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Hewitt in call for leadership change

Former world No 1 Lleyton Hewitt has criticised Australian tennis administrators for presiding over a period of decline in the nation's game and backed a leadership challenge to drive change.

Lleyton Hewitt during his defeat to Gael Monfils.
Lleyton Hewitt during his defeat to Gael Monfils.

Former world No 1 Lleyton Hewitt has criticised Australian tennis administrators for presiding over a period of decline in the nation's game and backed a leadership challenge to drive change. Australian media have reported that former Davis Cup player and Australian Open director Paul McNamee is hoping to oust incumbent Tennis Australia president and chairman Geoff Pollard at a board election at the end of the month.

Pollard, who has held the posts unopposed for 20 years, had said he wanted to remain in the job for another year to oversee the completion of key projects. Hewitt, though, said that it was time for Pollard to go and threw his weight behind McNamee. "In my opinion, tennis in Australia and the way it is being administered needs addressing, as we are falling behind many other nations in the world, as well as other sports in our own country," Hewitt said. "The current administration appear excellent at 'talking things up', wanting complete control of tennis in Australia and trying to be a Fortune 500 company.

"But the loser at the moment is the game of tennis and that is what is continually being discussed within the tennis community. "So where should be the first place one looks for change? At the top, the president, the chairman of the board," he added. Regarded as a major tennis power and a fixture of Davis Cup finals until the turn of the century, Australia's fortunes have plummeted in recent years amid reduced player stocks. Only two players, world No 23 Hewitt and 64th-ranked Peter Luczak, are in the men's top 100, and Samantha Stosur (14) and Jelena Dokic (69) among the women.

The leadership challenge comes as Tennis Australia is set to announce a near Aus$7million (Dh23.4m) loss for the financial year. Meanwhile, Hewitt had a frustrating time on court yesterday as he was knocked out of the Shanghai Masters by the Frenchman Gael Monfils. The Australian had took the first set 6-4, but the 11th seed roared back to take the next two sets 6-4, 6-2 and set-up a third-round clash with Fernando Verdasco.

The US Open winner Juan Martin del Potro was forced to retire from his clash with Jurgen Melzer. The Argentine third seed was trailing 7-5, 2-1 when a wrist injury forced him out of proceedings. Injury also forced out 15th seed Tommy Haas, who abandoned his tie with fellow German Rainer Schuettler after the opening set. The Russian former world No 1 Marat Safin, who is retiring at the end of the year, declined to shake Tomas Berdych's hand after losing to him 3-6, 6-4, 6-4.

Safin was upset about an injury break his Czech opponent has taken over a problem with his knee, and he complained: "If you're losing, just be a man and lose as a man. Of course he will find 10,000 excuses. Still, it's not enough. You're playing or you're not playing. If you're playing, just shut up and play." The world No 2 Rafael Nadal beat James Blake for the second successive week as he triumphed 6-2, 6-7, 6-4. The Spaniard's next opponent is compatriot Tommy Robredo, who had to save three match points before bouncing back to beat Germany's Florian Mayer 4-6, 7-6, 6-4.

Ninth seed Robin Soderling made comfortable progress as he defeated Spain's Nicolas Almagro 6-4, 7-5. The Swede next plays Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, while 16th seed David Ferrer went out to fellow Spaniard Feliciano Lopez in three sets. * Reuters