Former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt made a winning return from hip surgery yesterday, but couldn’t prevent Australia’s narrow 2-1 defeat to Germany in the Hopman Cup.
Hewitt was impressive in his 6-7 (6/8), 6-3, 6-2 defeat of Nicolas Kiefer, but the German took his revenge with a thrilling match tie-break win in the decisive mixed doubles 6-7 (2/7), 6-3, 10-5.
“It has been close to five months since I played a match and it has been a long time coming,” said Hewitt, 27, after the singles match. “It was a great way to start the year. ”
Hewitt ended last year ranked 68th, the first time he had been outside the top 50 since 1998. He was playing for the first time since his operation after the Beijing Olympics in August.
The former US Open and Wimbledon champion appeared to be moving freely in his comeback match as he recovered from a set down against Kiefer, who has been ranked as high as fourth, but has also had injury problems.
But the day’s star turned out to be German teenager Sabine Lisicki, who came from a set down to beat hometown favorite Casey Dellacqua in the women’s singles before helping Kiefer clinch the doubles.
The 19-year-old Lisicki reeled off the last three games of the singles match as Dellacqua dramatically imploded on her Hopman Cup debut, winning just one of the last 13 points after serving for the match.
“I was just fighting,” Lisicki said after the 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 win.
Despite the loss, Hewitt and Dellacqua looked set to clinch the Group A tie when they won the first set of the mixed doubles. But the German pair won the second set and dominated the match tie-break.
In the late match, Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova and Dominik Hrbaty defeated Meghann Shaughnessy and James Blake of the US.