London, UK, 30 June 2015 | AAP

Lion-hearted Lleyton Hewitt has fallen painfully short of extending his Wimbledon career and joining seeded stars Nick Kyrgios, Bernard Tomic and Sam Stosur in the second round.

Hewitt saved three match points before succumbing 3-6 6-3 4-6 6-0 10-8 to evergreen Finn Jarkko Nieminen in a pulsating encounter lasting one minute shy of four hours.

Three times Hewitt enjoyed a service break in the epic deciding set only to falter and effectively pass the baton to Kyrgios, Tomic and Thanasi Kokkinakis after a storied 17-year professional career.

The 34-year-old plans to retire after making a record 20th success Australian Open appearance next January and will likely play only Davis Cup before the Melbourne Park major.

The former world No.1 promised to empty the tank in his Wimbledon swansong – and he did.

The father-of-three’s 17th and last tilt at the All England Club featured vintage backhand topspin lobs and a series of remarkable Boris Becker-like diving volleys.

And, of course, a ton of courage.

After receiving treatment for thigh and toe troubles, Hewitt looked down and out when he trailed 15-40, serving at 4-5 in the epic final set.

But after delivering an unreturnable wide-angled serve, Hewitt saved a second match point with a lunging forehand volley and then a third with another bold advancement to the net.

But nine games later, Hewitt finally submitted, firing a forehand long as Nieminen secured a second-round date with world No.1 and defending champion Novak Djokovic.

“I was always going to leave it out there, everything I had in the tank. I certainly did that,” Hewitt said.

“I didn’t leave any stone unturned preparing, but also on the match court today.

“There was a couple of times the match could have gotten away from me at certain stages and I found a way of hanging in there.

“In the end, obviously it’s disappointing to lose. I would have loved to have played Novak in the next round.

“But Jarkko is a tough competitor and it was never going to be easy.”