With yet another quick and easy match, Lleyton Hewitt shot into the quarterfinals of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic last night with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Alejandro Falla.
While three seeded players have already been eliminated -- and others have survived three-set matches -- the second-seeded Hewitt has faced only minor resistance in taking out Falla and Kenneth Carlsen in the first two rounds, losing just eight games.
"I feel good at the moment," said Hewitt, who fell in the final to Andre Agassi last week in Cincinnati. "Cincinnati was a good week. . . . I feel like I'm hitting the ball well. Tonight was a little bit patchy here and there. There's things you can sharpen up. This isn't the Grand Slam, either. You want to be hitting peak form in just under two weeks' time" at the U.S. Open.
After a back-and-forth first set, Hewitt dispatched the 20-year-old Falla in little more than an hour to move on to a date with seventh-seeded Cyril Saulnier at the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center. Falla's volley into the net clinched the match for Hewitt after the Colombian had saved two straight match points, pushing the game to deuce.
At one point, Hewitt won eight straight games, four to end the first set and the first four in the second, to overwhelm Falla and reach his eighth quarterfinal of the year.
"I'd never seen him play before, so obviously it's always going to take me a little more time to get into tonight's match," Hewitt said of his 122nd-ranked opponent. "I knew he was left-handed, but that was it. . . . He came out with the attitude that he had nothing to lose out there and he played extremely well."
In the first set, the players broke each other's serve more than they held it, with Hewitt winning three games on his opponent's serve and Falla taking two on Hewitt's.
"If he was able to keep that standard up that he played for the first couple of games, when he broke me, through the whole match, then he'd be a lot higher ranked than he is at the moment," Hewitt said.
Hewitt's first serve failed him again and again and he double-faulted six times in the match. But he won 71 percent of his first-service points and collected eight aces over two sets.
In the previous match on Center Court, No. 4 seed Robby Ginepri dropped the first set to Israeli qualifier Harel Levy, then recovered from shaky volleying to advance to the quarterfinals.
"The volleys are a little off the last month or two," Ginepri said. "It helps me coming in forward to the court and that's what I need to work on.
"I missed a lot. Easy ones."
As Ginepri looked to be quickly sinking into a second-round loss, a bout of extreme frustration appeared to make the difference between an early exit and moving on to just his second quarterfinal of the year.
Down a set and on serve in the second set, Ginepri seemed to lose his ability to get his volley over the net. One miss prompted the 21-year-old to smash a ball out of the stadium. Then, when Ginepri sent his second straight ball into the net during the next game, he couldn't help but scream.
And it got worse for Ginepri. At break point, leading 3-2, Levy sent a ball just beyond the baseline that was called in. After a lengthy argument with the chair umpire, Ginepri eventually won the game. He lost just one more game en route to the 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 dismantling of Levy.
"They kind of missed that call; I was kind of getting upset," Ginepri said. "After that it kind of fired me up a bit. I started playing like I usually do, going for my shots, not playing so tentative."
After the match, Ginepri expressed dissatisfaction with the linesmen, though he admitted that the questionable calls didn't just go against him.
"It's tough," he said. "We're hitting the ball so fast and they have such little time to react to the call. It's happening over and over again. . . . It's frustrating losing bad calls and losing the games that you shouldn't lose. But it goes both ways against me and him."
In the only upset of the day, sixth-seeded Alberto Martin lost to Raemon Sluiter, 7-6 (7-4), 5-7, 7-6 (7-2). Sluiter, who beat Todd Martin in the first round, will take on Ginepri in the quarterfinals.