SYDNEY. World No. 1 aspirant Lleyton Hewitt yesterday defended himself after his late withdrawal from the Stockholm Open angered organizers, including tennis great Stefan Edberg.
US Open champion Hewitt faces a fine of up to $100,000 from the ATP Tour after pulling out a day after the tournament started, citing a back problem.
The 20-year-old Australian was top seed for the event and had requested last week that his first round match be delayed until today.
However, his coach Darren Cahill rang and told organisers he would not be playing just 10 minutes before they were to send a private jet to collect him from Luxembourg.
Organizers, including committee member Edberg, were furious.
Though they did not accuse Hewitt of faking injury to take a rest before resuming his Champions Race battle with Gustavo Kuerten, Edberg made it clear they would not chase his signature again next year.
"The injury situation is tough, there is not a lot you can do," Edberg said. "You have to believe the players. But players need to realize that they are part of a chain. They've got to think "maybe the event really needs me'."
Hewitt insisted his injury was genuine. "I've never begun a tournament that I didn't think I could finish just to receive a guarantee - and I'm not going to start now," Hewitt said.
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