Seven surgeons told Lleyton Hewitt his tennis career was finished if he had an operation on his troublesome toe but the gritty Australian is merrily defying them by battling on and making himself a force to be reckoned with once again. Hewitt underwent a radical operation in February 2012 when he had bone cut from the big toe of his left foot and two screws and a metal plate permanently locked in. It was a last ditch attempt to prolong his career but, at the age of 32, the former world number one is eyeing a solid run at Wimbledon, where he lifted the crown in 2002. Hewitt stormed into the second round of Wimbledon in impressive fashion, knocking out Swiss 11th seed Stanislas Wawrinka, 6-4, 7-5, 6-3, on Monday. The world number 70 said he had been told his career would be over if he went under the knife. His big toe was rendered arthritic and misshapen after years of digging into hard courts to launch his service action. "There were two surgeons, the guy who ended up doing it and one other guy. There were probably five, six, seven that I spoke to worldwide. They said if I had it done, you're done," he said. "In all my research beforehand —which was very extensive — I never found another athlete that had it done, or had it done and tried to come back and play any kind of sport. So that's something I'm pretty proud of as well." The surgery meant his ranking had slumped to 233 but he is now at his highest ranking since May 2011.