Tomic overcomes Hewitt in US Open epic
In a match of thrilling twists and turns, Bernard Tomic saved match points to beat compatriot Lleyton Hewitt in a US Open classic under lights.
Update 12.35pm: Prior to their second-round meeting at the US Open, Bernard Tomic revealed that in training with Lleyton Hewitt, he won 40 per cent of practice sets while his illustrious countrymen won 60.
In their first ever professional meeting, that ratio was reversed.
Tomic defeated his countryman in a match for the ages on the atmospheric Grandstand court, winning 6-3 6-2 3-6 5-7 7-5.
It was Hewitt’s final match at the US Open.
The result, achieved in three hours and 27 minutes, sends Tomic through to a third-round meeting with No.12 seed Richard Gasquet.
For all the plaudits Hewitt receives for his mental toughness, credit must go to Tomic for demonstrating his own iron will.
Leading two sets to love and by a break in the third – and having served for the match in the fourth – Tomic wilted under the onslaught of a patented Hewitt comeback.
The young Queenslander looked defeated when he trailed 3-5 in the fifth set and faced two match points.
Against an inspired opponent and with the majority of the crowd willing the veteran to victory, Tomic admitted that he was nervous.
But despite battling cramps, he conjured some audacious shotmaking and reeled off four straight games to complete victory in a match that fans will recall for years to come.
“I think if you’re in a situation and you’re losing … you have to give it a shot and go for it,” Tomic said.
“Whereas before I switched off when I was younger. I think now my approach when I’m losing is just go for it. It’s different. Just go for it. Be a little bit more aggressive. That’s what you need to do.
“You can’t play defensive on these big points, being down in the final set. You have to go for it. That’s what I did today. I came out of a few matches this year like this because I did the right thing in these positions.”
Tomic dominates early
Earlier in the match, it was one-way traffic.
Tomic was too solid in all departments, playing probing, consistent tennis and successfully pulling the trigger for winners when presented with the opportunity.
“I was feeling really good. I was playing very good. He was not responding to my game because I was playing big,” Tomic assessed.
Hewitt was flat-footed and error-prone, and frequently shook his head in the direction of his camp. At the end of the second set he called for the trainer to work on his right leg.
Yet he never went away.
As has been a signature of his career, the 34-year-old tapped into a reserve of belief and began to battle; he read Tomic’s serve better, he cut the errors out of his game, and he forced his younger compatriot to miss.
The comeback begins
Hewitt snared the third set and despite falling behind a break in the fourth, you had the sense that Tomic was barely holding on.
The 24th seed served for the match in the ninth game, but tightened up.
Amid a charged atmosphere under lights, Hewitt won four games in a row to send the match into a deciding set. The crowd roared.
“Serving for it at 5-3 in the fourth, it was my match on the racquet. I messed it up. I messed up a few matches this year like this,” Tomic said.
Hewitt rode that momentum into the fifth, breaking serve in the seventh game.
He reached two match points up 15-40 in the ninth game, but Tomic swung for the fences, saving both and holding serve to remain in the match.
Another twist in the plot
Energised, Tomic then powered through the remaining three games – which featured some momentus rallies – to seal victory, dropping his racquet in celebration.
Tomic and Hewitt, long time friends and practice partners, shared a nice moment at the net.
“I think I said, ‘Why did you have to come back?’ I just said, ‘Why did you have to? It’s too good’,” Tomic laughed.
“In my mind, I thought he won the match. It was very emotional for us. He wished me the best of luck. I’m very good friends with him. For me, it’s not easy to see that.
“The moment when I hit that (winning) forehand, everything was amazing for me. I was happy to win.
“He’s a legend, not just to me, to everyone in the world. I’ll always look up to him. I learned a lot from him.
“I’m happy we had a match like this today.”