Sat, Sep 25, 2004 - Page 18 News List

Hewitt gets record 25th Davis Cup singles win

AP , PERTH, AUSTRALIAAP, BEIJING

Lleyton Hewitt after defeating Medhi Tahiri during the Davis Cup world group play in Perth, Australia, yesterday.

PHOTO: AFP

Lleyton Hewitt broke a 56-year-old Australian Davis Cup record yesterday, helping the home side to a 2-0 lead over an injury-depleted Morocco in their World Group qualifier.

Hewitt's 6-0, 6-2, 6-2 win over Mehdi Tahiri on grass at Royal Kings Park was his 25th Davis Cup singles win, an Australian record in just his sixth year of Davis Cup play.

Australia has played Davis Cup for 99 years.

Hewitt's win broke the mark of 24 wins established by Adrian Quist over a 16-year period from 1933 to 1948. Hewitt has won his last eight Davis Cup singles matches, 14 of his last 15 and has a 25-5 record overall.

"All the talk was on that, but I wasn't really concentrating on it," Hewitt said of the record. "I'm only 23 so hopefully I can build a little bit of a gap on the next guy."

Hewitt said team competition brings out his best play.

"Davis Cup is one thing I'd like to play for a long time," he said. "I really enjoy being around the guys and we don't get to have that team atmosphere for the rest of the year."

Wayne Arthurs, playing in his first opening singles match in more than two years, earlier gave Australia a 1-0 lead with a 7-6 (6), 6-4, 6-3 win over Mounir El Aarej.

Morocco's two best players, Hicham Arazi and Younes El Aynaoui, are not in Perth due to injuries. The Australians are without Mark Philippoussis, their No. 2-ranked player, who has a hip injury.

Hewitt had little trouble with his overmatched opponent, winning the first set in 21 minutes. Tahiri picked up his first point on serve in the fourth game -- when a Hewitt forehand went long.

The US Open finalist won nine straight games from the middle of the second set and through the first five games of the third. On consecutive points while up 3-0 in the third, he first hit a drop shot at the net with Tahiri flat-footed at the back, then hit a lob over his head when the Moroccan attempted to rush the net.

Tahiri fought off one match point in the sixth game, then broke Hewitt in the seventh to extend the match. But Hewitt broke Tahiri's serve in the deciding game, including a Tahiri double-fault on match point.

Arthurs and Todd Woodbridge are scheduled to take on Tahiri and El Aarej in doubles on Saturday, ahead of the reverse singles Sunday. A doubles win for Australia would clinch the match and leave Australia in the World Group for 2005.

Arthurs was down a set point in the opening set before edging El Aarej in the tiebreaker. The Australian then had single service breaks in each of the next two sets to win the match.

He served 21 aces and lost just one point on serve in the second set.

"I came out a little nervous," Arthurs said. "It was good to get through that first set. I was probably fortunate to win that."

Arthurs said he struggled initially to adapt to El Aarej's game, having never played the Moroccan.

"It's always very difficult to play someone you haven't seen," he said. "You never know what they're going to throw at you," he said.

"It was pretty ugly. My tennis was not the purest I've every played."

US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova sailed into the semifinals yesterday with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Argentina's Gisela Dulko.

Kuznetsova will next face fellow Russian and Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova.

Sharapova advanced Friday after Jelena Jankovic retired with an ankle injury during the first set of their quarterfinal match.

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