Thursday, 21 January 2016

Hewitt's Finale

Tonight promised to be a match of long rallies where the two combatants would run to the edge of the earth to retrieve a tennis ball.  Lleyton Hewitt faced the real prospect of playing his last match at Melbourne Park in an Aus Open with his opponent the eighth seed David Ferrer of Spain.  Ferrer had been beaten by Sock in the Auckland semis but his record at this GS event made him hot favourite to beat Hewitt.

Games went to serve for the first four and as predicted they contained many long rallies.  Both players were strong off their forehand wings and Ferrer showed that his serve was gong to be an issue for Lleyton to deal with as the night dragged on.

Hewitt's own serve received a hammering in the fifth game, especially his second delivery, and Ferrer gained a break, his forehand damaging the Australian's resolve.  At this point I wanted to throw something at the Spanish player because his unnecessary and particularly loud grunting was as irritating as Sharapova's screaming.  I'd never noticed this before and wondered whether it was something that had grown worse over time.  In any case it was a blight on the game and tainted the good tennis displayed by the eighth seed.

Hewitt committed several errors, some forced by the more powerful shot making of Ferrer but also a number of self inflicted wounds, all contributing to a comfortable consolidation of the service break and a 4-2 lead for Ferrer.

Back with Hewitt serving again, and the Aussie still appeared vulnerable, errors coming from both sides before a double fault gave three break chances to Ferrer who won the game on the second of these when Lleyton netted a forehand.

Hewitt had a glimpse at a break back when he saw 15-40 on Ferrer's next serve, but the eighth seed collected his thoughts, served an ace and lost no further points for the set.  6-2 to Ferrer and far too accomplished so far at this level for a rusty 'Rusty'.

Hewitt began the second set and was 30-0 swiftly.  Another Ferrer mistake then a great backhand took it to 40-15.  A Spanish forehand down the line brought it closer and Hewitt had the jitters when his backhand travelled wide.  Break point arrived sort of inevitably with a netted stroke from the Aussie and he was only saved with a long forehand from Ferrer.  Surviving another break point, Hewitt eventually held for 1-0.

Intent on hammering Hewitt into submission, the Ferrer serve was an ally and it fired missiles unable to be handled adequately by Hewitt. 1-1.

The first serve percentage for Hewitt was terrible and this allowed the Ferrer ground strokes to be played to their maximum.  However, Hewitt battled through this to reach game point - Ferrer lobbed him for deuce.  Next game point was converted via a Ferrer error and Lleyton led 2-1.

Ferrer wasted little time in joining Hewitt at two games, and then setting about tearing into the Hewitt serve.  Several clean winners from the Spanish racquet overwhelmed a battling Aussie and the break arrived as did the 3-2 advantage for the eighth seed.  Hewitt needed the trainer for a second time.
His running ability had appeared to be limited as the match had dragged on so hopefully Lleyton will be ok.

Ferrer consolidated easily for 4-2 and once again monstered the Hewitt serve, racing to two break points before Hewitt hit back, saving both of those and winning the game.  4-3 to the now offensively loud grunting Ferrer.  If he and Sharapova played mixed doubles it would be noise pollution at its worst.

Hewitt had chances in the eighth game with a break point even available to him.  Ferrer saved it immaculately at the net.  Another chance presented itself and Hewitt inexplicably netted a backhand.
The third break opportunity for the game vanished thanks to a down the line shot forcing a Hewitt error.
A fourth chance also evaporated with a forehand setting up a smash into open court.  Can you believe a fifth break point arrived at the doorstep of the South Australian ? It was saved.  Then a sixth one came like it was Christmas.  Hewitt's backhand went long and deuce yet again. Number seven - lucky seven ?  Not for Lleyton with a forehand sizzler from Ferrer bringing us back to deuce once more.
Another forehand - off forehand - winner won the game for Spain and now Ferrer had 5-3.

A stunning backhand nullified a double fault and Hewitt held for 4-5, his first ace for the match the sealer.  Ferrer would serve for a two set advantage.

Ferrer did as requested and led 6-2 6-4.

An awesome forehand passing shot from Hewitt was the shining light of the opening service game of set three and he led 1-0.  Ferrer found 40-0 easily but Hewitt wound it back to deuce and the chance was almost there only to be suddenly snapped with two points from the eighth seed for 1-1.

Now Lleyton was on the back foot, a position he'd held most of the night, 0-30 following a terrific forehand winner from Ferrer.  The break points arrived as ordered and Ferrer declined the offer of the first, hitting a ground stroke long.  He dined out on the second however, a delectable backhand cross court passing shot the special on the menu.  Ferrer the leader 2-1.

Serves continued to be held, Hewitt's with more difficulty, saving a break point in the fifth game with a winner down the line.  3-2 Ferrer.
Things turned upside down in the sixth game with Ferrer losing his serve to love, and the game score was 3-3.  Hewitt did not need to do anything special - it was mostly Ferrer's work.

The first point of the next Hewitt service game was finished with the shot of the night.  Hewitt ran from behind the baseline to the net and knocked a breathtaking backhand cross court winner.  Not enough to avoid Ferrer coming back from his recent disappointment to break the Aussie serve and lead 4-3 with serve to come.

5-4 was reached and Ferrer finished the match as the eighth seed should, holding serve, winning 6-2 6-4 6-4 and finishing the career of Lleyton Hewitt.

Hewitt played his heart out and should feel proud of his effort, considering the relative positions of the two players currently in the tennis world.

Ferrer should, based on tonight, still be around well into week two.

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