Scene and Heard: Hewitts Ozcupy Newport
Steve Fogleman, TennisEastCoast.com
Yesterday, I promised you the Newport main course of Scene and Heard. Bon Appetit.
Lleyton Hewitt: Ozcupy Newport
I have always admired him as a player, and he’s certain to end up enshrined here at the Hall of Fame, but there was something strange about 2012 Finalist Hewitt this week. Here’s the skinny:
Hewitt brought his whole family here from the Bahamas or whereever he is based these days. For an offshore baron with residency in both hemispheres, Newport is certainly a befitting family holiday for him. Problem was, they camped out all week in the upstairs players/media lounge and took up a huge amount of space. All three kids, Oz superstar/wife Bec Cartwright, Lleyton’s hitting partner, Peter Luczak, a nanny or friend of Bec’s and various other folks participated in a posh version of “Ozcupy Newport” ALL WEEK.
For the most part, the players are all crammed in the open-air first floor player’s lounge which acts as a fishbowl. Fans stand around and gawk while most guys on the tour wolf down chicken cacciatore and chat with other players.
Legend has it that years ago, Taylor Dent wandered up to the upstairs lounge, which was then exclusively occupied by journalists, since it is directly in front of the media center. He was in bad sorts, according to an unnamed official, and just needed to get away from everyone to clear his mind after a match. That official told him that his presence in the upstairs lounge was fine, but to be aware that media would be crawling all over the place since it was their territory. He came back every day, alone, and ended up winning the tournament that year. Since that time, players got the word and slowly migrated upstairs for some occasional private time.
No one I spoke to indicated that anything like the Hewitt Family Nursery experience had ever happened before. They took up over 3/4 of the upstairs lounge space the first 3/4 of the week. It was unlike anything I had ever witnessed before within the credentialed confines of a media center. Outside, I watched Peter Luczak walk the kids through the grounds and hit balls to entertain them the whole time I was there. I even heard unnamed players on the practice courts joke that they were going to bring their dogs to the tournament grounds next year. In a press conference, Hewitt admitted that his kids don’t really attend the matches.
In another player’s presser, which I captured on video, you can hear the kids loudly in the background in the nursery/interview room during the opening remarks.
In a family friendly history filled theme park of a vacation destination like Newport, the Hewitts could have easily hopped the trolley to the harbor or nearby beaches instead of hunkering down in a place teeming with the press and Tennis Channel on the only TV in the room. The player’s hotel, the Viking, was just three blocks away and must have offered more comforts and privacy. And the kids weren’t even popping into his matches until Thursday.
I asked Lleyton on Monday if I could take a photo of him while he was surrounded by his children in the lounge. He said he’d prefer not to do a photo with his children, which I took at face value at the time. I mean, this was the guy who charged hundreds of thousands of Australians $2 to receive a text message from him announcing the name of his latest baby in 2010. It turned out to cost $.67 per letter, as the answer was A-V-A. But maybe he’d turned a privacy corner. This was also the same dad who gave exclusive access to an Australian TV network to cover the first two years of his first child’s life for an unreported largesse. It still, strangely, felt fair enough at the time.
Then, on Thursday, he trots the kids out to Center Court after his 2nd round victory. And, Bec, with superstar Ava in tow, starts signing autographs, posing for dozens of photos and giving brief interviews. I figured all bets were off at that time. So, I photographed her. And her.
I then walk upstairs toward the media center ahead of them, and standing alone in the media/players lounge, is Mia, the previously documentarized, seemingly unattended oldest child of the trio. A reporter is asking her name and her sibling’s names and ages, as if it were too much to Wiki or Google. She obliges. I nabbed a few seconds on video, because I was surprised how well this young lady was doing in an unscripted, unescorted impromptu interview.
I’m a big fan of kid involvement, but it seemed in this case that the kids would have had a better time anywhere else in the great City of Newport, with its perfect beaches and scenic bike rides.
Huge fan here, Lleyton, but when you do return for your induction ceremony, let the kids enjoy their vacation away from the upstairs media/players lounge and let them hit the town instead.
UPDATE: A very astute reader wondered why the kids were all decked out in the Fila shirts, since they are not an official Hewitt sponsor.