Who would have believed old, washed up and left for dead Lleyton Hewitt could still outserve a younger, stronger kid like Milos Raonic, let alone beat the Canadian in four convincing sets? Well, the Australian former No. 1 did just that Saturday night in Melbourne in a third round match at the Australian Open. Hewitt upset the in-form Raonic 4-6, 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 to advance to the fourth round.
While Raonic smacked total 23 aces, Hewitt still managed to win as many first serve points as Milos and more on second serve. And Hewitt broke Raonic three times to two.
“The games I was able to break, in the second set he hit a couple loose shots purely because I was getting his first serve back,” Hewitt said. “You just have to find a way of getting it back sometimes. As the match went on, I started returning a lot better.”
The 30-year-old Hewitt is lucky to be even playing the Australian Open after suffering from a toe injury that has plagued him the last year or so. But the Aussie great gave it go and so far it’s come up roses. Hewitt outlasted Stebe in the first round, got a retirement from rival Andy Roddick in the second round before his impressive and some would call improbable win over Raonic Saturday.
“A couple of months ago, I didn’t know if I’d be able to play,” Hewitt said. “Yeah, obviously I didn’t play much tennis last year. I always wanted to play this tournament. I’ve done a lot of hard work. It’s only my close friends and team that know what we’ve done to get here. Yeah, that’s probably why it’s very satisfying.”
Added Raonic, “He was more steady. He was more constant the whole match. I was more up and down. It’s going to win the race that way. I guess it’s unfortunate in a way because I felt like I had the ability to win, but I just didn’t do it.”
Ahead for Hewitt is a showdown with World No. 1 Novak Dokovic on Monday.
“I’ll prepare as well as possible again,” Hewitt said. “I’ll do all the right things. Yeah, he’s the No. 1 player in the world for a reason at the moment. I’m going to enjoy going out there and having a crack.”
Djokovic has won the last four meetings with Hewitt and after losing just two games today in a dominant performance over Nicolas Mahut, who wasn’t 100%, the Serb will be the heavy favorite in that clash.
“I’m happy with the way my first week went here in Australia, and hopefully I can continue the same way in the second one,” Djokovic assessed.
Elsewhere, Andy Murray hammered Michael Lldora 6-4, 6-2, 6-0. The Scot is a perfect 8-0 under new coach Ivan Lendl. Murray will play Mikhail Kukushkin who avert a colossal choke to beat Gael Monfils in five sets 6-2, 7-5, 5-7, 1-6, 6-4.
“When I played him in Brisbane, the first six games he was unbelievable,” said Murray of Kukushkin. “He hardly missed a ball. To me it’s not that unexpected. He’s won a couple of long five setters. He’s obviously in good shape. When I played him in Brisbane, he was hitting the ball very well.”
The 24-year-old Kukushin served for the match in the third set before blowing the huge lead against Monfils. With the win Kukushkin becomes the first Kazakh to reach a Grand Slam fourth round.
Monfils and Michael Lldora weren’t the only Frenchman in action. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga advanced in straight sets over Federico Gil and Richard Gasquet upended the hopes of Janko Tipsarevic also in three.
Kei Nishikori became the first player from Japan to make the fourth round at the Australian Open after overcoming a set and a break deficit to Julien Benneteau, 4-6 7-6(3) 7-6(4) 6-3.
“I’m excited to get through here,” said World No. 26 Nishikori. “That’s my best result right now in Grand Slam. I want to win [the] next one.”
David Ferrer was also a winner on Saturday beating Juan Ignacio Chela.
In the women’s draw, Serena Williams won her 17th straight match at the Australian Open smashing Greta Arn 6-1, 6-1. The 5-time Australian Open champ has had little trouble so far making it back to week two in Melbourne.
“I’m okay with how I’m going,” said Serena. “I’ve had tough practices. You know, it’s okay. I mean, I’m pretty experienced so I kind of know what the feeling of having tough matches is, having simple matches is. I think my first match could have been tougher, you know. She played pretty good. So it’s okay.”
Former champ Maria Sharapova and finalist Ana Ivanovic were also “okay” today winning their matches in straight sets. Petra Kvitova enjoyed an easy day earning a retirement from Maria Kirilenko at 6-0, 1-0.
Tomorrow, Roger Federer takes on Aussie teen sensation Bernard Tomic. Rafael Nadal returns to play good buddy Feliciano Lopez. In the women’s, Kim Clijsters and Li Na lock up in a rematch of their 2011 final and in a battle of Slam-less No. 1s Caroline Wozniacki test Jelena Jankovic.
Rod Laver Arena 11:00 AM Start Time
Victoria Azarenka (BLR) v. Iveta Benesova (CZE)
Feliciano Lopez (ESP) v. Rafael Nadal (ESP)
Kim Clijsters (BEL) v. Na Li (CHN)
Rod Laver Arena 7:00 PM Start Time
Bernard Tomic (AUS) v. Roger Federer (SUI)
Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) v. Jelena Jankovic (SRB)
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