Fri, Aug 04, 2006 - Page 24 News List

Struggling Hewitt pulls off great escape

TENNIS Lleyton Hewitt has `lost his edge a little bit,' but none of his intensity, 93-ranked Vince Spadea said after putting up a valiant struggle against his Australian rival

AFP , WASHINGTON

Kim Clijsters of Belgium celebrates after scoring a point against Samantha Stosur of Australia at the Acura Classic in Carlsbad, California. Clijsters won 6-1, 6-2.

PHOTO: AFP

Australian third seed Lleyton Hewitt was two points from losing a second-set tie-breaker before rallying on Wednesday to defeat Vince Spadea and reach the third round of the ATP Washington Classic.

Wimbledon quarter-finalist Hewitt escaped with a 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 triumph over the 93rd-ranked American after two hours and 29 minutes, improving to 6-0 all-time over Spadea, including triumphs this year at Sydney and San Jose.

"These are the kind of matches you want to get through to give yourself an opportunity to improve," Hewitt said.

"If you keep putting yourself in position to improve, you have to hope things are going to change," he said.

Hewitt, a first-match loser last week at Los Angeles, struggled to subdue Spadea before breaking in the penultimate game and holding to win the match in hot and humid conditions.

"He is struggling a little bit. He has lost his edge a little bit," Spadea said. "He hasn't lost his intensity."

The 25-year-old Aussie fired 10 aces but double faulted on his first match point before winning when Spadea sent a forehand wide.

"When I'm playing my best tennis in Grand Slam conditions, I feel like I can beat anybody in the world," Hewitt said.

Two points from defeat after grabbing a 3-1 lead in the second tie-breaker, Hewitt scored the final four points to force a third set, aided by a Spadea double fault at 5-4 followed by an errant Spadea backhand.

"I was a little frustrated. I had a 3-1 lead then I'm down 5-3," said Hewitt, who claimed the set with a service winner.

Hewitt, the 2004 winner here, advanced to a third-round match against Denis Gremelmayr, who ousted fellow German Bjorn Phau 6-4, 6-3.

Teen sensation Andy Murray won his first match under new coach Brad Gilbert, the eighth seed firing 13 aces to beat Paraguay's Ramon Delgado 6-4, 6-3.

The 19-year-old from Scotland won 26 of 37 first-serve points and blasted 31 winners to only 13 for the 109th-ranked South American, advancing to the third round of the ATP hardcourt event after just 88 minutes in sweltering heat.

Murray, ranked a career-best 35th, was to play for a quarter-final spot yesterday against Spain's 63rd-ranked Feliciano Lopez, who beat Russian Teimuraz Gabashvili 6-4, 6-4.

Murray could face Britain's Tim Henman in a Saturday semi-final. Henman will meet lucky loser Jan-Michael Gambill for a quarter-final spot after the American beat Serbian Janko Tipsarevic 2-6, 6-3, 6-0.

Top seed Kim Clijsters won her 12th match in 13 starts, producing a 6-1, 6-2 thrashing of Samantha Stosur to bolt into the third-round of the US$1.34 million WTA event on Wednesday.

The Belgian was ruthless in her 53-minute demolition of the 39th-ranked Australian, joining holder Mary Pierce in getting off to a winning start after a bye at this coastal golf resort.

Sixth seed Pierce had to struggle for more than two and a half hours before squeezing out a 6-1, 6-7 (7/9), 7-6 (7/4) victory over Sybille Bammer. The 2000 Roland Garros champion was playing for the first time since suffering a right foot partial tendon tear in February.

Her last match was the Paris indoor final, which she lost to Amelie Mauresmo.

Nadia Petrova's return after two months away with a hip problem fell well short as the Russian third seed lost badly to compatriot Anna Chakvetadze 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 6-2.

Clijsters has been on a tear since Wimbledon, her only loss coming to rival Justine Henin-Hardenne in the grass-court semi-finals.

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