Hewitt wins at Kooyong


MELBOURNE – Lleyton Hewitt said he was feeling fresh ahead of his 15th Australian Open after a rain-interrupted 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 win over Mikhail Youzhny at the Kooyong Classic Wednesday.
With the flood tragedy unfolding away to the north in Queensland, poor weather was also affecting Melbourne.
Hewitt’s match was delayed by rain for 90 minutes in the second set before the former world number one returned to court to earn a victory at the eight-man tune-up for the Open, which starts Monday. The 29-year-old has never played in the Kooyong Classic, preferring ATP tournaments as warm-ups prior to the first major of the season.
“I knew I’d get three good matches here, it’s a good field,” he said. “You can’t buy matches like the one I just had. This is how you get match tough and that’s what you have to be for the Open. “I feel I can compete with most guys now, I had hard weeks of training after my (elbow) injury in September. I’m fresh and feel pretty good. That’s a good sign at age 29.” Frenchman Gael Monfils also began his season on a positive note with his third straight win over Spain’s Fernando Verdasco to open the four-day event.
In the day’s final match which finished in fading light, Russian Nikolay Davydenko defeated Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych 7-5, 3-6, 6-3, with Davydenko lining up a promotion round match Thursday with Hewitt. Monfils, whose last competitive outing came as a losing Davis Cup finalist last month against Serbia, pulled back from the brink after dropping the opening set to win 4-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-4. “It was good, it was the first match of the season, I’m pretty happy,” said the 12th-ranked Monfils, who said his off-season preparation consisted of “a lot of running and some gym work” as he stayed away from tennis after a long 2010 campaign.
“It was a tough start to the match, but once I found my rhythm, I was moving well. I was the aggressor on the court.”
Monfils has never lost to the ninth-ranked Verdasco, beating him in the Paris indoor third round two months ago and at Monte Carlo on clay in 2008. Verdasco won the Kooyong special event a year ago over France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, whose opener against Austrian Jurgen Melzer was put back to Thursday after the rain. Monfils plays the winner of that match. Monfils, watched by his Australian coach Roger Rasheed, showed good early conditioning as he mounted a comeback in an encounter lasting 2hr 52min.
The athletic Frenchman, who lost the Paris Bercy Masters 1000 final to Robin Soderling last November, came through for his first-round victory on a third match point.
Monfils struck gold with a drop shot for a third match point and took the victory as Verdasco ploughed a return into the net. Also on Thursday, last year’s Australian Open finalist Andy Murray and Croatian Marin Cilic are scheduled for a practice match as part of their final preparations for the Open.
Ferrer fights his way into Auckland quarters: Top seed David Ferrer will face fellow former champion Philipp Kohlschreiber in the Auckland Open quarter-finals on Thursday after both survived tough second round matches on Wednesday. Ferrer, the 2007 champion and current world number seven, needed almost 2-1/2 hours to beat rising German Tobias Kamke 3-6 7-6 6-4, while Kohlschreiber was also forced to three sets before he prevailed 6-4 3-6 6-2 over Spain’s Marcel Gronollers.
Champion John Isner, who combined with Bethanie Mattek-Sands to guide the United States to the Hopman Cup title in Perth last week, shed his travel cobwebs with a 3-6 7-6 7-5 victory over Robin Haase of the Netherlands in the night match. Isner, who sealed victory when Hasse blasted a forehand out, will meet sixth-seed David Nalbandian on Thursday after the Argentine easily accounted for Philipp Petzschner 6-3 6-2 in a little over an hour.