Sydney, 28 December 2011 | AAP

He’s been lauded as the toughest competitor in tennis and now Lleyton Hewitt is ready to fight through the pain barrier once more at next month’s Australian Open.

Hewitt has assured his close-knit team he is “100 per cent” certain to line up for a 16th consecutive tilt at Melbourne Park glory despite ongoing concerns over his chronic foot injury.

A specialist last week told Hewitt his battered left big toe was the “worst he’d ever seen” and expressed surprise the former world No.1 was walking around, let alone preparing for a grand slam tournament.

Hewitt, though, considers the grim medical assessment a badge of honour and will soldier on without even using pain killers as they upset his stomach.

The 30-year-old’s show of grit is no surprise to his vastly experienced coach Tony Roche.

“Look, he’d be the toughest competitor that I’ve seen,” Roche told AAP earlier this year.

“He’s had a lot of setbacks the last couple of years but he keeps bouncing back.”

Hewitt hasn’t played since Australia’s Davis Cup loss to Switzerland in Sydney in September.

But he has proven time and again he can return at a high level after long breaks from the game.

Last year, Hewitt was sidelined for almost four months following a second round of hip surgery and a knee operation before he toppled Roger Federer on grass in the Halle final.

He reached the quarter-finals of the 2006 US Open despite carrying a knee injury that had threatened his participation and famously beat Rafael Nadal in five sets at the 2005 Australian Open while battling a hip injury.

Despite languishing at 186th in the rankings, father-of-three Hewitt insists retirement is not in his plans.

“This year’s been frustrating with the foot injury,” Hewitt said this month.

“The rest of my body feels great, so that’s probably even more frustrating. If I was breaking down in a lot of different areas, then you can sort of put up with it.

“So if I can get over this foot injury, I feel great at the moment in terms of my ball striking. It’s as good as it’s been in a long time.

“As long as my foot holds up, I’ll keep going.”

Hewitt will launch his 2012 campaign at the Hopman Cup in Perth starting on Saturday before contesting both the Sydney International and Australian Open as a wildcard entrant.