Hewitt survives five-setter while Hingis looks good as new

Hewitt survives five-setter while Hingis looks good as new

Lleyton Hewitt embellished his reputation as an "Aussie battler," producing one of his greatest fightbacks to stay alive in the Australian Open, while Martina Hingis looked like she'd never been away.

Hewitt, who lost last year's Open final to Russian Marat Safin, rallied from a break down in the fourth set to overcome Czech Robin Vik in five grueling sets, 6-4, 2-6, 5-7, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3, in a match that lasted over 3 hours and 45 minutes.

The 58th-ranked Vik was poised to bring off a major upset but could not withstand Hewitt's concerted finish before his home crowd.

Hewitt's reward will be a rematch with Argentine rival Juan Ignacio Chela, who spat in the Australian's direction when they played here in a niggling match in last year's Open.

Hewitt had looked doomed to his earliest exit at his national championship since losing in the first round to Spaniard Alberto Martin in 2002.

The gutsy Vik served for the match in the 12th game of the fourth set, but Hewitt broke to force a tiebreaker, which he won 7-4.

Vik also took Hewitt to three break points in the fourth game of the final set before Hewitt held.

"I just tried to hang in there and wait for opportunities," Hewitt said.

His come-from-behind victory kept alive his dream of becoming the first home player to win the Australian Open since Mark Edmondson won in 1976.

Hingis wins

Playing Tuesday on the center court where she won three of her five Grand Slam titles before retiring for three years, the 25-year-old Hingis was right at home in the first major of her comeback effort, routing 30th-seeded Vera Zvonareva 6-1, 6-2.

Hingis' victory was all the more impressive in that she had so little trouble with Zvonareva, who became increasingly irritated with everything from Hingis' winners to disputed line calls, repeatedly spiking her racket and smashing balls in anger.

Top-seeded Roger Federer also had an easy time - although he wouldn't say so - against a player that he met for the first time in the locker room just before they took court. The lack of familiarity didn't matter as he needed only 83 minutes to oust Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan 6-2, 6-3, 6-2, reminding everyone that the road to the title goes through him.

"It was not easy today because he was serving big, taking a lot of chances on my return," Federer said. "So we didn't see too many rallies, which didn't really allow me to get the rhythm going. I won comfortably. That's what counts most."

Tommy Haas, the former No. 2-ranked player who upset Federer in the Kooyong exhibition last week, continued his revival with a 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 win over 14th-seeded Richard Gasquet. Gasquet was one of only four players to beat Federer in 2005.

Thai Paradorn Srichaphan lost his first-round match to 21st seeded Nicolas Kiefer of Germany after winning the first two sets, 6-7 (5/7), 4-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-1, 6-2, while fifth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko of Russia had to come back from a two sets to one deficit before defeating hard-serving Croat Ivo Karlovic.

Any hopes Britain had of making an impact at the Australian Open disappeared yesterday with the failure of their new highly-touted star Andy Murray to get past the first round.

The up-and-coming Scottish teenager, fingered as a future world top-10 by the legendary John McEnroe, collapsed against Chela 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 to join Tim Henman on the next plane home.

"I played really silly tennis for two sets. I played better in the third," said the 18-year-old.

He defended himself by saying he couldn't be expected to perform every time he takes to the court, complaining that the expectations were too high.

"You guys are expecting me to win matches like this. The guy's ranked 20 places in front of me, is a much better player than me," he said. "I mean, none of the teenagers played well today," he said referring to Gasquet and 22nd-seeded French teenager Gael Monfils, who was stunned by Luis Horna, 6-4, 7-5, 6-1.

Clijsters injury resurfaces

On the women's side, No. 2 Kim Clijsters advanced 6-3, 6-0, winning the last 11 games after dropping serve twice against South Korea's Cho Yoon-jeong. She showed signs of being bothered by a left hip strain that forced her out of the Sydney International last week.

The world number two said pain from the injury sustained in a warm-up tournament last week limited the power of her strokes, hampered her serve and prevented her moving freely around the court.

"It was actually worse at the end (but) I got through, so that's the most important thing," she said.

French women Mary Pierce and Amelie Mauresmo advanced in contrasting fashion.

Fifth-seeded Pierce, the 1995 Australian Open champion and a finalist at the French and U.S. Opens last year, breezed past local wild-card entry Nicole Pratt 6-1, 6-1 in 52 minutes.

Mauresmo, winner of the season-ending WTA Championship in November, struggled at times in a 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 win over China's Sun Tiantian, a doubles gold medalist at the Athens Olympics.

But China's Yan Zi scored the biggest upset of the day on the women's side, defeating 11th seeded Nathalie Dechy of France. The 21-year-old, playing her first-ever Grand Slam match, proved too resilient for Dechy, winning 6-7 (5/7), 6-2, 6-3. Seventh-seeded Patty Schnyder and No. 12 Anastasia Myskina, the 2004 French Open champion, also advanced.

Updated : 2021-02-27 11:40 GMT+08:00