Lleyton Hewitt began his final Australian Open campaign in brilliant fashion with a 7-6(5), 6-2, 6-4 win over compatriot James Duckworth on Tuesday evening.
In his 50th match on Rod Laver Arena, the 34-year-old withstood the expectations and pressure of the crowd in order to quell a strong fight from one of his close friends on tour.
Opening Set To Hewitt In Tiebreak
The two began the first set with regulation holds, before Hewitt started to gain momentum through the middle part of the set.
The former world number one would break Duckworth to take a 4-2 lead before failing to serve out the opening stanza with the young Australian playing a tremendous game to push the opener towards the tiebreak.
Hewitt would gain the early momentum in the tiebreak with an early mini break, before Duckworth clawed his way back to lead 5-4. The young Australian was unable to maintain his consistency from then on and allowed Hewitt to claim the final three points and a tense first set.
Hewitt Puts His Foot Down
The second set began in slow fashion, with both players struggling to hold serve in the early stages. Hewitt would find his rhythm quickly and break Duckworth to lead 3-1.
The man known as ‘Rusty’ showed why his career has spanned for 20 years, with his judgment and shot placement being executed perfectly.
He was executing perfect lobs, exquisite drop volleys and producing a defense better than a brick wall on his way to breaking serve for the second time in the set to claim it 6-2 and take a two set lead.
The Fighting Spirit
Duckworth began the third set with an aggressive game plan, making Hewitt defend like his life depended on it.
It was to no avail, as the 23-year-old combined his booming serves with aggressive groundstrokes in order to break Hewitt to take a 3-1 lead.
Fans were becoming nervous, knowing that the two time Grand Slam champion does not have the stamina that he has exhibited throughout his career. In the back of minds was Hewitt’s loss from a two set lead to German Benjamin Becker in the second round of last year’s Australian Open.
Hewitt was not phased, and he would begin to adapt his game to the way his opponent was playing and combat the power that Duckworth was displaying.
He caused the young Australian to lose focus and become frustrated do due his ferocious tenacity and utter determination.
Duckworth began to make more unforced errors and would choose to play the wrong shot at the wrong time, including a double fault with a 182 kilometer second serve.
Hewitt would claim the final four games of the match, ending in style with one of his trademark topspin lobs before falling on his back in joy and relief. The win is his first straight sets victory in a Grand Slam since Wimbledon 2013.
He ensures that his career will at least be extended for another two days as he moves on to face world number eight David Ferrer in the second round in a mouth watering match up.
However this tournament ends, Hewitt will be proud that he did not fall at the first hurdle and that he has fought until the very end in his trademark style.