Lleyton Hewitt has always been unfairly criticised by some parts of Australia, including the media, but no one can deny that he isn’t one of the mentally strongest people ever to represent Australia- in any sport.
Overnight, Hewitt ground out an intense five set victory over Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller, 3-6, 7-6, 6-7, 7-5, 6-4. Muller may not be a household name, but he is the bloke that pops up for that one major a year and always has a good showing at it.
Muller won the junior title at Flushing Meadows way back in 2001- funnily enough, when Hewitt won the men’s draw in New York. Muller has also displaced (now retiring) American Andy Roddick when he was ranked third in the world , and he also made the quarter finals in ’08, and the fourth round last year.
For Hewitt, it was always going to be a tough match. He gained confidence from his first round win against Tobias Kamke – his first win at Flushing Meadows since 2009, and after realising he would play Muller his mental preparations began.
Muller, as it stands, draws a rough resemblance in height and left handedness to fellow Australian and part time doubles partner in Chris Guccione.
“He’s (Muller) a big left-hander with a big serve with a big, aggressive game,” Hewitt told Tennis Australia.
“Tomorrow I’ll get ‘Big Red’ (Guccione) out and he can hit some big left-handed serves to me.”
It served Hewitt well, pardon the pun, as he pulled of an inspiring win (as only Hewitt knows how) in five sets, over five hours. Hewitt encountered blistering heat, a tough opponent that blasted down 35 aces and a niggling foot problem that stemmed from toe surgery back in February.
“More just the toe nails were giving me some issues, just needed to get them taped and a little bit of padding to relieve them a little bit,” Hewitt said after the match.
“These are the times that still motivate me (being a wild card), this is why I’m still playing – to play Grand Slams – and it was a great atmosphere out there, especially in the fifth set, the crowd support that I got was great.”
The definition of an Aussie battler came through, and now sets up an even more daunting meet with Spanish fourth seed, David Ferrer in the third round.
Stosur has lost only thirteen games for the tournament so far (eight against Lepchenko), and has not dropped a set.
“I think as the match went on I probably became a little more comfortable,” she explained, “Once I got that first set I relaxed a bit more.”
Stosur has to face Melbourne born Briton and giant killer, Laura Robson in the fourth round, and having never met previously, Stosur explained that she won’t get complacent.
“I’ve never played Laura before, and she’s obviously full of confidence and had two very, very good wins, so I definitely can’t go into that match lightly,” Stosur told the media.
Robson, 18, would be full of confidence leading into the match, after she pulled off shock upsets again Li Na and Kim Clijsters, in the third and second rounds.
“When I heard I was playing Li Na after I played Kim, I knew it was going to be an extremely tough match,” she said, after defeating the Chinese woman in three sets: 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-2.
The Olympic silver medallist in the mixed doubles understood the daunting task of taking on Stosur in the fourth round: “I think I play Stosur now, and she’s the defending champ, so that’s going to be tough,” she admitted, “I’m just going to work hard tomorrow, and recover as best I can for the next match.
“But, no, I have always thought that I can play with the top girls. Whenever I’ve practiced with, you know, Caroline or Maria, I’ve always felt that the level was there. It was just taking that onto the match court and keeping the level up for the whole match,” she said.
Robson is the first British woman to make the fourth round at a Grand Slam in 14 years.