The number two seed Novak Djokovic entered the third round of these Olympic games, facing Lleyton Hewitt now ranked 159 in the Ranking ATP South African Airways.
Djokovic was pushed to the brink in a gruelling clash on Centre Court before finally overpowering the gritty Hewitt in one hour and 56 minutes.
The match wasn’t even two games old before rain forced a delay that lasted 30 minutes and it was Djokovic who seemed more affected by the early interruption.
A tight first set swung Hewitt’s way when he broke for a 5-4 advantage and then held serve to move ahead.
Hewitt was just as obdurate in the second set and a lesser player might have crumbled in the face of his aggressive baseline play.
But Djokovic suddenly raised his game. He held easily and then broke Hewitt by winning two long rallies with forehands, one down the line, the other cross-court. It was Djokovic’s turn to turn to his box (which included Vlade Divac) and let go a roar while he struck a Hulk Hogan, squatting, double-fist pump pose.
After breaking Hewitt to win the second set, Djokovic did so again at both 1-2 and and 1-4 in the third. As far as I can recall, Hewitt had not missed a backhand from the baseline in the entire match until the 1-2 game that opened the floodgates for Djokovic. The Serb started to drop shot Hewitt even more (apparently, Hewitt said he can move side to side fine after his foot surgeries, but running forward is difficult because he has to push off more on his fused big toe), and soon the writing was on the wall. Next up for Djokovic is Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who cruised past Feliciano Lopez today.
“It was great! For me (…) The second half of the match I played very well against a very, very good Lleyton Hewitt” Said Novak.
“It’s never that easy against Lleyton, he’s one of the best returners ever to play the game,” … “It was a great test, it’s always a pleasure to play against him and I look forward to the next challenge.”
“I have to stay positive and have confidence in my ability. I have to be more aggressive. Today I did not take my chances in the short balls, and he was throwing it deeper, so I changed tactics a bit and it has worked”
Dan Markowitz Tennis Reaction