x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Federer to face Hewitt

Roger Federer used to wonder how to beat Lleyton Hewitt. Now the roles are very much reversed as the pair prepare to meet in the third round of the US Open tonight.

The backhand of Roger Federer is just one of the weapons  Lleyton Hewitt will have to contend with when the pair meet tonight.
The backhand of Roger Federer is just one of the weapons Lleyton Hewitt will have to contend with when the pair meet tonight.

NEW YORK // Roger Federer used to wonder how to beat Lleyton Hewitt. Now the roles are very much reversed as the pair prepare to meet in the third round of the US Open tonight. Hewitt used to dominate their matches and won two grand slams while Federer was still chasing his first major championship. It is hard to remember that now the Swiss world No 1 has won their past 13 meetings.

The two set up another showdown after second-round victories on Wednesday. Federer beat Germany's Simon Greul 6-3, 7-5, 7-5, while Hewitt defeated Argentina's Juan Ignacio Chela 6-3, 6-3, 6-4. "On any given day, a former world No 1, a guy who's won majors, is very, very dangerous," said Federer of Hewitt. "That's why I have to make sure I get into the match quickly, not give him the lead, because we know he's not going to go down without a fight."

Hewitt won at Flushing Meadows in 2001 by beating the great Pete Sampras in straight sets. Three years later, Federer beat him in the final - the first of five consecutive New York titles. "He started his run here in 2004 in the final, so it would be nice if I could finish it," Hewitt said with a smile. Rafael Nadal, another former world No 1 and a player who has beaten Federer rather more recently, moved around the court with ease as he defeated Richard Gasquet 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 in his first grand slam match since May 31.

Tendinitis in both knees sidelined Nadal for more than two months but he beat the ill-prepared Gasquet without facing a break point on his serve. The Spaniard showed no traces of the pain that forced him to withdraw from Wimbledon on the eve of the tournament this summer. Nadal sprinted around the court without hesitation, chasing drop shots and lobs and halting any momentum Gasquet was hoping to build.

Nor did Nadal flinch pushing off on his serve, which was surprisingly effective. The Spaniard finished with seven aces and no double faults, winning 94 per cent of points when his first serve landed in. In contrast, Gasquet was not particularly fleet of foot. He only recently returned to competition after serving two-and-a-half months of a two-year suspension after a drug test detected traces of cocaine in his system.

The punishment was lifted after Gasquet successfully argued that the cocaine found its way into his body via a kiss from a woman he met in a Miami Beach bar. The Frenchman was not eager to elaborate following Wednesday's defeat but said the suspension was the "the hardest time of my life, for sure." He was far more willing to talk about Nadal's chances of winning his first US Open, despite the troubles he has had with his knees.

"He can win the tournament," Gasquet said. "Day after day he will improve his level. For sure he can win." Nadal declined to be so bold, saying simply that he felt no pain during the match and felt happy and fortunate to be competing again. "I am enjoying much more right now ans playing with a better attitude than when I was playing in the clay season with pain in the knees every day," he said. "I feel a very lucky guy to be here playing and enjoying this sport. Is a hobby for me, [to] play tennis. Is my work, too. Is a very positive thing."

In the women's singles, Serena Williams took only 53 minutes to beat Melinda Czink of Hungary 6-1, 6-1. It was an emphatic victory and it prompted Williams, who made just nine unforced errors, to do a little dance on court at the end. That was in stark contrast to a second-round match earlier in the day when sister Venus played with her left knee heavily taped. That did not stop the older Williams from dispatching 124th-ranked Bethanie Mattek-Sands, 6-4, 6-2, and moving closer to an anticipated fourth-round encounter with 2005 Open champion Kim Clijsters.

Clijsters, who has not played in this tournament since 2005 and who has been back on the circuit for only a month after ending a two-year retirement, beat 14th seed Marion Bartoli 5-7, 6-1, 6-2. While Venus refused to talk about her knee, Clijsters said she would be interested to see how that knee holds up. "I think what we don't know is how her knee is going to react after a couple of matches," Clijsters said.

Williams neither complained about pain nor offered explanations on why the knee hurts. "Wear and tear does put a lot on your body," she said. "It's September now. I started, literally, in December. "So I guess it's not a huge surprise that at this time of the year things start to be a little sore and start to hurt." * With agencies