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Hustler Hewitt stages great escape
June 01, 2007 10:59 IST
His back aches these days and his shots lack venom but Lleyton Hewitt [Images] proved again on Thursday the value of guts when he hit back from two sets down to crush former champion Gaston Gaudio at the French Open.
The tenacious Aussie hustler, a former Wimbledon and US Open champion, was sliding to defeat against the unpredictable Argentine before escaping with a 4-6, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 victory.
He was joined in the third round by reigning champion Rafael Nadal [Images] and two of the young guns of men's tennis.
Second seed Nadal, bidding to emulate Bjorn Borg's hat-trick of titles here, eased past Italian qualifier Flavio Cipolla 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 while Serbian sixth seed Novak Djokovic, tipped as the man most likely to challenge the Federer-Nadal monopoly, breezed past French qualifier Laurent Recouderc 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-1.
Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis, a year older than Djokovic at 21, also laid down an impressive marker on the clay when the 16th seed reached the third round for the first time with a 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Dane Kristian Pless.
World number two Maria Sharapova [Images], still struggling to fathom the claycourt craft, showed no ill effects from the shoulder injury that has disrupted her season when the 20-year-old Russian thrashed American Jill Craybas 6-2, 6-1.
"I feel it at times in the match but I try not to think about it," she said of the injury that meant she arrived in Paris with virtually no claycourt preparation.
Australian Open champion Serena Williams [Images], winner here in 2002, was given a jolt in the second set against little known Venezuelan Milagros Sequera, finding herself 0-3 down before winning 6-0, 7-6.
"I'm not really used to the clay, I was just kind of a little bit everywhere today," eighth seed Williams said.
Home favourite Amelie Mauresmo and Russian third seed Svetlana Kuznetsova completed a quartet of big-name women's winners, although Mauresmo was far from convincing in a 6-3, 6-7, 6-1 defeat of compatriot Nathalie Dechy in a match interrupted by an early evening thunderstorm.
Gaudio, who beat Hewitt on the way to winning the title here in 2004, played beautifully for two sets before he crumbled under the intensity of Hewitt's willpower.
"He's a great shotmaker and you don't really know what he's going to come up with," Hewitt, who had an eight-week lay-off with back trouble, told reporters.
"In the first two sets he played great but once I got the fourth I felt pretty confident."
Hewitt, who also won from two sets down at this year's Australian Open, broke in the first game of the fourth set courtesy of two Gaudio double faults and once it went to a decider there was only ever going to be one winner.
"He broke my serve, and after that I couldn't play anymore," said Gaudio, who has managed back-to-back victories just once this year. "It was a little bit complicated."
Former champion Carlos Moya [Images] showed he is still a force to be reckoned with, reaching the third round with a straight sets defeat of Florent Serra.
The French Open 2007 coverage