Lleyton Hewitt has survived the zaniest match he’s ever played to keep his Wimbledon career flickering.
Generations overlapped when Hewitt and young gun Thanasi Kokkinakis produced a spirited comeback to defeat 15th seeds Marin Draganja of Croatia and Finn Henri Kontinen 6-7 (6-8) 3-6 7-6 (7-1) 6-2 8-6 in the first round of the men’s doubles.
Fighting back from two sets down in a four-hour thriller was nothing knew for Hewitt.
But seeing his opponent serve under-arm certainly was after Draganja, suffering from severe cramping that led to a controversial 10-minute stoppage at one point, left the Australians flabbergasted.
“I don’t know what was wrong with him,” Hewitt said.
“He wouldn’t move for balls and then he started slicing balls and he hit an under-arm serve.
“There was just a lot of weird things happening on the court today. That was strange.
“It’s just really hard to concentrate in that situation. We were playing on a lot of emotion at the time after winning that third set, so we didn’t want to dip.”
Kokkinakis also couldn’t believe what was happening and credited Hewitt, one of the game’s fiercest competitors, for keeping his mind on the job.
“I was starting to lose my focus a bit when I saw that guy do whatever he was doing. It was one of the weirdest things I’ve seen,” he said.
“But Lleyton keeping his focus, it really shifted me into gear.”
The epic encounter followed Hewitt’s sapping four-hour, five-set first-round singles loss to Jarkko Nieminen on Monday.
Playing for the 17th and final time at the All England Club, Hewitt surely would have been the first player in history to have had his Wimbledon career ended in singles and doubles by two different Finns.
Instead he and Kokkinakis will play Swede Robin Lindstedt and Austrian Jurgen Melzer on Saturday for a place in the third round.
The victory also gives Davis Cup captain Wally Masur another doubles option for Australia’s grasscourt quarter-final tie against Kazakhstan in Darwin the week after Wimbledon.