New York: Eleven years after winning the US Open, Lleyton Hewitt shrugged off his injury-plagued year to reach the second round at Flushing Meadows on Wednesday.
The Australian, now ranked 125 and needing wildcards to play in all four Grand Slam events this year, is taking part in his 12th US Open, marking the occasion with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 win over 90th-ranked German Tobias Kamke.
Next up is a second round match-up with unseeded Luxembourg left-hander Gilles Muller who came from two sets to love down to beat Russian 28th seed Mikhail Youzhny.
Two foot operations and a groin problem have not dimmed the 31-year-old Hewitt's famed fighting spirit.
"When you have metal in your feet, you can't do a lot of rehab," said Hewitt, playing in his 54th Grand Slam event.
Hewitt underwent radical surgery in February this year when he had bone cut from his big toe and two screws and a metal plate permanently locked in.
It was a desperate attempt to prolong a career that had brought him a Wimbledon title 10 years ago as well as the world number one ranking.
As a result of the surgery, Hewitt has been limited to just 11 tournaments in 2012, making the final on the Newport grass courts after enduring first round exits at the French Open and Wimbledon.
"It's been rough since the Australian Open (where he made the last 16). I haven't played many five-set matches," said Hewitt, who only played one match on US hardcourts -- in Cincinnati -- before heading to New York.
"I don't count the French Open and at Wimbledon I lost to a quality player (Jo-Wilfried Tsonga).
"Since the surgery, I haven't had that many matches on hard courts, so I am not looking too far ahead in the draw.
"I felt the foot a little after Cincinnati. It's a big adjustment coming from grass to hard. You have to get used to the foot being pounded when you are going from side to side."
Hewitt's fall down the rankings also means he is not regarded as a box office attraction for the showcourts.
On Wednesday, he was out on Court 13 at Flushing Meadows, an arena closer to the nearby site of the 1939-1940 World's Fair than the Arthur Ashe court.
"I'm not fussed about that," he said. "I had some great support out there and I was able to feed off it.
"You can always get up for a Grand Slam, regardless of where you play."