Hewitt takes early aim at Australian Open
SHANGHAI: Lleyton Hewitt advanced 6-2, 6-4 into the second round of the Shanghai Masters over John Isner Tuesday with the Australian's eyes firmly fixed three months into the future.
"This whole Asian swing is just about working on little areas of my game to try and make me as good a player for January as possible," said the former number one, who is keen to play again in his home Open in January.
Hewitt, competing in Shanghai for the first time since winning the season-ending Masters Cup in the city in 2002, held the normally powerful American Isner to a mere five aces, breaking three times.
The 28-year-old Australian has lifted his ranking from outside the Top 100 early in the year to its current 23rd, with further progress all part of a grand plan conceived after he underwent hip surgery just over a year ago.
"I haven't really focused a whole lot on the tournaments that I'm playing," Hewitt said.
"It's more a focus on little things I want to work on out there and improve on my game and try and become a better player for January -- then have a real crack next year."
Over the last years, Hewitt has barely registered on the ATP radar in the closing stages, playing his last complete autumn schedule in 2004.
"This time of year obviously I've got no points to defend," he said. "And in January I've basically got hardly any points to defend, as well.
"I've gotten better as the year has gone on. My hip's got a lot stronger and better as well, and that makes life a lot easier on the court."
Elsewhere in the first round, German 15th seed Tommy Haas took to an Asian court for the first time in two years after last playing in the region in Bangkok in 2007. The veteran of multiple shoulder surgeries defeated compatriot Benjamin Becker 7-6 (7/5), 6-4.
Russian sixth seed Nikolay Davydenko played after a bye, reaching the third round over compatriot Igor Kunitsyn 6-4, 6-2.
Davydenko has been on a run of form in the region, winning the Kuala Lumpur title and reaching last week's Beijing quarter-finals.