With Lleyton Hewitt’s induction into the Tennis Australia Hall of Fame at the 2024 Australian Open, a celebration will take place for his illustrious career.
It saw two majors, a hefty stint at number one and a large sum of prizemoney that would leave any budding tennis player satisfied.
It is a grand honour, but here at The First Serve, this writer wants to look at some of the Australians that will go into The First Serve’s Cult Hero Hall of Fame.
John Millman - #Millmania
It’s simple, John Millman would be the first inductee.
He is universally loved and everything about his personality and game should be admired due to his humility, determination and tenacity.
Millman has not peaked inside the world’s top 30, nor has he won a major, but he has an innate ability to leave fans with smiles from ear to ear after watching one of his matches.
His most famous win came over Roger Federer in the fourth round of the 2018 US Open as he stormed through to the quarters with a four-set upset over the Swiss Maestro on a night that will go down in Australian tennis folklore.
The Queenslander again dazzled fans against Federer in 2020, going down in an agonising contest in the third round of the Australian Open despite leading 8-4 in the match tiebreak, again losing no admirers.
However, he would feel the love late that year as he finally clinched his maiden title in Astana, defeating Adrian Mannarino in the final.
The hashtag #Millmania has taken social media by storm at various moments throughout his career, in which he has had to battle through a plethora of injuries.
But it has made him more loveable, not to mention his acts of sportsmanship that are rarely seen in the sporting world, most notably against Diego Schwartzman at the 2016 Australian Open.
The Argentine went down injured and Millman raced to his aid in one of the more heart warming scenes of the year.
It is a testament to the guy he is and why he easily goes into the cult hero Hall of Fame.
Storm Hunter – nee Sanders
Hunter is having some sort of a year, scaling new heights in both the singles and doubles arena, achieving career high rankings in both disciplines.
However, her cult hero status came long before this year.
Her name is simply brilliant, let alone her tennis, and due to its memorable nature people have taken a shine to her.
It is easy for newspaper editors to create headlines and it is one that fans love to cheer for.
What is better is that her surname by marriage is even more appropriate, Storm Hunter, it’s magical.
But it isn’t just her name, she is an extremely down to earth figure within the tennis world and is universally liked among fans both within Australia and abroad.
That’s why Strom Hunter would be a walk up starter in the cult hero Hall of Fame.
Chris Guccione – AKA The Gooch
The tall Australian with the booming serve was a fixture in Australia’s summer in the late Naughties, with spectators tuning in to watch one of the best prospects behind Lleyton Hewitt.
They really took note after his run to the Adelaide final in 2007, pushing Novak Djokovic to three in the final, and again in Sydney 2008 where he would progress to the decider but fall to Russia’s Dimitry Tursunov in two tiebreaks.
Guccione’s nickname of ‘The Gooch’ stuck and was adored by crowds, as was his retro serve and volley game, which captivated global crowds as he often found himself competing with the best.
Ultimately, he would be cruelled by injuries and never quite reach the heights some thought he would, but the gentle giant of Australian tennis deserves his place as a cult hero.
Honourable mentions that may be covered in the 2024 edition:
The Slugs (Saville & Purcell), Marinko Matosevic, Monique Adamczak and Jarmila Wolfe.