The Courier-Mail

Gritty fighter He­witt bows out the only way he knows how

- ANNA CALD­WELL

BERNARD Tomic clinched vic­tory in a block­buster fiveset all-Aus­tralian show­down that ended Lley­ton He­witt’s US Open sin­gles ca­reer.

The marathon 3½-hour match pro­pelled Tomic into the third round, a mile­stone the ris­ing star has never be­fore reached.

It was a bat­tle of men­tor ver­sus pro­tege, the for­mer world No.1 – a player with grit, ex­pe­ri­ence and form – tak­ing on Aus­tralia’s cur­rent high­es­tranked men’s player 12 years his ju­nior.

The pair – who prac­tice and train to­gether – had never met be­fore at a tour­na­ment.

When they fi­nally did, it was gru­elling.

Tomic jumped out of the blocks to steal the first two sets easily. He­witt seemed with­out hope but some­how dug deep in the third and showed his trade­mark grit, fight­ing back to claim the next two sets.

He­witt said that abil­ity to fight back was a qual­ity he hoped to pass on to the other young Aus­tralians.

“I was able some­how to find a way,” he said.

“That’s what I’ve been re- nowned for in my ca­reer. If I can in­stil a bit of that, es­pe­cially into the three promis­ing young guys on the way up, that’s just another pos­i­tive.”

Tomic ul­ti­mately saved two match points in the fifth set, ral­ly­ing back from the brink to steal the match, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 5-7, 7-5.

Tomic – who will now go head to head with world No.12 Richard Gas­quet – said there was a time in his ca­reer when he would have switched off when down in the fi­nal set.

“Whereas be­fore I switched off when I was younger, I think now my ap­proach when I’m los­ing is just go for it. Be a lit­tle more ag­gres­sive,” he said.

The crowd was firmly be­hind He­witt. Once con­sid­ered a kid with at­ti­tude, He­witt was last night a hero in the eyes of a packed grand­stand crowd who cheered his ev­ery point.

Tomic said he knew the crowd was with He­witt, and he would have been as a spec­ta­tor as well.

“It was the first time for me where it was an Aus­tralian (sup­port­ing) crowd, but it was all for Lley­ton,” Tomic said.

“If I was a spec­ta­tor I would be in the same po­si­tion for sure.”

Tomic de­scribed the match as “emo­tional” for both he and He­witt. When they met at the net at the end, Tomic had words with his hero.

“I said, ‘why did you have to come back?’ … In my mind I thought he won that match,” Tomic said.

“It was very emo­tional for us. I’m very good friends with him. It’s not easy.”

 ?? Pic­ture: AFP ?? SO LONG: An epic five-set bat­tle with fel­low Aussie Bernard Tomic (left) ended Lley­ton He­witt’s run at the US Open yesterday.
Pic­ture: AFP SO LONG: An epic five-set bat­tle with fel­low Aussie Bernard Tomic (left) ended Lley­ton He­witt’s run at the US Open yesterday.

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