Mon, Sep 25, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Hewitt meltdown dooms Australia

DPA , BUENOS AIRES

Australia's Lleyton Hewitt reacts during the Davis Cup semi-final tennis match against Argentina's Jose Acasuso at the Parque Roca stadium in Buenos Aires on Saturday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Lleyton Hewitt's weekend Davis Cup collapse in the crunch amid a run of five-set success doomed Australia to overall weekend defeat in the Argentine clay-court lion's den.

The South American hosts took care of Hewitt, then lifted the doubles over Wayne Arthurs and Paul Hanley to secure an untouchable 3-0 winning margin in the tie.

They face off Dec. 1-3 against either Russia in Moscow or long-odds outsiders the US in Argentina.

Questions will now be asked about the former world No. 1 Hewitt, whose aggressive, struggling style in the past served as the definition of the never-say-die battler.

Hewitt, 25, now also occupied with a family, went down to Jose Acasuso, to end a stretch of 11 straight wins over five sets.

Those he had beaten included Argentine sparkplug David Nalbandian, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Frenchman Richard Gasquet at the US Open.

Hewitt, who had nursed a knee injury through the US Open and only decided at the last minute to front up in Argentina over security fears, looks to be an unlikely entrant in next week's ATP event in Bangkok.

Hewitt's autumn schedule is very much up in the air, with his once-sterling ranking hovering on the inside edge of Top 20 -- a huge fall for the former hero.

Australia coach John Fitzgerald was disappointed by the result.

"Lleyton's record over five sets in the last year or two is quite phenomenal. He doesn't lose too many when he goes to the fifth so, at two sets to one up, you'd back him in. So that was very much a difficult one for us to recover from," he said.

Argentine pre-tie bravado proved to be well founded, with the locals stunning the visitors on the slow clay.

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