Hewitt wins all-Australian battle in desert
UPDATE: Lleyton Hewitt has defeated fellow Australian Matt Ebden in their first round match at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells.
Lleyton Hewitt has defeated fellow Australian Matt Ebden in their first round match at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells.
At the same time, another Australian, Olivia Rogowska, fell in her opening round bout against Croatian wildcard Donna Vekic.
Playing on Indian Wells’ Stadium 1 court late on Thursday afternoon and into the evening, Hewitt and Ebden battled for two hours and 12 minutes before Hewitt wrapped up a 7-6(2) 3-6 6-3 victory.
The 33-year-old Hewitt made the early running, streaking out to a 5-1 lead as Ebden struggled mightily on serve.
Ebden coughed up two double faults to surrender serve in the fourth game and didn’t hold his serve until the eighth.
But this milestone formed part of a stellar comeback; the West Australian began successfully varying his play with well-disguised drop shots and ventures to the net, and began to reap rewards.
He cracked two impressive crosscourt backhand passing shot winners when Hewitt attempted for a second time to serve out the set, and levelled at 5-5 in the next game after Hewitt erred on a forehand.
Annoyed at his inability to close out a winning lead, Hewitt steadied in the next game to move ahead 6-5, and in the ensuing tiebreak, was the stronger of the two.
A wrong-footing backhand winner gave him the ascendency, and also caused Ebden to trip and fall when trying to change direction.
Rattled, Ebden produced consecutive double faults and a limp backhand error into net to fall behind 6-2, and was soon walking to the chair a set down.
The 62nd-ranked Ebden called for the trainer at the end of the first set to add extra strapping to the ankle that bore the brunt of his fall, and put on an ankle brace for good measure.
And despite an errant smash and another double fault handing Hewitt a break for a 2-1 lead, Ebden then completely reversed the tide.
He broke straight back to level scores, and broke again to move ahead 4-2, eventually running away with the set to level the match.
An unusually subdued Hewitt – perhaps the result of facing a countryman and occasional Davis Cup teammate – nonetheless refocused in the final stanza.
In what felt like mere minutes, the South Australian raced to a 5-1 lead, and although Ebden snared one of the breaks back as part of a late rally, he was not going to deny his more experienced countryman.
Hewitt, a champion at Indian Wells in 2002 and 2003, closed out the match to set up a second round showdown against No.17 seed Kevin Anderson of South Africa.
Vekic too strong for Rogowska
Victorian Rogowska, a qualifier into the main draw, took on teen sensation Vekic, a wildcard into the US$12 million event.
And it was Vekic showing fans why she’s a highly-tighted prospect, racing to a 6-0 6-4 victory on Stadium 5.
Rogowska looked set to turn the match around when she broke serve early in the second set on her way to a 2-0 lead.
But the big-hitting 17-year-old broke serve twice to regain the ascendancy and run out the match in one hour and 19 minutes.