Melbourne, Jan 25 (ANI): Despite losing out to Novak Djokovic on Monday night, Lleyton Hewitt now has a new cohort of fans who certainly did not love him when he was at the peak of his career nearly a decade ago.
The way Hewitt faced defeat at the hands of world No.1, has already triggered sales of his tennis merchandise, and cemented Seven's ratings boom this Australian Open.
His racquet and clothing sponsor, Yonex, has already enjoyed the strongest rise in sales of Hewitt-branded merchandise this summer since his 2005 run to the Australian Open final against Marat Safin, the Daily Express reported.
"Our tennis stores came in this morning to find online sales were very strong last night while he was playing. Sales of his product for this summer are at their highest level since 2005," Yonex's Australian brand manager, Greg Orvis, said.
Part of this newly discovered public attention has been an unexpected humility that has come from his injury misfortunes of the last few years.
"I'm happy just to be out here," Hewitt said in his on-court interview after his second-round win over Andy Roddick.
The public's new love affair with Hewitt has helped to steer Seven's best tennis ratings in years, with an average 1.2 million viewers watching the Hewitt-Djokovic match (peaking at two million).
Seven has cashed in by recruiting him to commentate on tonight's Djokovic quarter-final tonight, as well as the semi-final and final.
Hewitt used to be the tennis star who - even as a double grand slam tournament winner - divided Australians with his blistering on-court actions. He was demonised for insulting fans, a race uproar at the US Open and his usual energetic on-court demeanour.
But now the fighting qualities that have always defined him have earned him a whole new lot of fans as his career reaches its twilight.
The 30-year-old is pursuing business opportunities, with companies registered under his own name in areas like sports marketing and management.
But manager-to-the-stars James Erskine - whose clients include Shane Warne and Michael Parkinson - said Hewitt's best post-career business strategy is simple: Market his reputation as a fighter.
Sports marketer Jason Greenhalgh insisted that Hewitt gives sponsors value for money from his frequent long matches on national TV.
"If you look at his return-per-minute to sponsors, you're getting more value out of Hewitt than you are out of Federer or Nadal, because you know you're going to be in a fight. With the others, you could be off in an hour," Greenhalgh said. (ANI)
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