Hewitt finds his sizzling form to roast Rochus

He now faces Spain's David Ferrer, who came from two sets down to beat the No 10 seed, Chile's Fernando Gonzalez. "It was nice to get through today, especially with the conditions out there today, it was pretty hot," Hewitt said.

The conditions on Court Two were perfect for a barbie, and you didn't need any charcoal. Rochus was the main item on the menu. As the mercury rose to 98 degrees courtside and news filtered around the grounds of fans wilting and being carried away on stretchers, Hewitt grilled his man.

The first five games all went the way of the 25-year-old from Adelaide and were an exhibition of his range. He won the first with a mix of aces and forced errors. He took the second by mixing his trademark two-handed backhand shovel shots with his single-handed backhand slices, often in the same rally.

The third game was flashed to love. The deciding break point in the fourth game was set up with a smash and converted with a driven backhand that Rochus could get nothing on and netted. Hewitt pumped his fist for the first time and yelled "C'mon!" He whizzed to 5-0, sealing it with an ace.

Up to that point, there was a marked absence of any raucous Antipodean support. Perhaps the heat, as heavy as wool-knit rug, was to blame. The liveliest fan exchange was between two arriving Aussies. "Aww, mate!" said the first, surveying the capacity crowd. "I knoooow!" said his friend. "So many Sheilas, so few clothes."

When Hewitt sealed the first set, the crowd found their voice. In honour of Hewitt's wife, the former soap opera actress, Bec Cartwright, some 100 of their number gave a discordant rendition of the theme song to Home and Away. At least they did it in its entirety, until the poker-faced Hewitt cracked a smile of acknowledgement.

Their next number arrived when Hewitt got the key break in the fifth game of a more competitive second set, which started with Hewitt nodding approval at a fine Rochus pass. When a Rochus error handed Hewitt the break, there was a full and hearty "Waltzing Matilda".

It was always unlikely to be the Belgian's day, unless you believed he was a Grand Slam champion waiting to happen here - because that's what the statistics tell us you need to be these days to beat Hewitt. In eight of the past nine Slam tournaments, Hewitt has been beaten only by the eventual winner. Those defeats included losses to Roger Federer here in 2004 (in the quarters) and 2005 (in the semis). On this form, he may yet go one better and lose to Federer in the final.

Hewitt's disrupted season due to an ankle injury has started to click in recent weeks. He warmed up for Wimbledon by winning his first title in 17 months, at Queen's. The last time he won there, in 2002, he went on to triumph here too, against David Nalbandian.

Ominously for those in the lower half of the draw, Hewitt has already had his scrapping credentials tested, and he proved they were in working order by winning a five-setter against Hyung-Taik Lee on Friday. Rochus rarely found the consistency to test him, and when he did, it was only after Hewitt had the comfort of a one-set lead.

Rochus upset himself with his own petulance. Facing Hewitt can be frustrating but Rochus - at 5ft 5in the shortest man on the tour - did himself no favours by throwing a giant hissy fit at the start of the second set. After a disputed line call in the first game of the third, with Rochus serving, the point was replayed and won by Hewitt. Rochus then earned a code violation for ball abuse, and his serve was broken.

"Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi! Oi! Oi!" sang the crowd, who at least hadn't had to spend too much time under the sun.

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