Former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt bade an emotional farewell from tennis yesterday after a combustible Australian Open defeat in which he slammed the umpire as an “idiot” and defiantly dismissed match-fixing allegations.
The intensely competitive Australian, roared on by a partisan crowd, could not live with Spain’s David Ferrer and he went down 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 in 2 hours, 32 minutes to exit what was his final tournament before retiring.
Afterward, Hewitt, wearing a shirt decorated with the Australian flag, was joined on court by his three children while his wife, former soap opera actress Bec, looked on in tears.
“It was an unbelievable atmosphere out there. A couple of the roars during the match tonight was as loud as I’ve ever played in front of. I was getting goosebumps at times,” Hewitt said. “It’s sort of a strange feeling because you’re obviously disappointed not to keep going, but obviously proud of everything we’ve done as well.”
Although Hewitt fought all the way in the second-round match, the feisty two-time Grand Slam winner could not get close enough to the tenacious Ferrer, who broke the Australian’s serve five times.
Emotion boiled over in the final set when, with the match ebbing away, Hewitt was given an audible obscenity warning before he clashed with the chair umpire, calling him a “frigging idiot.”
An emotional Ferrer paid tribute to Hewitt: “He is one of the best players in the history. His performance this Australian Open was very good. Tonight is the night for him and also for me.”
Hewitt also responded defiantly to his name being linked in an anonymous online report with historic match-fixing claims that have rocked the sport, saying it was “absurd” and a “farce.”
“I don’t think anyone here would think that I’ve done anything [like] corruption or match-fixing. It’s just absurd,” he said in his after-match press conference. “Yeah, it’s disappointing. I think throwing my name out there with it makes the whole thing an absolute farce.”
Andy Murray made dealing with the world’s biggest serve look easy yesterday as he reached the Australian Open third round, alongside Ana Ivanovic, who was shaken by an elderly spectator’s courtside fall.
Murray, faced with the world record-breaking serve of the physically imposing Sam Groth, had all the answers as he won 6-0, 6-4, 6-1 in just 91 minutes against the flummoxed Australian.
Earlier, Ivanovic went through 6-3, 6-3 against Anastasija Sevastova in a match which was held up for 30 minutes when a fan was badly injured by a fall on some steps inside Rod Laver Arena.
“I felt really bad. I was really shaking, because the sound of the lady falling was really loud. I could hear it,” said Ivanovic, who looked on anxiously as the patron received treatment.
Two-time champion Victoria Azarenka was the most impressive of the women’s winners when she hammered Danka Kovinic 6-1, 6-2 to reach the third round for the loss of just three games in total.
“I think I’m feeling in the best shape body-wise, spirit-wise, everything-wise,” said Azarenka, who has recovered from injury and a bout of depression following her split with musician Redfoo.
Progression was less smooth for world No. 3 Garbine Muguruza, who struggled through an error-strewn first set against Kirsten Flipkens before finding her touch and winning 6-4, 6-2.
“I’m extremely happy because Kirsten is a very difficult opponent who has a unique game,” the 22-year-old Spaniard said. “Every match is very tough and I am just happy to be here.”
Australia’s Groth clocked the fastest serve on record, 263kph, in 2012, but he was picked off by Murray’s redoubtable defense and intelligent choice of shots.
One significant match statistic was that Murray served more aces than 67th-ranked Groth 10-6, while breaking the Australian’s powerful serve seven times.
“It’s really impossible to say if it’s the best [I’ve] played,” Murray said. “It’s been a very good start, for sure, but I can still get better, I think.”
Johanna Konta joined her fellow Briton in the third round when she beat China’s Zheng Saisai 6-2, 6-3 — only the third time she has made it so far at a Grand Slam tournament.
Japanese qualifier Naomi Osaka, 18, continued her stunning progress at her debut Grand Slam tournament when she beat Ukrainian 18th seed Elina Svitolina 6-4, 6-4 to reach the last 32.
However, there was heartbreak for Serbian former world No. 1Jelena Jankovic, the 19th seed who went crashing out 3-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 to 97th-ranked German Laura Siegemund.
Milos Raonic beat Tommy Robredo in unusual fashion when he secured victory with the only service break of the match — after nearly three hours of play, and in the very last game.
The big-serving Canadian finally broke Robredo’s serve at the 12th attempt and in the 36th game to win it 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (7/5), 7-5 and reach the third round after 2 hours, 55 minutes.
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