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joyful rogger fedder

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Hewitt back to battling best

Photo Titled Hewitt handles
Hewitt handles
The joy of fatherhood apart, there have been some bleak times for Lleyton Hewitt in recent years, culminating in a hip operation last year and a ranking that dipped outside the top 100 for the former world number one and 2002 Wimbledon champion.

But today, in the warm sun out on Court 3, the man who used to play nearly all his matches on Wimbledon's two main show courts frolicked like the Lleyton of old as he thrashed American Robby Ginepri 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 in one hour 31 minutes.

He did it the Hewitt way, too, on a court that used to bear the number two and the more ominous nickname of ‘Graveyard of Champions’. Many are the star names who have tumbled out on this patch of turf, from Pete Sampras and John McEnroe down, and when Hewitt promptly fell 3-0 behind there were fears that, if the court's number had changed, its reputation had not.

But tradition - and an increasingly chastened Ginepri - were banished in harness as Hewitt swept 18 of the next 21 games. The only manner in which the 26-year-old from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, could match the man from Down Under was in the choice of back-to-front headgear. But the spectators were in no doubt about which cap was the more dominant once Hewitt had taken measure of the opposition and put it to flight.

Though Ginepri is a loyal subscriber to the Wimbledon occasion (this was his seventh straight Championships appearance) his last win came back in 2004 and, after those first three games, there was no chance that the dismal sequence would be ended.

After all those postwar glory years of Australian domination at this event, the shock statistic is that Hewitt is the only man from that nation to have made it into the men's draw, though on this showing he is a worthy representative.

Increasingly sure on the serve - he struck 13 acres - and accurate off the ground, Hewitt not only destroyed Ginepri's game but undermined his health.

After a second set that Hewitt won in just 22 minutes Ginepri called for the trainer and spent several minutes flat on his back having his neck massaged. Though he bravely opted to resume, it was difficult to tell whether the American was feeling worse or better, so comprehensively was he being outplayed by a rampant Hewitt.

When he dropped serve for the fifth time to go 3-1 down in the third set, Ginepri's spirit was clearly broken too and the end was only delayed by another brief spell of treatment.

The final blow, an arrowed backhand pass, was greeted with a roar of "C'mon" from a delighted Hewitt, who clearly revelled in the acclaim he received. Where better to get things back on course than Wimbledon, scene of his greatest triumph?

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