By Jaclyn Stacey
(January 14, 2013) MELBOURNE PARK, Australia – Eighth seed Janko Tipsarevic ground out victory in just over three hours against former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt in a thrilling three set encounter on Rod Laver Arena in Monday’s evening session 7-6(4), 7-5, 6-3.
“I cannot tell you how happy that I am, first of all, that I managed to win, and second of all, to win in straight sets.”
An electric atmosphere for the first Australian Open 2013 night session greeted the players in the hotly anticipated first round matchup between the two time grand slam champion and the world No. 9.
With both players coming into the tournament on the back of some confidence building title wins, the scene was set for a thrilling match that was predicted to go the distance. Hewitt lead their head-to-head 3-1 before the match with their last meeting being played in 2007 before Tipsarevic became a prominent top 10 player.
Hewitt and Tipsarevic are well known for being fighting competitors who play with a lot of intensity and the tight match was a great example of this. The two matched each other blow for blow, producing scintillating rallies and groundstroke winners. Hewitt was more willing to come into the net and his decision to do so often paid off as he was able to surprise Tipsarevic and generate some superb angle volley winners.
The first set was evenly matched with neither player able to break serve. Tipsarevic had an opportunity to break with Hewitt serving at 5-5 but the Australian’s determination got him over the line as he saved the break with an ace. The crowd became more involved in the match from this point, stirred on by Hewitt saving a break point and employing his trademark ‘C’MON!’
Tipsarevic remained focussed and driven in the first set tie-break, taking a 4-0 lead before closing out the first set 7-6(4).
Competing in his 17th consecutive Australian Open, Hewitt was not disheartened following the first set loss and fired up immediately to go ahead two breaks points.
Tipsarevic leveled the match at 5-5 after being gifted the second of two break point opportunities as Hewitt sent his shot beyond the baseline while serving for the second set. He then held and broke Hewitt again to take a two sets to love lead in the match.
Tipsarevic started the third set in a much stronger fashion than he did in the second, holding his first service game before grinding out a break against Hewitt in a tough second game to lead 2-0.
With Tipsarevic serving at 3-1 Hewitt had the opportunity to break back and did so on his second opportunity, demonstrating his never say die attitude and ending a rally with an aggressive lob forehand that swept past Tipsarevic and landed deep in the court to put the set back on serve.
While Hewitt remained focused, determined and driven throughout the contest, Tipsarevic was able to take advantage of Hewitt’s consistent height and speed in his hitting and put away more winners. Hewitt fought hard to stay in the match but Tipsarevic managed to claim a break to lead 5-3 in a heartbreaking moment for the patriotic crowd.
Completely in control of the third set, Tipsarevic then confidently served out the match, sealing victory 7-6(4) 7-5 6-3.
In his post match news conference Tipsarevic said “I think I was a little bit too passive in the first and the beginning of the second set. But luckily I was able to get out of trouble with my serve. I was serving really well I think all throughout the match.”
“But when I really started playing well was I think when I was a double break down in the second set. That’s when I realized that if I continue running, pushing, relying on my first serve, that I will not be able to beat this guy in a best-of-five-set match.”
“Especially because it was a night session match, it was getting colder, the serve was not going as fast as it did in the first set. I stepped up, I started to hit, I started being closer to the line, my backhand down the line was making more damage later in the match.”
Tipsarevic was full of praise for his more experienced opponent, marveling at Hewitt’s ability to continue to play at such a high level at his age and after dealing with so many injuries.
“I think Lleyton Hewitt is as tough as it gets for a first round Australian Open first Grand Slam of the year. With all the respect to all the other guys who are potential threats, like Davydenko or Monfils or Dimitrov or whatever, I think this is as tough as it gets, knowing that he plays really good tennis here, knowing that he won Kooyong last week, beating Raonic, Berdych, and Del Potro in the same tournament, even if that was an exhibition event.”
The win continues a run of great form for Tipsarevic coming off his most successful season in 2012 in which he won the title in Stuttgart and was runner-up in Chennai, the tournament he won just over a week ago to kick start his 2013 season.
Tipsarevic will play Slovakia’s Lukas Lacko in round two who defeated Gilles Muller in straight sets earlier on Monday 6-2 6-4 7-6(3).
Jaclyn Stacey is a Melbourne based freelance journalist covering the Australian Open tournament as media for Tennis Panorama News. Follow her Australian Open updates on @TennisNewsTPN. Follow her personal twitter @JackattackAU.