Tennis: Lleyton Hewitt advances to 3rd round of Aust. Open
By JOCELYN GECKER
Associated Press Writer
MELBOURNE, Australia — That epic match in 2008, Lleyton Hewitt remembers it well.
It set a record just for starting — at 11:47 p.m. it was the latest start for a singles match in Australian Open history.
Five sets and nearly five hours later, it ended when Hewitt smacked a final forehand past Marcos Baghdatis at 4:34 a.m. — a record for the latest finish.
Two years later, Hewitt calls it the most memorable match of his career and he’s bracing for the rematch, which will come once again in the third round of the Australian Open.
“Hopefully, we’ll get done a little earlier than last time,” Hewitt said after his straight sets second-round win Thursday over American Donald Young, 7-6 (3), 6-4, 6-1.
Young has some advice for Baghdatis about tuning out the boisterous, stadium-wide chanting in favor of Hewitt, an Australian and former No. 1-ranked player who is vying to become the first hometown champion since 1976.
“You just have to imagine they’re cheering for you,” said Young, a 20-year-old qualifier. “Obviously, you know your name is not ’Lleyton’ or ’Hewitt’ and you’re not Australian but you’ve just got to take it and focus on playing your game.”
After a close first set, Hewitt was down 2-4 in the second when he picked up his serve, gained momentum and cheered himself on with his trademark rallying cry of “COME ON!”
“My serve got better as the match went on, and that definitely put me in a better position to be a little bit more aggressive on his service games,” said Hewitt, who won the 2001 U.S. Open, Wimbledon in 2002 and was runner-up in Melbourne in 2005. This year’s appearance marks the 28-year-old Australian’s 14th straight Australian Open.
Hewitt has a 128-42 win-loss record at majors, with top-seeded Roger Federer being the only active player to record more Grand Slam match wins (190-27).
Hewitt is bracing for his Saturday match against Baghdatis to be another prime-time evening match.
“I’m gathering that it will be Saturday night,” said Hewitt, who has taken up residence in the Bahamas with his wife, Australian actress Bec Cartwright, and their two children. “It doesn’t worry me, day or night.”
Lengthy discussion was paid Thursday to the topic of late-night matches, after fellow Australian Bernard Tomic complained that at 17 he’s too young to stay up late at night.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” Tomic said after losing his second-round, five-setter to Croatia’s Marin Cilic 6-7 (6), 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4. Their match started at 10:20 p.m. and ended shortly after 2 a.m..
“Name me any sport you play at 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning, except this,” he added, noting that he likes to be in bed before 10. “I think if I would have played during the day, I would have had a better chance.”
Tournament director Craig Tiley summoned Tomic to speak about the outburst — which could result in a fine — but Tomic declined to discuss what was said.
“There were a few things mentioned. Nothing really that we can talk about now,” Tomic said later.
He got little sympathy from Hewitt.
“If you get scheduled at night ... you’ve got to be prepared for that to happen,” Hewitt said.
Baghdatis offered the same advice.
“That’s the way it is. We have to deal with it,” Baghdatis said after surviving his own five-setter against No. 17-seeded David Ferrer, 4-6, 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-1.
“We don’t have to find excuses,” said Baghdatis, the 2006 Australian Open runner-up. “We have to find a way to win every match we play, even if it’s in tough conditions. That’s all.”