For just the second time in his illustrious career, Lleyton Hewitt will go up against a fellow Aussie at the Australian Open. That will be the case when he faces James Duckworth on Tuesday. Hewitt’s only previous all-Australian encounter at this event came back in 2003 against little-known Todd Larkham, whom he disposed of 6-1, 6-0, 6-1. Check out the Hewitt vs Duckworth H2H stats.
Somewhat surprisingly, Hewitt has almost never impressed Down Under. In 19 previous appearances, he has advanced past the fourth round only once (finished runner-up to Marat Safin in 2005). The 34-year-old has lost in the first round on three of the last five occasions and has advanced past the second round only once in the last five installments of the Happy Slam.
Playing sparingly as he wraps up his career, Hewitt’s prospects for the upcoming fortnight are not exactly encouraging. But he does have a favorable draw in the form of Duckworth, who also needed a wild card in order to get into the main draw. The world No. 129 warmed up for this tournament by playing in both Brisbane and Sydney, where he won just a single match combined.
“(It was) always bound to happen, wasn’t it,” Hewitt said during his pre-tournament press conference, when asked about finally playing another fellow Australian in Melbourne. “Especially now that I’ve got a second hat on–a full-time job as Davis Cup captain. Yeah, it’s obviously a bit surprising I haven’t played more over the years with all the wild cards that Australians get into the tournament, as well.
Yeah, it’s awkward, but in another way it’s fun to go out there with Ducks. I’ve been helping him the last few years. He’s been part of the Davis Cup squad on a number of occasions. He’s a great kid. I think he’s going to push on the next couple years and get a lot better.”
But Duckworth is not much better yet, so this is a very winnable match for Hewitt. Between the two of these players, five of their last eight Australian Open matches have progressed to five sets. It would only be fitting if Hewitt plays another one amidst these circumstances.
Prediction – Hewitt in five sets