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Six years running, Hewitt into Open quarters

The 2001 champion advanced to the US Open quarters for a sixth straight year, beating Hrbaty 6-1, 6-4, 6-2.

india Updated: Sep 07, 2005 17:32 IST

As soon as Lleyton Hewitt saw Dominik Hrbaty's pink peekaboo shirt, the match was over.

"I just couldn't lose to a bloke wearing a shirt like that," Hewitt said, laughing.

The 2001 champion advanced to the US Open quarterfinals for a sixth straight year on Tuesday, beating Hrbaty 6-1, 6-4, 6-2. The only time Hewitt failed to make the quarters here was in 1999, when he lost in the third round in his Open debut.

"It's a great record to have," he said. "It's not an easy Grand Slam, not an easy tournament to do well at. To go out successfully every year, it's a huge positive I think. I love playing in New York. I love the conditions, the court surface, the balls, everything about it."

Hewitt had a tough third-round match, needing 3 hours and five sets to beat American serve-and-volley specialist Taylor Dent. But he didn't show any signs of fatigue against Hrbaty, one of the quickest players on the tour.

He broke Hrbaty three times in the first set, including once at love.

"I got out of the blocks well today," Hewitt said. "I went out there with a game plan and just executed it. I did what I needed to do and didn't feel that (much) under pressure."

His biggest problem might have been stifling his laughter when he saw Hrbaty's shirt. The Open is no stranger to odd fashion choices-- remember Serena Williams' zip-down, stop-at-the-thighs black Lycra outfit a few years back? --and Hrbaty's shirt certainly qualified. The black-and-pink shirt looks ordinary from the front. On the back, though, there are oval-shaped cutouts --"flyholes," Hewitt called them -- below each shoulder that look like a pair of flesh sunglasses. Or as if the shirt had gotten caught on his head and he hadn't pulled it on all the way.

"I don't really know what the design means, if it's only an idea or if it had any purpose in the beginning. Or somebody just was trying to make a smiley face in the back," Hrbaty said. "The shirt itself is actually nice. You don't sweat as much. Also, you don't feel the heat on the court that much."

Hrbaty gave Hewitt more of a game in the second set. He held serve his first two games, then broke Hewitt to go up 3-1 when the Australian made a pair of unforced errors. But he gave the break right back. Then, with the set tied 4-4, Hrbaty was broken again after two careless mistakes.

After Hewitt chased down a shot in the corner, Hrbaty stood ready at the net for what should have been an easy winner. But he put too much power on the overhead, and it sailed past the line. He did the same thing on the next point, and Hewitt took the game when Hrbaty's backhand hit the net and bounced out of bounds, one of 49 errors he made during the match.

"I didn't play my best. I made many mistakes against him," Hrbaty said. "I had a couple of chances in the second set where I had the feeling I could turn the match the other way and I made two mistakes."

Though Hewitt won 94 points to Hrbaty's 61, the Slovakian didn't sound overly impressed with Hewitt's game.

"Even when I was losing ... I still had the feeling that he cannot hurt me," Hrbaty said. "Either I can win the match, or I can lose the match. Sometimes I was a little surprised at how slow he played the balls."

Hewitt saw the match a little differently. After his marathon match against Dent, he wasn't looking for another one against Hrbaty.

"I'm very happy to get away with the win that I got and be in the locker room after a comfortable win and not waste a lot of energy," Hewitt said. "Physically, I felt great out there." Hewitt now plays Jarkko Nieminen, who became the first Finnish player to reach the quarters at a Grand Slam event. If Hewitt wins that match, he could play No. 1 Roger Federer in the semifinals. Federer has won their last eight matchups, including 2004 Open final.

"Nine times out of 10, if you're going to win the tournament, you're going to have to come up against Federer at some stage," Hewitt said. "It's not something you focus on. ... I just want to get the (next) win on the board."

First Published: Sep 07, 2005 17:32 IST