Hewitt prolongs Australian Open swansong

Tue Jan 19, 2016 9:19am EST
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By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - An emotional Lleyton Hewitt staved off retirement for at least one more match by beating countryman James Duckworth 7-6(5) 6-2 6-4 to reach the second round of the Australian Open on Tuesday.

The hard-bitten 34-year-old, making a record 20th and final appearance at his home grand slam, soaked up the atmosphere under the Rod Laver Arena lights and celebrated wildly after sealing the win in two hours and 23 minutes.

"It was a tough situation absolutely to try and block out everything else that's been going on," the two-times grand slam champion, who last year announced he would end his career after the Melbourne tournament, said in a courtside interview.

"It's not like the final round of a football season.

"I think I blocked it out pretty well."

The match was awkward for Hewitt, who had been giving grand slam tips to his 129th-ranked opponent the day before the draw was released.

With his wife and children watching from the player's box and a roll-call of local celebrities in the crowd, Hewitt began tentatively but gradually loosened up to dictate play against the big-serving Duckworth.

He roared his first trademark "come on!" after scrambling to lace a passing shot at 3-2 in the opening set and from there his game flowed freely.   Continued...

Australia's Lleyton Hewitt reacts during his first round match against compatriot James Duckworth at the Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Park, Australia, January 19, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter