of it was born a rivalry between the two one-time world No.1s. The first of 14 meetings between the two players was in 2001 as Omaha-born Hewitt progressed to the semi-finals of the ATP Masters Series in Miami in the first of six wins from their first seven matches which included three semi-final victories for the Australian. Yanks very much.

It does help that Hewitt entered his prime years slightly earlier than his lankier opponent, natural given the 18-month age gap but it is in Grand Slams where players are ultimately judged on their talent at the conclusion of careers. In that respect, Hewitt’s 2001 US Open title and victory at Wimbledon the following year elevate the now-36-year-old above his rival, whose trophy lift at Flushing Meadows in 2003 was his only Grand Slam title despite reaching three Wimbledon finals.

In terms of career titles, though, it is Roddick who prevails with 32 tournament wins to the Australian’s 30, while also boasting a far superior win percentage of 74.18 to Hewitt’s 70.1 while the American also equalled up the head-to-head record between the pair in the latter stages of their careers, winning six ties in a row including two semi-finals before Hewitt won the final encounter in the Australian Open Round of 64, showcasing the twilight of the two men’s playing years.

With their head-to-head tied at 7-7 and with the two having never faced off in a final of any kind, separating the duo as players is a tough task, so what about when it comes down to entertainment value, a quality which should not be overlooked when it comes to determining the quality of a professional sportsperson’s career.

Roddick was notorious for his spats with officials, oftentimes losing focus on the match in hand which made for great entertainment, but did perhaps serve to slow his rate of progression at winning titles. However, it could also be argued that Roddick’s grit and determination was evidenced in this fashion, which can be adoring because God, and sports fans, love a trier.

At their peak, Hewitt reached greater heights than his counterpart, though Roddick’s time on top lasted slightly longer, though it came crashing down after an anti-climactic end to his career which halted his confidence while Hewitt’s injuries took their toll midway through the decade, shortening a career which promised even more than had already been delivered.

Roddick is the man in the Hall of Fame, but it is Hewitt who can look back on his career more fondly as the better of the two former heavyweights of the game.