The long career of Lleyton Hewitt ended Thursday night somewhat fitting as the Australian great lost to man who plays just like him, David Ferrer, 6-2, 6-4, 6-4.
Ferrer, who says he still has an autographed shirt from Hewitt, outclasses the former No. 1 in front of packed Rod Laver Arena all supporting one of their legends.
“I came out, I gave everything I had like always and left nothing in the locker-room. That’s something I can be proud of my whole career. I’ve given 100 percent,” Hewitt said.
“I love coming out here and competing. It’s never hard to come out and play in front of such great spectators every time I play out here at Rod Laver Arena, it’s like a second home for me. I’m just so fortunate to keep having this opportunity 20 years in a row.”
Hewitt, who is still in the doubles with Sam Groth, began his Australian Open career in 1997 as a 15-year-old qualifier. He leaves with two Grand Slam titles, a stint at No. 1 in the world and as a member of two Davis Cup titles.
“Sad day, because Lleyton is finishing his career,” Ferrer said on court after the match.
“He’s a mirror for me, an idol, amazing player. Very special for me to play the last match (against) Lleyton.
“The match was tough, Lleyton fight until the last ball, he was unbelievable. He deserve everything and tonight is the day for him, not for me.”
The 34-year-old will now transition to the Davis Cup captaincy ahead of Australia’s home match at Kooyong against the USA in March.
The next in line after Hewitt did well today. Bernard Tomic failed to close out the third but hung in the fourth to beat Simone Bolelli 6-4, 6-2, 6-7, 7-5. And John Millman came from two sets down to upset lefty Gilles Muller 7-5 in the fifth.
Earlier, bottom half favorites Andy Murray and Stan Warwinka both dominated. Murray crushed hard-charging Sam Groth 6-0, 6-4, 6-1 to stay perfect against Australians in ATP-level match play.
Groth, who once played Australian football (not soccer), had never hit on Laver before.
“We were right next to each other in the locker room literally sitting a meter or so away,” Murray said. “I think it was Mark Woodforde asked him. He just said, No, first time I’ve ever been out there. First time I even practiced on it today. That surprised me. I thought he would have hit on it at least once or twice before.”
Murray will face Joao Sousa on Saturday.
2014 champion Stan Wawrinka has been quiet all tournament, but he’s been winning and winning easily. Thursday, he blew out Radek Stepanek 6-2, 6-3, 6-4.
“So far it’s been okay,” Wawrinka said. “Two matches, two victory. Today was a really good level on the tennis side. Just focus every match, trying to rest between, trying to be ready for the next one.”
And after his big win Tuesday over Rafael Nadal, Fernando Verdasco couldn’t sustain any momentum losing to Dudi Sela 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 7-6(4). The loss follows a trend of players other than Novak Djokovic who can’t win after beating Nadal.
Elsewhere, Americans had a mixed day with John Isner cruising past Marcel Granollers in straights. Steve Johnson pounded Thomaz Bellucci but Rajeev Ram lost in 5 to qualifier Stephane Robert and Jack Sock went down in three to Lukas Rosol. Milos Raonic also cruised and Feliciano Lopez took out Guido Pella in five tight sets.
And Gael Monfils is at it again. The French entertainer hasn’t lost a set through two rounds after beating birthday boy Nicolas Mahut 7-5, 6-4, 6-1. Monfils plays Robert next.
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