http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,18031221%255E2722,00.html History says Hewitt faces many unhappy returns after 25th birthday AAP February 04, 2006 LLEYTON HEWITT turns 25 on February 24 and, apart from the very obvious and imposing obstacle of Roger Federer, history suggests time is against Australia's former world No.1 adding to his grand slam tally. Of the sport's 26 multiple grand slam winners in the men's open era, two thirds of their titles were won before the age of 25. All-time great Mats Wilander and fellow former world No.1-ranked players Jim Courier, Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Gustavo Kuerten are among a list of celebrated players never to win a big one after turning 25. Bjorn Borg won the last of his 11 the day after turning 25. Boris Becker had collected five of his six slams by 23, John McEnroe was unable to conjure an eighth beyond 25 and Stefan Edberg's well had also run dry by 26. He had won four of his six majors before his 25th birthday. Hewitt lifted the last of his two grand slam trophies at 21, following up his 2001 US Open triumph with Wimbledon glory in 2002. Wilander likens the counter-punching Hewitt to Borg and himself, adding the South Australian might have suffered from mental burnout - as both Swedes did - after enjoying success early in their careers. While Hewitt, at 20 years and eight months, remains the youngest player to end a year at No.1, Borg and Wilander were both teenage grand slam champions. Borg was finished by 26. "The similarity between those three players is that we were really mature early on," Wilander said. "No one had to tell us how to motivate ourselves; the ambition was there, we knew the game. No one tactically had to tell us anything. "With somebody like (Andre) Agassi, he was totally immature. And the fact he has played for 17 years is because you've got to take seven years out of the picture because he went all the way down (for a period of two years) and when he was 18, he basically came in with closed eyes and just hit. "When I'm 17, I'm already playing percentages, same with Lleyton. So I think when you're playing every point, every shot with your mind, not your body, at a certain point you will run out. There's a certain number of balls you can hit under pressure. "Someone like Pete Sampras, he could stay longer because he didn't hit that many balls. He didn't take as much mental grind. Mental intensity is the key." After landing four majors by 22, Wilander was forced to change his game as the power and aggression of Becker, Edberg, Ivan Lendl and company threatened to pass him by. The Swede is now urging change for Hewitt, who this week dropped to No.11 in the world rankings, his lowest position in almost two years. "I'm only saying that because I know what it did to my game," Wilander said. "I changed my game, not completely - I still did what I did well - but I added a few things. I added a lot more serve and volley, a lot more slice backhand. With that, your attitude changes because then suddenly it's like 'whoa, the great thing is to serve and volley now'. "And that's much more fun because you haven't done it before so Lleyton can do that, of course. "It's not too late. I'm sure Lleyton knows how to slice the ball. Or I know he does - he just needs to use it aggressively and he needs to use it for a purpose. "He needs to serve and volley with a purpose, not as a surprise tactic. "I did it after I won four majors and I didn't win one for two years. So I thought 'well, I have to do something'." Wilander proceeded to snare three more slams in 1988 and it took until Federer in 2004 for another man to win as many in a calendar year. "Lleyton has got to the point where there are other young kids - there's Baghdatis, there's Nadal - and you cannot not stay back against them anymore," he said. "You've got to take it to them. It's not enough to keep counter-punching. The guys are too good." There have been some players to prosper later in their careers, most notably Sampras and Lendl, who each amassed seven slams after turning 25. But they truly are exceptions, the pair contesting an amazing 37 major finals between them with Sampras winning on 14 occasions and Lendl eight. Jimmy Connors accrued his eight slams at a steady rate between 21 and 31, grabbing four either side of his 25th birthday, while five of Agassi's eight have come after his 25th birthday. So, as Wilander says, there is hope for Australia's two-time grand slam champion - providing he's still hungry. "I hope he has it in him. I think he has," Wilander said. "He's too talented, he's got too good a set of hands, he cares too much, he's physically too strong, too quick. And he's got the technique. It's not like you're suddenly telling Andre Agassi to hit slice backhands. He can't do it. "Lleyton can. And he can volley, he moves well enough. "It's just a matter of does he want to put himself through that. It is a bit of a grind. "He is grinding now, but you're going into the unknown. He can stay like he is - No.4 in the world for another three or four years most probably - or he can take it to another level, down or up. You never know."