Lleyton Hewitt's dream of becoming the first Australian in 30 years to win the Australian Open turned into a nightmare when he was knocked out by Juan Igancio Chela yesterday.
The 58th-ranked Argentine, who was fined for spitting at Hewitt in their corresponding third round match here last year, knocked out last year's finalist 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (8/10), 6-2 in 3 hours 23 minutes.
The unseeded Chela rarely let the Australian - or the boisterous crowd - get into the match.
Hewitt, a finalist here last year who was in his 30th major and 10th consecutive Australian Open, was hoping to be the first Australian man to win the home major since Mark Edmondson in 1976.
But he committed 62 unforced errors and struggled as he did in his first-round, five-set victory over 58th-ranked Robin Vik.
Hewitt managed to rally then. This time, Chela squelched his comeback effort after Hewitt took the third set by cashing in on his seventh set point to extend his streak of taking 10 straight tiebreakers.
Chela, winning consecutive matches for the first time since August, got the last two of his eight breaks of Hewitt's serve en route to a 3-0 lead in the fourth, then fended off one break point as he held serve the rest of the way, finishing it with a forehand crosscourt winner.
Hewitt won last year's encounter and Chela was fined for spitting in the Australian's direction. There was no such drama this time.
The pair met at the net, shook hands quickly and quietly before Hewitt walked off without even acknowledging the crowd's applause.
"It's the biggest win of my career. He's a good fighter and in Australia in front of all the public, it was very special. He's a great player," Chela said through an interpreter.
"They talked a lot about what happened here last year, but when I got on to the court I was just thinking about the tennis match and not about what happened last year."
Hewitt said defeat in his 10th Australian Open campaign was disappointing.
"At the moment it's a bit disappointing. It'll probably hurt for a few days, I'd say."
Hewitt said he had jarred his left ankle during the third set and that the injury had changed his movement on court.
"I think something jarred (in the ankle) or I felt like a small bone or something, but the trainer said there was not a whole heap we could do besides strapping it," Hewitt said.
"I had to change my whole movement because of it. Every ball I was moving out wide on either side, I had to always prop up on my right foot. Whenever I landed on my left foot, I was history."
Swiss advance with ease
Earlier, it was a banner day for Swiss stars Roger Federer, the men's top seed, and Martina Hingis, on the comeback after a three-year layoff. Both had fast victories that other players could only envy as temperatures reached 33 degrees Celsius.
Conserving energy for later in the two-week tournament, Federer was in top form as he zipped through his second-round match, needing only 1 hours, 12 minutes to beat Germany's Florian Mayer 6-1, 6-4, 6-0.
It was the second easy match for Federer, seeking his seventh Grand Slam victory and second title here. He has yielded only 12 games in six sets. Federer was so dominating that Mayer never even had a game point after holding serve to pull within 4-5 in the second set.
"I definitely feel like, if I keep on playing the way I am, not losing too much energy out on the court ... maybe it's going to pay back eventually," Federer said.
"It's so nice to get quick matches in the heat," Federer said.
His next opponent is 30th-seeded Max Mirnyi.
Hingis was on court only 52 minutes. Backed by a crowd that included a yodeler and clearly enjoying the experience at the place where she won three of her five Grand Slam titles, she had no trouble in beating Finland's Emma Laine 6-1, 6-1,
Hingis smiled frequently and was as sharp as she was in ousting No. 30 Vera Zvonareva in the first round. She has dropped only five games in four sets. She won twice as many points as Laine, 52-25, and committed only nine unforced errors.
"Maybe all these three years, I freshened up a little," said Hingis. "I'm just really enjoying every second of being around here."
Losses by fifth-seeded Pierce and No. 21 Ava Ivanovic mean that Hingis has no seeded players in her part of the draw until the quarterfinals, when she could face ailing Kim Clijsters, seeded second.
Pierce, the 1995 Australian champion and a two-time finalist at last year's majors, became the highest seeded player to be sidelined when she lost 6-3, 7-5 to Iveta Benesova.
Pierce, who turned 31 last Sunday and was playing in her 13th Australian Open, crashed into the net as she lunged to reach a drop shot on match point and said she had problems with her contact lenses in the hot windy conditions.
But the bottom line, she added, was that she didn't play well.
"It was just one of those days," Pierce said. "Probably April or May was my last bad match. If I only have a bad match every nine months, it's OK."
Clijsters, bothered by hip and back soreness, overcame 48 unforced errors and five double faults to beat Yuan Meng, who had heavy strapping on both thighs and produced only two clean winners in the match.
Clijsters needed treatment on her back and hip between sets and was not moving fluidly, although she went to the net 14 times and won 12 of those points.
"I'm happy with the win but my body doesn't feel too good at the moment," Clijsters said. "Although I didn't play my best tennis, not even close, I always felt like I could win.
"As long as (the hip) doesn't get worse, I'll keep fighting and see how I go."