When the U.S. Open draw was made and came out on 22 August, I made a bit of a bold prediction:
Making a bold prediction: if Hewitt gets to Rd2, he’ll upset Delpo.
— Caro Paquin (@caropaquin80) August 22, 2013
Yes, I knew that Juan Martín del Potro had wrist issues since the start of the Cincinnati Masters 1000. However, that is not what prompted that prediction. It was, in fact, the way the Argentine lost to John Isner in the semifinals.
Why? Not because of that double fault on match point, because of what followed. It appeared simply as if del Potro had stopped fighting, had stopped trying, resulting in a very tough defeat.
Furthermore, I know how hard Lleyton Hewitt works, and how he thrives for moments like yesterday: the limelight, the big stadium, the crowd, and his own fighting spirit. Hewitt literally enjoys the big battles, and such a matchup, would it happen, was exactly that.
It is especially true now that the Aussie is playing for the sheer pleasure of fighting on court rather than only ranking points and money.
Consequently, I went for that bold prediction.
An immense fight, but not an epic one
When del Potro defeated Guillermo García-López in the first round, it was ugly, it was difficult, and not just because of the conditions. The Tower of Tandil was not playing his best, he was moody, cranky, and usually, this doesn’t bode well for him, not only for the match he is playing, but for the rest of the tournament.
As for Hewitt, it took him four sets against Brian Baker to set up that clash of the U.S. Open champions.
The Aussie was broken at his very first service game of the match, but only to take the break back in the next game. The fight was on. Hewitt took the first set, 6-4, and came close to a two-set lead when, serving for the second, he started making double faults and many errors to see del Potro tag him at 5-5. In fact, the Argentine won the following three games to level the match, 4-6 7-5.
It took that first double fault from Hewitt on set point to wake the sleeping giant, as Delpo then cruised to a 2-1 lead, easily taking the third. The end was perhaps nearing.
That is counting without Lleyton Hewitt’s legendary fighting spirit. He came out of his daze to break in the fourth set, but was unable to close it out, once again. This time, however, he did not collapse like in the second: he kept on holding, and dominated the tiebreak to force a fifth and deciding set.
The decider was all in favour of the 32-year-old, who went for it and took advantage of a tiring opponent with his relentless counter-punching.
In the end, Lleyton Hewitt was too much for Juan Martín del Potro, and the World n°66 logged a well-deserved 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 7-6(2), 6-1 upset in 4h03.
Another missed opportunity
It is a disappointing end for the sixth seed, who had a good chance of closing in on a return to the top 5.
After the match, if del Potro acknowledged his left wrist injury, he refused to use it as an excuse to explain his defeat, much to his credit.
However, it was a match that Delpo could not afford to lose, especially now that the race for a top 5 spot is tightening. Another missed opportunity for the Gentle Giant.
Del Potro lost another heart-breaker. What will be interesting to see, from now on, is how he will bounce back in his next tournaments.
At the end of the match, Lleyton Hewitt could not believe he had just won, and could not hide his happiness of having come through yet another tough battle:
“It’s an amazing feeling. For me, just going back in the locker room afterwards I sort of had to pinch myself. Yeah, keep going back to it, but a year and a half ago I got told I would probably wouldn’t play again with the surgery I had. For me, I love being out in that atmosphere, sucking up every second of it.”
However, he thought that he should have closed out the second set:
“It was obviously frustrating. He would have known in the back of his mind, yeah, if he went down two sets to love against me it was going to be an awfully long way back against me and he was going to have to do it the hard way. I was frustrated not closing it out then.”
In the end, it is the “good ol’ Rusty Hewitt” who reached the third round, where he will face Evgeny Donskoy, who also had to battle for five sets to get the better of Peter Gojowczyk.
Can Rusty reach the second week?
(Photos: Getty Images)