Hewitt hurtles into Nadal’s path
PARIS: It used to be the guillotine that terrorised Paris now Rafael Nadal is the scourge of the French capital and Lleyton Hewitt is next in line for the chop.
The former world No. 1, and two-times Grand Slam title winner, qualified for a third round crack at the Spanish top seed and title holder on Friday with a rock solid 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 win over Kazakhstan's Andrey Golubev.
Nadal had already gone through by crushing Russia's Teimuraz Gabashvili 6-1, 6-4, 6-2, a record 30th consecutive win at Roland Garros as he seeks to become the first man to win the French Open title five times in a row.
Hewitt, who is unseeded after two years blighted by injuries, can look to the fact that he is one of the rare players on the circuit who does not have a losing record against the world No.1 having won four of their eight matches.
But his last win over him was on the grass of Queens in 2006 when Nadal retired with an injury at the end of the second set.
They last met in the Beijing Olympics in August with Nadal winning 6-1, 6-2 en route to the gold medal and in two previous meetings at Roland Garros in 2006 and 2007 the Australian has managed to win just one set.
Hewitt admits it's a big task for him to end Nadal's unbeaten record in Paris, but not one that is entirely impossible.
"He's the man to beat here, and he has been for the last four or five years, but I'll go out there and play my game, and hopefully I can have one of my best matches," he said.
"You've got to play a complete match against him. Obviously over five sets it probably makes it a bit tougher again than beating him in a best of three set match on this surface. "I think my game can matchup well against him sometimes if I'm executing the way I want to, which I'm gonna have to do." Hewitt also believes he can benefit from the ideas and insights of vastly experienced coach Tony Roche with whom he has been working in the last year in a bid to bring back the glory days.
But at 28 he knows that time is not on his side as a younger generation of power hitters move tennis up onto a new, more physical level.
"For me, it's probably more Grand Slams I think now," he said. "You got to play an awfully lot of tournaments to be No. 1 and to stay No. 1 unless you're winning all the Grand Slams. So for me, the motivation is the Grand Slams."