Lleyton Hewitt continued to shock and amaze fans as he once again turned the clock back at the US Open, to go on an impressive run to the fourth round in Flushing Meadows. En route to the second week at the event, the Aussie faced towering Argentine Juan Martin del Potro in a thrilling five set contest that lasted over four hours. In the end, Hewitt proved that he still had sparks of the brilliance that lead him to a title here 12 years prior.
Lleyton Hewitt def. Juan Martin del Potro 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 7-6(2), 6-1
The former World no. 1 may have once been a champion in New York, but he was certainly not the favourite heading into this second round contest. The Aussie is eight years older than Del Potro and was 60 places lower than him in the rankings at the time but that did not stop him from delivering a vintage performance in front of the American crowd.
The first set started out competitively, with Hewitt appearing to be the fresher of the two men. He would soon break ahead and hold that advantage to serve for the set at 5-4, where a Del Potro error would secure him game point. The second set started in similar fashion, with both players holding serve for the first seven games before Hewitt once again broke through the Argentine’s defences to lead 5-4. This time though, he would fail to serve out the set and Del Potro eventually secured a break of his own to end the set 7-5.
With the score now levelled, the Argentine continued to gain confidence and shot to a 3-0 lead, but eventually lost one of those breaks to the ever resilient Hewitt. Even so, it appeared that Del Potro had finally found his range and was making some magnificent shots, including a couple of delicate drop shots late in the set. He would go on to win the set 6-3, and lead on the scoreboard for the first time since the start of the match.
Determined to fight his way back into the match, Hewitt played arguably his best set all season in the fourth frame, as he produced an array of extraordinary shotmaking, that landed with pinpoint accuracy. From cross-court shots to seemingly impossible dropshots, Hewitt certainly turned back the clock with his performance and Juan Martin simply had no answer for it. They would exchange breaks before reaching a decisive tiebreak, where Hewitt dominated for a 7-2 win.
Losing the tiebreak clearly fazed Del Potro as the fifth set was the least competitive in the entire match. Hewitt dominated a physically exhausted Del Potro, who commit an uncharacteristic number of errors (70 throughout the match). Apart from a motivated Hewitt, it appeared that the World no. 5 was suffering from a wrist injury that hindered his performance but that does not take away from the marvellous performance put forth by the 2001 US Open champion.
The Aussie went on to defeat Evgeny Donskoy in the third round to advance to the second week of the tournament for the first time since 2006. It was one of the feel-good story-lines of the US Open this year and a opportunity for one of the greats to prove that he can still compete amongst the top athletes on the tour.