Youth is served as Hewitt makes Open semis

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The Independent Online

Wearing his baseball cap backward, Lleyton Hewitt marched straight ahead into the semifinals of the U.S. Open today, defeating Arnaud Clement of France 6-2, 6-4, 6-3.

Wearing his baseball cap backward, Lleyton Hewitt marched straight ahead into the semifinals of the U.S. Open today, defeating Arnaud Clement of France 6-2, 6-4, 6-3.

The 19-year-old Australian became the youngest semifinalist at the U.S. Open since Pete Sampras won his first Grand Slam title in 1990.

Hewitt rode a big serve that produced 18 aces and kept Clement off balance all match. Clement had turned heads early in the tournament when he knocked off the defending champion and No. 1 seed, Andre Agassi.

After that, the 22-year-old Frenchman played a pair of four-setters and did not seem to have the stamina for Hewitt, who shares the tour lead this year with four tournament victories.

Hewitt came into the Open seeded No. 9 and became the youngest Grand Slam semifinalist since Andrei Medvedev made it to the final four at the French Open in 1993 at 18.

He started the season with a 13-match winning streak that included victories at Adelaide and Sydney. He also won at Scottsdale and Queens with three of his four titles on hard courts - the same surface as the Open.

Hewitt reached the round of 16 at both the Australian and French Opens but was knocked off in the first round at Wimbledon by American Jan-Michael Gambill.

Seeded for the first time at the Open, he found his game again and has been on a roll in the season's final Grand Slam.

"I was hitting the ball a lot better going into Wimbledon than I was going into the U.S. Open," Hewitt said.

Still, he has fared better on the hard courts of the National Tennis Center than he did on the grass of the All England Club.

He sees the Open as a chance to prove himself against the tour's better players.

"Obviously, I'm going to have a few nerves - semifinals of a Grand Slam," he said. "I want to put on a show."

Hewitt approached the Open without any grandiose expectations.

"It would be stupid for me to come out and say I'm going to win the tournament when I've never been to a Grand Slam quarterfinal," he said. "I gave myself a chance. These courts do suit my game."

And now he is looking at the tournament a lot more positively.

"I'm hitting the ball well at the moment," he said. "Anyone through to the semifinals feels they're hitting the ball well and giving themselves a chance."

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