With little more than a slight hiccup in the middle of his first-round match, Lleyton Hewitt breezed through his matchup with Kenneth Carlsen in the Legg Mason Tennis Classic last night, taking care of business, 6-1, 6-2.
Despite being delayed more than an hour and a half from their scheduled start time, Hewitt seemed unaffected while overwhelming Carlsen. Barely seeming to break a sweat, the Aussie made few mistakes en route to the quick opening-round win.
"I felt pretty confident out there today," Hewitt said. "Obviously having a week off after a good week in Cincinnati, that gave me a lot of confidence. And it's all about trying to prepare myself as well as possible" for the U.S. Open.
Hewitt made the final at the most recent ATP stop, at the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters in Cincinnati, where he lost to Andre Agassi.
But he came to the Legg Mason, rather than to the Olympics, hoping to continue his preparation for the Open, which begins in two weeks in New York.
Against his initial opponent, Hewitt took the first set quickly, winning the first five games. Carlsen finally held serve to bring the score to 5-1, but Hewitt then wrapped up the set.
Hewitt couldn't take down Carlsen quite so easily in the second. Carlsen held serve twice, getting the score to 2-1, then went up 40-15 in the fourth game before losing two break points and the game.
After breaking Carlsen, Hewitt went up 4-2, ending the game at love with an ace straight down the middle of the court. Two games later, Carlsen sent a service return wide to give the second-seeded Hewitt the victory.
"I felt like he really raised his level of his game," said Hewitt, who will meet Alejandro Falla in the second round. "I sort of jumped him at the start of the first set. He came back and was serving a lot better.
"He's the kind of guy that can get into a lot of tiebreaks and make life difficult for you out there."
In last night's final two matches, No. 4 Robby Ginepri defeated 2000 Legg Mason winner Alex Corretja, 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 6-3, and No. 8 Dmitry Tursunov outlasted Olivier Patience, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.
Prior to Hewitt's cruise through his first opponent, Todd Martin and Raemon Sluiter waged an exceedingly lengthy battle on Center Court in their first-round matchup.
With an ace straight down the middle of the court, Dutchman Sluiter bested Martin, clearly the crowd favorite, as afternoon gave way to night.
Martin and Sluiter played three sets, each to a tiebreaker, with No. 73 Sluiter taking out No. 91 Martin, 6-7 (7-5), 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-5), before a sparse crowd at the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center.
"I'm happy there were tiebreaks in each, otherwise we would have been still on the court," Sluiter said. "Getting into the U.S. Open in two weeks, it's always nice to play some tough matches, especially when you win them, it gives you confidence for this tournament now and the next couple coming up."
At 5-5 in the third-set tiebreaker, Martin tried a forehand volley that hit the net, turning the match and allowing Sluiter to serve with victory on the line.
"You've been playing tennis for two and a half hours, and in the end, a volley like that, just one point makes a difference," Sluiter said.
Martin said he stumbled almost imperceptibly on the play, losing sight of the ball just long enough to miss the crucial shot.
Throughout the contest, service breaks were almost impossible to come by. Each player got one, and they came back-to-back in the first set, which Martin won.
Martin had to deal with a recent lack of time on the court, since he injured his knee at Wimbledon in June. He had been playing only for a week and a half prior to the Legg Mason.
"I felt plenty rusty, but I also felt like I feel okay," Martin said. "Better than I probably could have expected in general, about as I could have expected in the more critical points of the match."
Martin's serve, which kept him in the first set, deteriorated slightly as the match went on. He had 10 aces in the first set, but only seven while losing the next two sets.
Recovering from seven set points in the first set, Martin forced the initial tiebreaker, going on to finally take the set after more than an hour. The back-and-forth set could have been Sluiter's when, leading 5-4, he went up 40-0. But three shots -- hit into the net, wide and long -- sent the players to deuce and the game was taken by Martin.
Martin had looked tired midway through the first set, as Sluiter broke him to go up 4-2. But Martin regained his stroke to take the next two games, greatly aided by the strength of his serve.
During the second set, the players stayed on serve for the first 12 games, heading to their second tiebreaker at 6-6. Martin appeared to weaken in the tiebreaker, allowing Sluiter to take it at 7-3, including Martin's double fault to give his opponent the set point.