Jul/20

7

When Hewitt Nearly Triple Bageled Corretja

A forgotten tennis masterpiece was the 2000 second round clash between Lleyton Hewitt and Alex Corretja. Hewitt nearly pitched a perfect shutout, bewildering the veteran Spaniard with a perfect display of counterpunching, precision, flawless tennis.

Just 18 at the time Hewitt was ranked 22 and at his feistiest, most tenacious. Thirsting to reach the top of the tennis world, Hewitt was relentless and vicious in this afternoon classic, rarely missing any shot and running down everything Corretja could throw at him.

25 year old Corretja, the top seed in Melbourne a year earlier after Pete Sampras and Marcelo Rios withdrew, showed facial expression frustration early. He had no answers for Hewitt and no ideas on how to change the rhythm of the match. It was one way traffic for over an hour as Hewitt built a 60 60 30 lead, running to his changeover chair. Everything he did, Hewitt was just better, quicker and more accurate.

There seemed to be some bad blood between the two combatants based on personality differences perhaps. Back then Spain and Australia had a fierce Davis Cup rivalry. Hewitt’s fiery and abrasive demeanor did not sit well with classy Spaniards like Carlos Moya, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Tommy Robredo and Corretja. Corretja was one of the gentleman of the tour, Hewitt a stark contrast… a fearless, no holds barred rebel spirit trying to invade the ATP elite echelon and destroy any obstacle in his path.

Corretja had actually beaten Hewitt just weeks earlier in their first meeting in Sydney 64 64 but it was a different story on this day.

When Hewitt held again for 4-0 in the third set for a stunning 60 60 40 lead, he roared his first CMON of the match after a backhand cross court winner. Hewitt did not have an iota of mercy for Corretja.

Hewitt was a rising force in the ATP, he was the youngest player in the top 25 since Andrei Medvedev in 1992. He was the youngest title winner since Michael Chang after winning Adelaide in ’98. That title came when Hewitt was 15 years old and 11 months, and ranked 550, the lowest ranked player in history to win an ATP title.

Hewitt also was the youngest AO qualifier at 15 in 1997.

Corretja was the no. 2 ranked player in February 1999 but he fell to 26 by the end of that year.

Hewitt drove hard for the triple bagel but Corretja was determined and defiant to preserver his pride under a stoic exterior.

When he finally converted a backhand winner down the line, to get on the board for 1-4, he showed a hint of a smile or relief as he strode to his chair. Hewitt expressed no reaction at all.

Hewit held serve for 5-1 and then dug in for one last break to put Corretja out of his misery. After a forehand cross court earned him a match point, Hewitt fist pumped. He then hit a backhand return, a forehand down the middle and came forward provoking his rival to hit long. The Melbourne massacre was over.

Hewitt measured his celebration with a muted double fist pump to his box and then a wave to the crowed before shaking hands with Corretja at the net.

Hewitt would lose two rounds later at AO to Magnus Norman in the fourth round but he became world no. 1 the next year at Masters Cup Final in Sydney, his sixth title of the year.

Hewitt’s rivalry continued with Corretja in 2000, as Corretja won their next meeting indoors at Masters Cup in Lisbon 36 76 63. Corretja beat Hewitt in two close matches in 2001 in Rome and World Team Cup in Germany. Hewitt would win their final ATP meeting in Scottsdale in 2003 64 62, to close their head to head rivalry at a symmetrical 3-3.

The ego shattering loss to Hewitt actually seemed to spark Corretja, who just months later won Indian Wells. It was a big upset win and put Corretja’s career back on track. He would reach 8 in the world at the end of 2000.

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