US Open: Lleyton Hewitt downs Juan Martin del Potro as magic returns
The four-hour match Friday night was the ninth time in the past 10 years that two past U.S. Open title winners faced each other at Flushing Meadows. Hewitt was involved four times, losing the other three.
Lleyton Hewitt, the 2001 champion, knocked Argentine sixth seed and 2009 winner Juan Martin Del Potro out of the US Open on Friday in a stunning five-set upset.
Hewitt, 32 years old and down at 66 in the rankings after a lengthy battle with injuries, won 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 7-6 (7/2), 6-1 in a trademark warrior-like performance that recalled his golden days when the Australian was number one in the world and collected the Wimbledon title.
It was Hewitt's 32nd career five-set victory and gave him a third round match-up with Russia's Evgeny Donskoy, the world number 102 with whom he hit earlier this week.
"It's amazing. I was really pumped up after I won my first match because I knew I would have a chance to play on Arthur Ashe Stadium," said Hewitt after his four-hour, three-minute win.
"I don't know how many years I have left to play and I was hankering to get out on this court again and put on a show.
"A couple of years ago, I had a few foot surgeries and I didn't know if I would ever play tennis again.
"But it's a hell of a lot of fun coming out to play and I cherish every match. This is why I play tennis for moments like these. It's hard to get up for the small tournaments but not for nights like these."
Hewitt, playing in his 13th US Open after having made his debut in 1999, hit 42 winners, one more than del Potro, who committed 70 unforced errors, a bleak statistic which eased the impact of the Australian only converting eight of 18 break point chances.
Hewitt, whose last win over a top 10 player at the US Open was the night he beat Pete Sampras to claim the 2001 title, broke in the second game of the opener on his way to the first set.
The former world number one then squandered two set points in the 10th game of the second which would have piled the pressure on Del Potro who has never come back from two sets to love down.
But the big Argentine held his nerve to level the tie before breezing through the third as Hewitt, who needed the trainer to attend to what appeared to be a problem with his mouth, looked to be wilting.
In a roller-coaster fourth set, the Australian, who had defeated Del Potro in their most recent meeting in the Queen's quarter-finals in June, broke for 5-3 but then cracked when he served for the set in the ninth game.
Calling on that famed fighting spirit, he then romped through the tie-breaker to take the match into a final-set decider.
In what was Hewitt's 40th five-set match at the majors, he raced through the final set with breaks in the third and fifth games before Del Potro, who had needed over four hours to win his first round match, surrendered with his eighth double fault.
"He's a great champion and a great fighter. For the second round, he's a difficult player," said Del Potro, who said that his troublesome wrist was still causing problems.
"Lleyton has the chance to go far in the tournament and I wish him well, we have a good relationship."