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Hewitt into Australian Open second round

  • Hewitt into Australian Open second round

The Lleyton Hewitt farewell show goes on with the retiring champion extending his storied Australian Open career with a stirring first-round win over countryman James Duckworth.

A who's who of Australian tennis, including Hewitt's past four Davis Cup captains - John Newcombe, John Fitzgerald, Pat Rafter and Wally Masur - were all on hand at Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday night to see the former world No.1 in action for possibly the last time.

Another ex-skipper, the great Neale Fraser, former Australian cricket stars Michael Clarke and Adam Gilchrist, Olympic swimming gold medallist Michael Klim, Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Michelle Payne along with actors and other celebrities watched from the President's Box.

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Thousands of fans with the hottest ticket in town also queued outside to take their seats after Rafael Nadal's shock five-set loss earlier delayed the start of the big show.

But they needn't have worried as 34-year-old Hewitt fended off Father Time - and retirement - for at least one more time and two more days with a typically spirited 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 6-4 win.

"He loves it - it's amazing," Newcombe said from his courtside seat in the Seven Network commentary bunker.

The victory - featuring 28 winners, four service breaks and more than the odd signature "come on" - set up a second-round crack at Spanish eighth seed David Ferrer on Thursday night.

If he finds a way to win that, Hewitt will be back at Melbourne Park on Saturday playing for a dream spot in the second week in his record-setting 20th consecutive Open campaign.

First, though, Hewitt must recover from Tuesday's sapping win.

The 2005 finalist needed two hours and 23 minutes to put away Duckworth and, apart from a brief reprieve in the second set, there was barely an easy moment.

Once the five-set king of tennis, Hewitt has lost his past six matches that have gone the distance and even his most loyal of fan must have been nervous when Duckworth gained a break to charge to a 4-2 lead in the third set.

But, not for the first time in his celebrated career, the baseline warrior rallied back to level for 4-4, then broke Duckworth one final time and raised the roof after clinching his first grand slam victory since last year's Australian Open with a trademark topspin lob on match point.

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