Lleyton Hewitt’s farewell tour has endured another first-round defeat, with the former world No.1 blowing a match point before falling to pieces against South African Kevin Anderson.
Hewitt looked destined to set up a second-round clash against the winner of Nick Kyrgios’ showdown with French Open champion Stan Wawrinka before going down 6-7 (5-7) 7-5 6-2 at Queen’s Club on Monday.
The 34-year-old, who will retire after next year’s Australian Open, had a match point in the second set but buried his forehand into the net.
Little went right for the two-time grand slam champion after that, with Anderson breaking back to level the second set before holding serve and then breaking Hewitt a second time in a devastating 10-minute period for the Australian.
The big-serving Anderson then raced to a 3-0 lead in the deciding set as Hewitt wilted, despite enjoying the crowd support at an event he’s won a record-equalling four times, most recently in 2006.
Afterwards, Hewitt was presented with an engraved bottle of champagne in recognition of his popularity at the Queen’s Club, where he has played an incredible 16 tournaments.
But despite the third-set capitulation, Hewitt did show there was substance to his final season on tour, pulling out some vintage play with crisp passing shots and pinpoint lobs giving the crowd a gentle reminder of his talents.
The world No.117, who will contest his final Wimbledon in a fortnight, was fired up from the start on Monday – barking a loud `C’mon’ to his supporters’ box after winning the very first point of the match.
He didn’t let up from there, letting out a huge roar upon prevailing in the first set tiebreak, while the crowd cheered in return as he broke Anderson to love to take a 4-3 lead in the second set – but he was unable to convert it into a victory.
The 34-year-old now holds a lamentable 1-6 record this year, with his only win coming in a four-set triumph over China’s Ze Zhang at the Australian Open.
Kyrgios and Wawrinka face off on Tuesday, while rising Australian star Thanasi Kokkinakis will also be in action, taking on Frenchman Jeremy Chardy.