Former No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt, unseeded at the 2013 US Open, rolled back the clock on Friday night, displaying his trademark grinding style in outlasting No. 6 seed Juan Martin del Potro 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 7-6, 6-1 in a battle of past champions at Flushing Meadows.
“A couple years ago when I had a couple of foot surgeries I didn’t know if I’d be out here competing so it’s a hell of a lot of fun,” said Hewitt, the 2001 champion when he beat Pete Sampras in the final, speaking on court after the match. “I felt like physically I was able to get a little more on top of him in the fourth set.”
After his eighth win in 10 5-setters at the US Open, the Aussie will next meet Evgeny Donskoy on Sunday.
“I’m taking it one match at a time,” the 32-year-old said. “Even when I was No. 1 in the world I was taking it one match at a time. I never was a player to look too far ahead, the way draws can pan out and stuff. Yeah, I think the most important thing in slams is trying to find a way through the first week and then focus on starting fresh the second week if you can. That’s still the case nowadays.”
Del Potro, who seemed to be struggling with his left wrist, gave credit to Hewitt.
“I think tonight was a really tough battle for both, but in the end he play better,” Del Potro said. “He played impressive. The tie-break on the fourth set he made very good passing shots. He’s a great champion and a great fighter. For the second round, it’s a really difficult player.”
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has difficulty adjusting to breezy conditions on Friday before righting his ship to defeat unseeded German Benjamin Becker 7-6(2), 6-2, 6-2.
“Yeah, it was a struggle,” Djokovic said. “It was different conditions from the first match, and I knew that he’s a dangerous player. If he serves well and high percentage, he can be dangerous player. He’s very solid from baseline…It was a lot of unforced errors, very windy conditions. You couldn’t really read and kind of predict where the ball is going to go, so you have to be very alert. At the start I had difficulty with my footwork.”
No. 3 seed Andy Murray needed four sets to dispatch of Argentine Leo Mayer, who took his turn dictating play during an eventual 7-5, 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 win for the Brit.
“I was a bit frustrated at points in the match because I was doing quite a lot of the running for a lot of it,” Murray said. “I wasn’t getting much depth on my returns, so when he was serving, I was having to do a lot of running. When I was serving, I served a low percentage today. I served pretty well in my first match, and then today struggled to control the first serve. So I was playing a lot of points on my second serve. When that happens, you have to do a lot of the running.”
Other Top 10-seeded winners were No. 5 Tomas Berdych made to work against unseeded American Denis Kudla 7-6(3), 7-6(3), 6-3, and No. 9 Stanislas Wawrinka defeating unseeded Croat “Dr.” Ivo Karlovic 7-5, 7-6(8), 6-4.
Marcos Baghdatis reached back to his glory days to orchestrate the lone upset of the day, downing big-serving No. 17-seeded South African Kevin Anderson 6-2, 6-2, 6-2.
Other seeded winners on the day into the third round were No. 12 Tommy Haas defeating Taiwan’s Yen-Hsun Lu, No. 20 Andreas Seppi over Somdev Devvarman, No. 21 Mikhail Youzhny topping Alexandr Dolgopolov, and No. 31 Julien Benneteau besting Jeremy Chardy, all in straight sets.
Among the other unseeded Americans in action, Tim Smyczek outlasted American-turned-Russian Alex Bogomolov Jr. in five, while Rajeev Ram blew a 2-0 set lead against Spain’s Marcel Granollers, and qualifier Donald Young was sent home.
“I set a goal at the beginning of this year to break into the Top 100,” said Smyczek, who says after the Open he will fly to California to play a series of challenger events. “I got to 101 and still haven’t made it, so that’s still the main one for me. Then just, you know, cementing myself inside there, setting myself up for getting into all the Grand Slams next year.”
World No. 1 Serena Williams followed Hewitt and del Potro onto the court at almost 11:45 p.m. against Kazakhstan’s Yaroslava Shvedova.
Other Top 10-seeded women’s winners were No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska in a tight one over No. 32 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4, 7-6(1); No. 5 Li Na handling No. 30 Laura Robson 6-2, 7-5; No. 8 Angelique Kerber overwhelming No. 25 Kaia Kanepi 6-0, 6-4; and No. 9 Jelena Jankovic edging Japan’s unseeded Kurumi Nara 6-4, 7-6(5).
Li had lost to Robson at last year’s US Open, and will next face Jankovic.
“First, I just want to say thanks to the crowd for supporting me,” Li said on court after the match. “I was really pleased with how I was hitting it and I was also serving well.” –
In lower seeded action, No. 15 Sloane Stephens easily won the all-American battle with No. 23 Jamie Hampton 6-1, 6-3, and No. 18-seeded Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro defeated Jie Zheng 6-2, 6-4.
“It was tough to play Jamie, a good friend,” said Stephens, helped out by 34 unforced errors by Hampton. “This year has been a learning process, and I have just improved so much.”
The Stephens win sets an intriguing match-up in the round of 16 with the world No. 1 Serena, who she had a public feud with earlier this year, saying in an ESPN the Magazine story about Serena, “She’s not said one word to me, not spoken to me, not said hi, not looked my way, not been in the same room with me since I played her in Australia. And that should tell everyone something, how she went from saying all these nice things about me to unfollowing me on Twitter…People should know. They think she’s so friendly and she’s so this and she’s so that — no, that’s not reality! You don’t unfollow someone on Twitter, delete them off of BlackBerry Messenger. I mean, what for? Why?”
The lone seeded upset on Friday was a mild one as No. 24-seeded Russian Ekaterina Makarova ushered out No. 16 Sabine Lisicki 6-4, 7-5.
Saturday’s highlights at the US Open are (2) Rafael Nadal vs. Ivan Dodig, (13) Ana Ivanovic vs. American Christina McHale, (6) Caroline Wozniacki vs. young Italian Camila Giorgi, (7) Roger Federer vs. French breakout player Adrian Mannarino, (2) Victoria Azarenka vs. (26) Alize Cornet, (13) John Isner vs. (22) Philipp Kohlschreiber, Jack Sock vs. (18) Janko Tipsarevic, (7) Petra Kvitova vs. Alison Riske, (23) Feliciano “F-Lo” Lopez vs. (10) Milos “The Missile” Raonic, (8) Richard Gasquet vs. (32) Dmitry Tursunov, and former champ (27) Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. upset-minded Italian veteran Flavia Pennetta.
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