World tennis No1 Lleyton Hewitt's relationship with the sport's governing body has hit rock bottom after he threatened the ATP with a multi-million dollar law suit.
In a move which could have wide-reaching implications for all sports and Hewitt's career, the Australian is seeking damages and legal costs from the Association of Tennis Professionals after he was fined $A176,000 for missing a compulsory television interview.
Hewitt and his management yesterday declined to comment on the issue but it is believed he wants around $A2.5 million from the ATP.
The ATP said yesterday it had been notified by Hewitt's lawyers that the 22-year-old intended to take legal action - most likely in his home state South Australia - unless the matter could be resolved privately.
"We can confirm that we have received a letter from attorneys for Lleyton Hewitt saying that he intends to take legal action against the ATP in Australia," an ATP spokesperson said.
"The findings of the appeals panel and the subsequent fine amount are consistent with similar violations.
"It would be unfortunate if this matter were pursued in the courts, needlessly prolonging a situation that should otherwise be concluded."
The fine was reduced to $A33,000 on appeal but Hewitt is claiming damages to his reputation over the matter and that the ATP Tour "intentionally and without justification" interfered in his business affairs.
It may also be the reason behind Hewitt's abrupt decision to pull out of this week's Monte Carlo Masters - an ATP Tour event - officially because it was "not on his schedule".
The no-show at Monaco could effect Hewitt's Champions Race performance as all Masters series events count towards end-of-season rankings even if a player chooses to skip a tournament. Hewitt played in Monaco last year.
Hewitt later withdrew from next week's in Barcelona on doctor's advice.
Hewitt's representative, Tom Ross, said an Australian doctor advised that Hewitt continue to take several weeks rest.
If the matter does go to court, it could provide an interesting precedent on what level of control a sport's governing body has on its participants.
Hewitt has always disputed the circumstances surrounding the missed interview with host network ESPN at the Cincinnati Masters in August last year, saying he was prepared to do it.
Since then, he has also accused the ATP of lying about the matter, slammed the tour as a badly-run "circus" and threatened to cut back on his tour schedule.
Hewitt's father Glynn said his son's stand was being made on principle.
"The appeal lodged on behalf of Lleyton was never about money," he told the DPA news agency.
"The ATP doesn't seem to recognise this.
"If the ATP believes that a reduction of over 80 per cent of the amount of the fine will satisfy our concerns at the attitude adopted by the ATP or its handling of this matter, it is mistaken.
"Lleyton has already spent more than the amount of the original fine in pursuing this matter."
Hewitt plans to play ATP events in Rome and Hamburg next month leading to the French Open, which begins in Paris on May 26.