Top-ranked Hewitt loses in first round

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The Independent Online

Lleyton Hewitt today became the first No. 1 seed to lose in the first round of a Grand Slam tournament since 1990 when he slumped in four sets to Spaniard Alberto Martin at the Australian Open.

Hewitt, the world No. 1 and first homegrown top seed at the Australian Open since 1976, breezed through the first set but then crumbled as he traded blows from backcourt with Martin and came out on the wrong side of a 1­6, 6­1, 6­4, 7­6 (4) scoreline.

He joined No. 2 Gustavo Kuerten and No. 3 Andre Agassi, the winner here in 2000 and 2001, as early casualties of the season's first major.

Agassi withdrew before a ball was hit, citing a wrist injury he picked up in an exhibition match Saturday against Pete Sampras, and Kuerten lost in five sets Monday in the first round.

Hewitt, who twice during the fourth set called the trainer to attend to blisters on his feet and to massage his hamstrings, waited nervously in the tiebreaker when Martin, leading 5­4, got courtside treatment on both upper legs.

That came right after the Spaniard had produced an overhead winner off a spiraling Hewitt lob.

Serving for survival, the 20­year­old Australian put a backhand out to give Martin two match points and then dumped a backhand in the net on the subsequent point.

Martin finished 2001 at No. 41. Hewitt overhauled Kuerten for top spot during the Masters Cup last November in Sydney, winning all his matches at the year­end champion to become the youngest No. 1.