Fri, Jan 20, 2006 - Page 24 News List

Chela squelches Hewitt's hopes

AUSTRALIAN OPEN The unseeded Argentine forced Lleyton Hewitt to put his Grand Slam dreams on hold, while Roger Federer and Martina Hingis clinched quick victories

AP , MELBOURNE

Argentina's Juan Ignacio Chela drinks some water during his second-round match against Australia's Lleyton Hewitt at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne yesterday.

PHOTO: AP

A surprisingly subdued Lleyton Hewitt was bounced out of the Australian Open in the second round yesterday, delaying his desperate hope of winning his home Grand Slam for at least another year.

Argentina's Juan Ignacio Chela solidly beat the third-seeded Hewitt, 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (8), 6-2, reversing the outcome of their spiteful third-round match here last year.

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 consecutive 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 applause.

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?C.

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.

Federer's 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.

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 made 41 unforced errors, against only 19 for Benesova.

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.

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