Sat, Nov 29, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Davis Cup's opening salvo ends 1-1

DRAMA Lleyton Hewitt staged a dramatic comeback to put Australia 1-0 up but Carlos Moya pulled Spain level after beating Mark Philippoussis

REUTERS , MELBOURNE

Australian Davis Cup player Lleyton Hewitt hits a backhand return on the way to defeating Spain's Juan Carlos Ferrero in the Davis Cup final in Melbourne yesterday. Hewitt won the match 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (0), 6-2.

PHOTO: AFP

Australia and Spain were locked at 1-1 after a dramatic first day of singles in the Davis Cup final yesterday.

Lleyton Hewitt staged a remarkable comeback to beat French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6, 6-2 and give Australia a 1-0 lead.

But Spain levelled the tie at 1-1 when Carlos Moya upset Wimbledon runner-up Mark Philippoussis 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 in the second rubber.

Hewitt, the former world No. 1, drew on all his fighting spirit to twice claw his way back from a set down in searing 30? heat.

Ferrero looked to have put the brakes on Hewitt's comeback when he recovered from a service break down to force the fourth set into a tiebreak, but the Australian raised his game one more time to runaway with the match.

"It was hard work out there in tough conditions," Hewitt said. "My thoughts and training for the last eight weeks have all been on this match and trying to get Australia off to a great start."

Moya had only ever won nine matches on grass since turning professional in 1995 and had not played on the surface since June last year.

He was given little hope of nullifying Philippoussis' booming serve and natural volley game, but he quickly turned the tables on his more fancied opponent who made series of early errors.

Philippoussis briefly threatened to follow Hewitt's lead with a comeback of his own when he won the third set but he ran out of puff and lost the fourth in a tiebreak.

"If he had won the fourth set anything could have happened," Moya said. "He was not playing very well at the start but he got better."

Hewitt's fighting qualities are already legendary and despite his slide down the world rankings he remains one of the most difficult opponents around.

He rallied from two sets down to beat Wimbledon champion Roger Federer in the Davis Cup semi-final with Switzerland in September and his performance against Ferrero was just as impressive.

Ferrero, ranked three in the world, had the edge over Hewitt in the early stages of the match, clinically finishing off his break chances to open up a two sets to one lead.

But Hewitt, playing his first match since September, slowly wore him down, using his superior grass court skills to find a way through Ferrero's steady baseline game.

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