Hewitt out, Tomic through at French Open
Iron-willed Lleyton Hewitt has been unable to drag his bionic big toe into the second round of the French Open, but fellow Australian Bernard Tomic is safely through.
Hewitt succumbed 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 6-7 (7-4) 6-3 to Slovenian qualifier Blaz Kavcic in his first competitive outing since undergoing foot surgery in February.
Matthew Ebden also bombed out, losing 6-4 6-4 7-6 (7-4) to German 24th seed Philipp Kohlschreiber.
Tomic, though, later saved the day for Australia by marking his maiden grand slam seeding with a first-ever victory at Roland Garros.
The 25th seed eased past Austrian qualifier Andreas Haider-Maurer 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 6-3 and next plays Colombian Santiago Giraldo on Wednesday for a likely third-round clash with Andy Murray.
Tomic beat Giraldo in three sets on clay earlier this month in Rome and will fancy his chances of reaching at least the last 32 in Paris.
As ever, Hewitt’s mind was willing and his body reasonably able – considering his near-four-month absence from the tour after having a metal plate and screws inserted in his troublesome left big toe.
Alas, the 31-year-old’s game wasn’t quite ready for the grand slam rigours of best-of-five-sets on clay.
Rusty by nickname and rusty by nature as Hewitt committed an uncharacteristic 56 unforced errors – and 28 alone in the marathon 69-minute first set.
The former world No.1 had led 4-1 after breaking Kavcic twice, but frustrating mistakes flowed off his strings and steadily eroded his early advantage.
After losing the first-set tiebreaker and then falling two sets behind, Hewitt looked down and out.
But he bravely fought off a mini match point in the 11th game of the third set to snatch it and raise hopes of a vintage comeback win.
There was no way back, though, after being broken two games in a row midway through the fourth set and the 99th-ranked Kavcic held firm to eventually close out the absorbing contest after three hours and 50 minutes.
But while an appetising second-round showdown with grand slam-chasing Novak Djokovic went begging, there were enough encouraging signs from Hewitt to suggest he could make a decent grasscourt run at Wimbledon next month.
“I had to start somewhere,” Hewitt said.
“I’m sure tomorrow I’ll pull up pretty sore, but it was good for a lot reasons to go out there and play – lasted nearly four hours and physically felt fine.
“There are positives to take out of it.”
Hewitt will relish a return to his preferred grass courts, firstly at Queen’s where he has accepted a wildcard entry as a four-times former champion.
Then, as a dangerous unseeded floater, the 31-year-old will be hoping for some luck at the Wimbledon draw – a decade after he hoisted the greatest prize in tennis at the All England Club.
Teenage wildcard Ashleigh Barty will make her eagerly-awaited French Open debut tonight in the first match on Court Suzanne Lenglen against Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.© AAP 2013
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