INDIAN WELLS, California (Reuters) - Former world number one Lleyton Hewitt gave himself a welcome confidence boost by upsetting big-serving American John Isner 6-7 6-3 6-4 in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open on Saturday.
Australian Hewitt, champion here in 2002 and 2003, made the most of the few chances that came his way after losing a closely contested opening set on a tiebreak at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
The 32-year-old, who has played a limited schedule in recent years, broke the 15th-seeded American early in the second set and late in the third to claim victory in two hours 23 minutes.
“It’s nice to beat a big name,” Hewitt told reporters after ousting Isner, who reached last year’s final at Indian Wells where he was beaten by Roger Federer in straight sets.
“John’s obviously a tough match for anyone to play, and especially coming off a good result here last year.
“The last couple of years I haven’t played that much, I guess. I missed this tournament through surgery last year but in the past I have always played pretty well here. I felt pretty comfortable today.”
Hewitt improved his win-loss record for the season to 6-4, his biggest disappointment a sixth first-round exit at the Australian Open in January, when he was beaten by Serbian world number nine Janko Tipsarevic.
“It’s good just to know you’re thereabouts,” said the Australian, a winner of 28 ATP titles with the most recent coming at Halle in 2010.
“I feel like I have been hitting the ball pretty well in practice. Down in Australia I hit the ball well. I drew a tough match in Tipsarevic. It’s just a matter of getting matches under my belt, as well.
“And obviously for me the priorities are the slams and Davis Cup. I try and pride myself on playing well in those matches.”
Hewitt was delighted to be able to blunt the power serving and fierce forehand of the towering Isner, improving his record against the American to 3-1.
“You get a few opportunities out there to break, and you have to stand up and take your chances when they come,” he said.
“I felt like I had more chances throughout the match. The first set could have gone either way, and then I dug deep early in that second set to get up. That was a big momentum change then.
“He was still dangerous, though, using his forehand a lot on my service games and trying to hit through the court. I was able to hang tough there, get the vital break and go up 4-3 in that final set.”
Hewitt will next face Stanislas Wawrinka after the 18th-seeded Swiss came from a set down to beat American Wayne Odesnik 3-6 6-2 6-1.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Nick Mulvenney