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Hewitt refuses to blame late-night drama

sports Updated: Jan 21, 2008 18:07 IST

AFP
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Lleyton Hewitt refused to blame his controversial early hours finish to Marcos Baghdatis for his failure to get past Novak Djokovic Monday, but admitted he was not as sharp as normal.

The Australian former world number one was crushed by the exciting young Serb third seed 7-5, 6-3, 6-3 after a curtailed preparation due to his Baghdatis match ending at half-past four on Sunday morning.

Forced to back up from that tiring epic, he was unable to repeat his third-round heroics and slumped out in his first straight sets loss at the Australian Open since the fourth round of the 2000 event.

"No, absolutely not. He was too good tonight," Hewitt said when asked if the late-night finish was to blame for his lacklustre performance.

"I didn't feel too bad, but probably not quite as sharp as I would have liked to be."

He denied he was physically tired and that his concentration was affected, but said his body clock was out of whack and it was not an ideal way to prepare for a crunch fourth round Grand Slam challenge.

"Obviously, I could have probably slept all day yesterday. In the middle of the tournament, I had to get up at some stage and do rehab and prepare as well as possible.

"So it wasn't the ideal finishing time.

"But I felt ready when I had to go on the court. I started pretty well. As the match went on, maybe I lost that sharpness a little bit."

Despite the disappointing loss, the Australian number one, who is struggling to regain the form that US Open title in 2000 and Wimbledon a year later, said he was encouraged by his early season exploits.

"It was nice to have that win against Baghdatis, against a top quality opponent," he said.

"It's obviously disappointing to lose tonight, but I felt like there were patches there where I was playing some pretty good tennis, as well. So you've got to try to take the positives out of it as much as possible."

Asked if he still had the hunger to get back to the top, the 27-year-old replied: "Absolutely, mate.

"Wouldn't have been out there till 4:34am, or whatever it was, a couple nights ago if I didn't want to be here."

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