Hewitt leaves lasting impression

Lleyton Hewitt left observers at the United States Open with the clear impression that he is a Grand Slam champion in waiting. Although defeated by Pete Sampras in the semi-finals, 7-6, 6-4, 7-6, the 19-year-old Australian came within a few points of stretching the great American to the limit.

Lleyton Hewitt left observers at the United States Open with the clear impression that he is a Grand Slam champion in waiting. Although defeated by Pete Sampras in the semi-finals, 7-6, 6-4, 7-6, the 19-year-old Australian came within a few points of stretching the great American to the limit.

"What I've experienced these last couple of weeks is going to be a big bonus in the next few Grand Slams that I play," Hewitt said.

Hewitt, who hit 23 aces to Sampras's 18, was unable to produce a winning serve on a set point in the first set tie-break, which Sampras won 9-7.

"You're not human if that doesn't frustrate you a little bit when you've worked so hard and have the point set up and make any easy error," Hewitt said. "Pete came up with a big serve on the next point. I had to forget about it pretty quickly."

What struck the spectators, as well as Sampras, was that here was an unshakable young man prepared to compete from first point to last. "Lleyton is in the same league as Michael Chang," Sampras said. "He has unbelievable footwork. I think he and Michael are the two best movers I've ever played."

Hewitt's only regret was that he did not move into his first Grand Slam singles final, having won the doubles title with Max Mirnyi of Belarus. "Anyone who has played any kind of sport knows that you're always disappointed straight after you lose; it doesn't matter how well you play," Hewitt said. "But when I reflect on the last two weeks, there are a lot of positives. I went out there and gave everything I had. I didn't leave anything in the locker room at all. That's something I can be proud of."

The 30-year-old Todd Martin also had reason to take pride in another hearty campaign, even though Russia's Marat Safin, 10 years his junior, prevented him from advancing to a second consecutive final. Martin, whose fourth-round recovery from two-sets-to-love down against Carlos Moya of Spain, endeared him to the American spectators, acknowledged that Safin was too good for him on the day.

"He played the big points better than me, and he played the little points better than me," Martin said. "I had so many opportunities, and actually made good plays, but he's able to ignore the importance of the point, or he just executes under pressure better than most guys. I seemed as though he was laughing at me."

Nobody else was, Todd.

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