Federer hasn't dropped a set yet

Updated: January 24, 2004, 8:44 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Lleyton Hewitt fought off a challenge from young Spaniard Rafael Nadal 7-6 (2), 7-6 (5), 6-2 on Saturday to advance to the fourth round of the Australian Open.

Hewitt's Australian Davis Cup partner Mark Philippoussis thrilled his home Melbourne Park crowd with a barnstorming win over Mario Ancic of Croatia, but 11th seed Tim Henman's dreams were ended.

Henman let a two-set lead slip, going down 6-7 (5), 5-7, 7-6 (3), 7-5, 9-7 to Argentine Guillermo Canas in a four-hour, 51-minute epic.

Henman hit a total of 100 clean winners in his marathon with Canas, but it was the Argentine who hit the one that counted, a rocket-like forehand past an advancing Henman on his third match point.

Henman was bitterly disappointed. "That was probably a good match to watch but it is about winning or losing," he said. "There's not a lot of constructive things I can say about that."

Canas saw things differently. "It is amazing, it is two years since I have played a match like this."

His reward for the superb comeback was a fourth round meeting with compatriot and eighth seed David Nalbandian who out-muscled South Africa's Wayne Ferreira 6-2, 6-4, 7-5.

Considered the hottest prospect in men's tennis, Nadal, 17, showed no sign of stage fright despite playing in front of a full house on Rod Laver Arena.

"I was nervous at the beginning of the match, just like any other match," he said through a translator. "I don't think I was overawed, well not much."

"He's a hell of a player," Hewitt said. "It was a lot tougher than I expected. I really had to raise my game. ... he's going to be very good in a couple of years."

Nadal twice fought back from a break down to force a tiebreaker but the more experienced Hewitt, who remains the youngest man in history to finish the year ranked No. 1 in the world, proved decisive.

"I played pretty well tonight, I went hammer and tongs from the baseline," Hewitt, 22, said.

Hewitt said he is desperate to win his home Grand Slam after his victory over Nadal.

"I'm going to try mate ... I'm going to give it a hell of a shake," he said when asked if he hoped to lift the silverware next week.

He will need to be at his very best in the fourth round, with Wimbledon champion Roger Federer in his path next.

Federer, seeded second, routed teenage wild-card entry Todd Reid 6-3, 6-0, 6-1. Federer dropped serve in the fifth game of the first set, then reeled off 14 consecutive games to win the first two sets and take a 4-0 lead in the third.

The 22-year-old Swiss star won eight of the last nine points to finish off the match in 74 minutes.

Reid, 19, struggled through the second round, vomiting during a grueling five-set win over Armenia's Sargis Sargsian.

Federer didn't give him any reprieve, firing 31 winners and earning his third straight-sets win in three rounds to match his best performance in the season-opening Grand Slam event.

"I played well, had my difficulties in the start, but it went better in the end,'' Federer said. "I'm just happy to be again through to the fourth round. I hope I can go better this time.''

Also advancing were Andrei Pavel, who upset 14th-seeded Jiri Novak 4-6, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (3), 6-4; Juan Carlos Ferrero defeated Joachim Johansson, 6-1, 7-6 (4), 6-7 (5), 6-4; and No. 26 Albert Costa of Spain fell to Hicham Arazi of Morocco.

Information from Reuters and The Associated Press was used in this report.