He can't move the big toe on his left foot, which is held in place by two screws and a metal plate. Four surgeons told him he would never play tennis again if he had surgery.
But Lleyton Hewitt went ahead anyway. And now he is not only playing, but playing well enough to oust 15th-seed John Isner from the second round of the BNP Paribas Open, winning 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 on Saturday.
Having reached the final here last year, Isner could lose his position as the top-ranked American on the ATP computer if Sam Querrey advances. Isner was never in control of the match after winning a tight, first-set tiebreak; losing serve early in the second set and struggling to penetrate the Australian's famously water-tight defenses.
"He's one of the greatest competitors the game has ever seen," Isner said of the 32-year-old who was once No. 1 in the world after winning the US Open in 2001 and Wimbledon in 2002. "You know, he was better than me. I feel the margins were thin. I needed to play very well to...