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Hewitt stages great escape, young guns blaze on

Lleyton Hewitt proves the value of guts when he hits back from two sets down to crush former champion Gaston Gaudio at the French Open.

sports Updated: May 31, 2007 22:52 IST
Martyn Herman
Martyn Herman

His back creaks these days and his shots lack bite but Lleyton Hewitt proved again on Thursday the value of guts when he hit back from two sets down to crush former champion Gaston Gaudio at the French Open.

The tenacious Aussie hustler, a former Wimbledon and US Open champion, came through 4-6 3-6 6-2 6-4 6-2 to take his place in the third round along with two of the young guns of men's tennis still waiting for grand slam glory.

Serbian sixth seed Novak Djokovic, regarded by many as the most likely challenger to the Federer-Nadal monopoly, breezed past French qualifier Laurent Recouderc, the lowest ranked survivor in the men's draw, 6-3 3-6 6-3 6-1.

Marcos Baghdatis, just a year older than Djokovic at 21, also put down an impressive mark on the Roland Garros clay when the Cypriot 16th seed reached the third round for the first time with a 7-5 6-3 6-4 victory over Dane Kristian Pless.

"Everybody expects me to be one of the guys who can actually hurt the best two players in the world and I'm aware of that," Djokovic, who beat Nadal on the way to winning the Miami Masters series, told reporters. "There's a lot of expectation and pressure but I'm trying not to think about it too much."

Rafael Nadal, unbeatable here in the last two years, was due on court later against Italian qualifier Flavio Cipolla.

World number two Maria Sharapova, still trying to master the claycourt craft, was the main attraction in early women's play.

The 20-year-old Russian, recently back from a shoulder injury, showed no ill effects from a second match in two days when she thrashed American Jill Craybas 6-2 6-1.

Sharapova, twice a quarter-finalist here, was joined in round three by rising Serbian talent Ana Ivanovic, the seventh seed, who beat India's Sania Mirza 6-1 6-4.

Experienced Swiss Patty Schnyder, playing here for the 12th consecutive year, also reached the third round with a 6-3 6-2 defeat of Ukraine's Kateryna Bondarenko.

Gaudio, winner of an extraordinary final here in 2004 against compatriot Guillermo Coria, said he felt like quitting earlier this year, but looked on course for a morale-boosting victory on Court Philippe Chatrier as he built a two-set lead.

Fourteenth seed Hewitt gritted his teeth and dug deep, however, and after levelling the match there was only ever going to be one winner.

It was the second time in consecutive grand slams he had recovered from a two-set deficit, having also achieved the feat in the first round of his home Australian Open.

Hewitt's next opponent is Finland's Jarkko Nieminen who demolished French wildcard Mathieu Montcourt for the loss of just six games.

After the low cloud and drizzle of the opening four days of the tournament, the sun finally came out in the French capital with the promise of an uninterrupted day's play.

First Published: May 31, 2007 22:47 IST