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Lleyton Hewitt defeats James Duckworth in straight sets

ABC GrandstandABC Grandstand 19/01/2016
Lleyton Hewitt proved unstoppable for unheralded Australian opponent James Duckworth. © Ryan Pierse/Getty Images Lleyton Hewitt proved unstoppable for unheralded Australian opponent James Duckworth.

Lleyton Hewitt's decorated career remains alive after he defeated countryman James Duckworth in straight sets in the first round of the Australian Open at Melbourne Park.

Former world number one Hewitt, who will retire when he departs the Australian Open, thrilled the Rod Laver Arena crowd with his 7-6 (7-5), 6-2, 6-4 victory over the 129th-ranked Duckworth.

Hewitt, a two-time major singles winner, will meet eighth seed David Ferrer in the second round, the Spaniard having defeated Peter Gojowczyk 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 earlier on Tuesday.

The 34-year-old Hewitt, ranked 308 heading into the Australian Open, said it had been a struggle to prepare mentally knowing the match against Duckworth could be his final appearance.

"A tough situation, to try and block out everything else that is going on," Hewitt said in a courtside interview.

"It's not like the last round of the football season where you know after that match, this is the end. For me, I try to prepare as much the same as normal.

"Obviously playing Ducks, who I've tried to help out, that was really awkward. I just came out here and tried to stay in the moment as much as possible. I think I blocked it out pretty well."

Hewitt said the respected Ferrer, who had been ranked as high as number three in the world, would be a difficult opponent in the second round.

The 33-year-old Ferrer, a two-time semi-finalist at Melbourne Park, leads Hewitt 2-1 in their career head-to-head meetings.

"He [Ferrer] is like a brick wall," Hewitt said.

"He competes. He moves great. Everyone thinks he just makes balls but is pretty aggressive on the baseline. He doesn't get too far back behind the court. He has been just under winning that grand slam as well, making the final of the French.

"Especially on clay and hardcourt, he is a tough customer for really anybody."

A who's who of Australian tennis, including Hewitt's past four Davis Cup captains - John Newcombe, John Fitzgerald, Pat Rafter and Wally Masur - were all on hand at Rod Laver Arena to see the former world number one in action for possibly the last time.

Former Australian cricket stars Michael Clarke and Adam Gilchrist, Olympic swimming gold medallist Michael Klim, former Formula One driver Mark Webber, Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Michelle Payne and countless celebrities watched from the President's Box.

Hewitt, the 2005 finalist, needed two hours and 23 minutes to put away Duckworth and apart from a brief reprieve in the second set, there was barely an easy moment.

Once the five-set king of tennis, Hewitt has lost his past six matches that have gone the distance and even his most loyal of fan must have been nervous when Duckworth gained a break to charge to a 4-2 lead in the third set.

But, not for the first time in his celebrated career, the baseline warrior rallied back to level for 4-4.

He then broke Duckworth one final time and raised the roof after clinching his first victory at a major since last year's Australian Open with a trademark topspin lob on match point.


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