Hewitt beats injury to seal magnificent fightback
There is an occasion befitting an Ashes summer ahead if Lleyton Hewitt, back in a Wimbledon quarter-final for the first time in four years, can take one more step tomorrow and progress to a semi-final match. The boy is back, where Hewitt is concerned, and so most definitely, is his yellow army of "Fan-atics", who will give Murray Mount a run for its money.
"We're going to win 3-2," 20 of them chanted round the sunken Court Two after Hewitt slipped 6-4, 6-2 behind and he did just that – losing only five games in the last three sets. "I owe those boys a lot," Hewitt said later. "They slept out last night. I owe them a few beers." It was a remarkable comeback against the Czech No 23 seed Radek Stepanek, even by the standards of a 2002 champion whose career false dawns since the hip operation which saw him slip down the world rankings have led the Fan-atics, with heavy irony, to call him "Rusty".
Not only was Hewitt's initial play an alternating litany of genius and error, particularly on his groundstroke, but the 28-year-old also suffered a strain to the inside of his left thigh during the first set and, was flat on his back receiving treatment for it at 4-1 down in the second. "I was struggling to move for a time," Hewitt reflected later – not encouraging for a player who drives off that leg most of the time.
But Stepanek's precise angles and the powerful, wristy forehands vanished as Hewitt, the thigh bandaged up during the rain break, hit his stride in the third set. Hewitt faces Andy Roddick next, who beat Tomas Berdych 7-6, 6-4, 6-3.
Another welcome shaft of colour in the quarters is 29-year-old Juan Carlos Ferrero, who looks increasingly inspired. He beat Gilles Simon of France, the eighth seed, 7-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Novak Djokovic, meanwhile, found himself the last men's singles player on Court 3, an establishment soon to be reconfigured in the place where Court 2, the Graveyard of Champions, once belonged. The obscurity suited him.
Djokovic is stealing through the draw so quietly that he might be playing in socks – not a set lost since his first of the tournament was dropped on a tie-break. Dudi Sela, ranked No 46 in the world from Israel, went out in 89 short minutes, 6-2, 6-4, 6-1.
Next in Djokovic's way next, though, is Tommy Haas, who exposed Djokovic's fragility when defeating him in the pre-Wimbledon event on home soil at Halle.
At 31, Haas can hardly believe he is still here. The last individual aged 30 plus to win the men's title was Arthur Ashe in 1975. But the German's win – 7-6, 6-4, 6-4 – over the Russian Igor Andreev – demonstrated Djokovic's task.
Federer faces the even less appetising prospect of the 6ft 10in Ivo Karlovic in his quarter final. It was not pretty again, against the seventh seed Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, with Karlovic ballooning down 35 aces in his 7-6 ,6-7, 6-3, 7-6 win to reach the last eight at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time.
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