Hewitt turns tide in tiebreak
MELBOURNE, Australia -- Lleyton Hewitt rallied to beat James Blake 4-6, 7-6 (8), 6-0, 6-3 to advance to the third round of the Australian Open on Thursday.
The tense center-court match, which turned after Blake cut his racket hand, was the highlight of the a day.
Seventh-seeded Tim Henman of Britain and ninth-seeded David Nalbandian also advanced, while No. 2 Andy Roddick beat Greg Rusedski 6-0, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 in a matchup of two of the game's fastest servers. There were few long rallies as the two players combined for 23 aces at up to 137 mph. Roddick had 49 winners and only eight unforced errors.
Hewitt lost the first set against Blake, who broke vertebrae in his neck when he ran into a net post during practice last May, then contracted Zoster, an illness that affected his sight and hearing and temporarily paralyzed part of his face. After reaching the fourth round here last January, he missed the other three Grand Slams as his ranking slipped to 76th.
Blake was serving for the second set after breaking the Australian at 5-5. But Hewitt broke back to force a tiebreaker in which both players had set points.
Hewitt converted his third with a sharply angled volley that Blake made a desperate dive for, flicking the ball back while landing on his racket hand and opening a cut between his ring finger and pinkie that required several treatments.
With Hewitt pumped up and shouting encouragement to himself, Blake was never the same and also suffered from several close line calls that went against him.
"I see that as a learning experience," Blake said. "I've been off tour for a while. That's what I missed, being in a tiebreaker with one of the best players in the world. The crowd is into it. You get chances. You're a little nervous. That's what's fun. And I missed that."
Hewitt, urged on by the center-court crowd, clenched his fists and bellowed his trademark "c'mon" every time he won a crucial point. In return, Blake mocked Hewitt's salute when he saved a set point with a perfect backhand winner.
The Australian third seed said he did not see the incident and was not bothered that Blake might have mocked him.
"A few people told me they'd seen it ... but it doesn't bother me too much," Hewitt said.
Blake said he was not offended when Hewitt turned his back on him when he was applauding one of his shots.
"I felt like he played a great point so I applauded. If he doesn't want to acknowledge it, he doesn't have to," Blake said.
"He's doing what he can to win the match. Obviously it worked. But I'm definitely not offended."
The pair shook hands only briefly at the net but Hewitt insisted there was no problem.
"We get along well. We've practiced together in the past," Hewitt said. "He's a pretty down-to-earth guy as well. He's very easy to get along with."
Blake added: "We probably don't call each other on holidays or hang out all the time, but we're friendly when we see each other."
When Hewitt, the last Australian man left in the singles draw, raced away with the final two sets, he set up a third-round clash with Juan Ignacio Chela after the Argentine beat Gregory Carraz of France in straight sets.
Hewitt expects another tough battle.
"Get ready for a long match, I'd say -- about as long as his name," he said.
Roddick, bidding for his second grand slam title, dropped his first set of the tournament but mostly dominated a match of few rallies, clinching victory in just one hour, 33 minutes.
"My returns normally aren't that good so I was a little relieved tonight," he said. "I felt really good out there."
Under the lights at the Rod Laver Arena, Rusedski, the world No. 48, began with an ace but that was his only early joy as Roddick broke three times on his way to the first set in 18 minutes.
To his credit, Rusedski, whose record for the fastest serve was broken by Roddick (155 mph or 248 kph), hit back and levelled the match at one set apiece thanks to one break of serve.
But Roddick always looked the likely victor, and his 49 winners helped him set up a clash with Austrian Jurgen Melzer.
"I felt like I was in control of the match and then all of a sudden we were one set all. I felt lucky to regain the momentum in the third," the American said.
Olympic gold medalist Nicolas Massu lasted 41 minutes and didn't win a game.
An injured left ankle forced Massu to quit his match against Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber when trailing 6-0, 2-0.
Massu also retired from a match against Argentina's David Nalbandian during the Kooyong warm-up event last week with the same injury.
He appeared to twist the ankle again during the first set of his match against Kohlschreiber and required courtside treatment. Massu continued with the ankle strapped but his mood darkened as the match wore on.
No. 18-seed Massu, who had a hernia operation in late November, threw his racket into a chair after losing the first set. He won only 12 points in eight games.
Kohlschreiber, 21, will play qualifier Jean-Rene Lisnard, who ousted 14th-seeded Sebastien Grosjean 1-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.
American Bobby Reynolds upset 17th-seeded Andrei Pavel 7-6 (6), 6-2, 6-2. The NCAA Player of the Year at Vanderbilt in 2004, Reynolds was merely the 16th alternate for the qualifying tournament. He got in after a number of players did not show up and he won three matches to qualify for the main draw.
Reynolds, 24, will play Spanish Davis Cup hero Rafael Nadal, who outlasted No. 15 Mikhail Youzhny of Russia in a five-set marathon, 6-1, 4-6, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3. Nadal, 18, rallied from 4-5 down in the fourth set to advance in three hours, 38 minutes.
Last year, Nadal joined Britain's Tim Henman as the only players to defeat Roger Federer and Andy Roddick. Nadal beat Roddick in December's Davis Cup final, won by the Spaniards, and Federer in Miami.
Argentina's Guillermo Canas, seeded 12th, also advanced 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-0 over Fernando Verdasco of Spain.
Information from The Associated Press, SportsTicker and Reuters was used in this report.