Gritty fighter Hewitt bows out the only way he knows how
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.”