Welcome to the first Live Edition of How the Match Was Won of 2013. Today we have the first round match between home favorite Lleyton Hewitt and World No. 8 Janko Tipsarevic.
If you want to keep up with the rest of the action taking place in Melbourne, do follow Amy’s Day One Liveblog.
Lleyton Hewitt is up 3-1 in the head-to-head vs the Serb, but the last win was in 2009. Hewitt comes into the Australian Open in good health and in apparent good form, having won the Kooyong Exhibition, beating Tomas Berdych and Juan Martín del Potro in straightforward fashion. Tipsarevic started the season with a title, beating surprise finalist Roberto Baustista-Agut in Chennai. However, Tipsarevic then went to Kooyong, where he retired from one of his matches.
What to watch for:
– It’ll be interesting to see how Tipsarevic reacts to the Rod Laver crowd, since they will most likely be wildly behind Hewitt.
– Tipsarevic has never made it past the third round in Australia, even though hard court is his favorite surface.
– Off the ground, it’ll be Tipsarevic who will be left to dictate the points, but the owner of Twitter’s favorite sighs often finds himself reacting to his opponent’s shots rather than use his innate ability to attack from any spot on the court.
– Tipsarevic is not a great returner, so it will be interesting how much pressure Hewitt can put on Tipsarevic’s serve with his own returning capabilities.
The players are on court! Not wearing the greatest kits out there, but oh well, what can you do. Here is what they look like:
Tipsarevic won the toss, and has elected to receive. I’ve ranted about this enough times.
I just learned that Hewitt now lives in the Bahamas. That makes sense – much easier to fly to tournaments from that home base instead of Australia.
And we’re off! Remember to refresh this page often!
0-0: Backhand unforced error by Rusty to start, followed by a backhand down-the-line winner. Interesting. Variations of this sequence take us to a first deuce. An ace by Hewitt and a backhand unforced error by Tipsarevic end the first game.
Tight little game there. More than a few unforced errors. The veterans are a little nervous to start, it seems.
1-0, Hewitt: A very strong service game by Tipsarevic, puncuated by a few nice forehands and some more Rusty unforced errors.
1-1: Hewitt goes down 0-30, but climbs to 40-30 after a Tipsarevic backhand unforced error. First “Come on!” of the night was heard. Hewitt then out-maneuvers Tipsarevic around the baseline and forces the error to hold.
2-1, Hewitt: A most straightforward hold to 15 for Tipsarevic. Hewitt is not having the easiest time getting good returns in at the moment. The crowd at Laver is a non-issue for now.
The Aussie commentator just said that there is no one in the world with better volleying technique than Lleyton Hewitt. I don’t know about that.
2-2: Hewitt comes up with two very good serves at 30-all, and holds. Opening rounds of this welterweight boxing bout, it seems. A whole lot of dancing, and not a whole lot of probing.
3-2, Hewitt: Tipsarevic is serving at 50% first serves, but he’s won every single first serve point. Makes sense. At any rate, Tipsarevic goes for a dropper, and misses badly. 15-30. Undeterred, Tipsarevic plays another dropper, Hewitt reads it, but misses the counter-drop. He could’ve set up 15-40. Tipsarevic holds to 30 instead.
3-3: A loose backhand unforced error puts Hewitt in a 0-30 hold, but he too rallies to hold at 30 after a very pretty slice passing shot.
As we approach crunch time in this set, are we going to see Tipsarevic be more aggressive? So far, the Serb is serving well, but playing into Hewitt’s hands during the rallies. He’s not accelerating as much as he could.
4-3, Hewitt: Two amazing returns by Rusty (one a winner, one almost a winner) tie the score at 30-all. But a missed second serve return gives Tipsarevic game point. An unforced error by Tipsarevic brings us to the first deuce. Tipsarevic challenges a serve that was called out, risking being out of challenges for the rest of the set, but gets it right, and holds after an ace.
4-4: Tipsarevic starts forcing the issue, and after a big forehand down-the-line, we’re at deuce. A service winner and a Tipsarevic backhand unforced error make it 5-4 for the hometown guy, who will try to break for the first set.
5-4, Hewitt: Rusty has a half-chance at 15-30, but Tipsarevic smartly forces two errors to set up game point. Hewitt then works the point perfectly until the last shot, a short BH putaway that he sends well wide. The crowd at Laver is still kind of dead.
5-5: At 15-all, Tipsarevic almost hits the shot of the day, a jumping smash off a Hewitt overhead that clips the letcord. Hewitt puts away a nice volley for game point, but Tipsarevic sends a forehand down-the-line winner past him. 40-30. Hewitt now with the backhand down-the-line unforced error, and it’s deuce. Tipsarevic then comes up with the prettiest shot of the match, a beautiful forehand lob hit on the run to earn a break point, the first of the match. Hewitt’s serve is called out, but a challenge makes it an ace. Deuce number two. Tipsarevic finds himself with a short backhand, and sends it well wide. “Come on!” number two, and game point for Rusty. A very pretty volley plus another “Come on!” (number three) and Tipsarevic will have to hold to send us into a breaker. It was an eventful game.
Here’s Pumped Up Rusty, in his hideous shirt:
6-5, Hewitt: Two unforced errors, and Hewitt has an opening, 0-30 on Tipsarevic’s serve. But a service winner makes it 15-30. An ace erases the Australian’s advantage. Carlos Ramos overrules on the far sideline, and Hewitt isn’t happy about it. Still, it was a good overrule: the ball was quite a few inches wide. Game point for Tipsarevic, which he takes after a good serve leaves him a short ball. Breaker!
It seems like the set is right there for Tipsarevic to take it if he just plays five minutes of aggressive, purposeful tennis.
0-0: Tipsarevic comes up with a ridiculous cross court backhand passing shot winner. Amazing. He gets the minibreak.
1-0, Tipsarevic: Service winner for the Serb.
2-0, Tipsarevic: Hewitt gets a look at a backhand down-the-line pass, but he can’t get it over the net.
3-0, Tipsarevic: The Serb slowly starts putting more pace on his shots during a long rally, and it pays off, drawing Hewitt’s error.
4-0, Tipsarevic: Hewitt’s rally backhand down-the-line clips the letcord and drops in the Serb’s court. Tipsarevic screams, full of anger at something, apparently.
4-1, Tipsarevic: Hewitt gets a good cross court return in, and Tipsarevic sends his backhand down-the-line attempt into the net. He’s lost one of the two minibreaks he had.
4-2, Tipsarevic: Big serve by Tipsarevic, and he comes in after a short reply. Former Lob King Hewitt doesn’t honor his past form, and Tipsarevic smashes away an easy putaway. Rusty curses.
5-2, Tipsarevic: Rusty goes for a backhand down-the-line, it’s called out, Ramos doesn’t overrule the call, which was on his sideline, and Hewitt’s challenge shows the ball was in. Not a good night for Ramos. When they replay the point, Tipsarevic blasts a backhand down-the-line winner that didn’t even come close to any line. It’s an incredible shot.
6-2, Tipsarevic: Hewitt wrong-foots Tipsarevic with his backhand, and saves the first of four set points.
6-3, Tipsarevic: Second serve – Tipsarevic goes for a backhand down-the-line on the second shot, and nets it badly. Getting nervous, Tipsy?
6-4, Tipsarevic: Carlos Ramos overrules an out call on Tipsarevic’s serve. After a very nervy shot rally, Hewitt dumps a backhand unforced error long. It’s a very costly error, because Tipsarevic was on the brink of losing it. The set goes to the World No. 9.
That set was closer than it should have been. Tipsarevic barely stepped on the gas pedal, and when he has, it’s been abundantly clear that he’s got way more tools from the baseline than the former World No. 1. Hewitt will have to step up the aggression if he is to have any chance in this match. His usual probing won’t work if he’s hitting short so frequently.
Second Set: Tipsarevic will serve first
0-0: Rusty takes control of the deuce point, and yanks Tipsarevic wide to set up the first break point of the second set. It’s saved when Tipsarevic goes on the offensive with his trademark down-the-line shots. Deuce number two. The pair have a tentative rally, and the letcord catches a Tipsarevic regulation backhand. Break point number two. Hewitt probes and probes, and then survives an onslaught from Tipsarevic with a deft defensive dropper (who knows if he meant to hit it that well). Tipsarevic barely got to it, and Hewitt’s reply caught the baseline. It was called in, challenged, and shown to be in. Break for the home team.
Hewitt apparently has lots the first set 16 times at the Australian Open, and has come back to win the match on seven of those occasions. Interesting.
Still, that was the worst possible game Tipsarevic could have played. He gave Hewitt life, he gave the crowd something to believe in, just when he had all the momentum. In other words, classic Tipsarevic.
1-0, Hewitt: Rusty is having a lot of success by yanking Tipsarevic wide with his cross court backhand. He puts it to good use to reach game point at 40-15, and then holds after a good serve.
2-0, Hewitt: Rusty is all over Tipsarevic’s serve now, and goes up 0-30 in a heartbeat. However, some good serving brings Tipsarevic to 40-30, where he misses the easiest of putaways, with three quarters of the court open to him. Deuce number one. Hewitt smartly draws the Tipsarevic forehand error by playing a good slice to that wing. Break point for Rusty. Tipsarevic moves in after a short reply, and has a good look at a makeable volley, but nets it. Hewitt is now up a double break.
Tipsarevic has lost the plot, just as he was in full control of the match. He’s playing with fire here.
3-0, Hewitt: In what seems like two seconds, Hewitt is down 0-40 on his serve. He saves the first break point with a beautiful forehand drop volley after a nice, forceful rally. A service winner through his trusty slider saves the second. They play yet another good, intense rally, and Tipsarevic’s forehand cracks first. Rusty has saved all three break points, and we’re at deuce. Hewitt does not enjoy his newfound prosperity, and sends a tame backhand unforced error long. Fourth break point of the game. Tipsarevic gets one of the breaks back, after another of his great backhands down-the-line, a very pretty shot.
It’s a very loose game from Hewitt, who had such a comfortable early lead. The match is heating up, though – both guys are starting to put more pace on their shots as the points go by, letting the nerves drip away.
This is also a good way to look at this match:
Such a strange tactical battle going on. Lleyton really taking things off. Tipsy debating whether or not to crank it.
— Brodie (@MindTheRacket) January 14, 2013
3-1, Hewitt: Tipsarevic has regained control of himself, and holds easily to 15. The blip seems to be over.
Milos Raonic remarks on today’s quirky Rod Laver Arena schedule:
Rod Laver Arena must be packed with Serbians. 3 Serbians back to back to back! #nationalTreasures!
— Milos Raonic (@milosraonic) January 14, 2013
3-2, Hewitt: Hewitt gets another lucky letcord bounce at 15-all, and Tipsarevic furiously screams at his camp about it. Nothing they can do. An incredible defensive get by Hewitt is then negated by a wonderful Tipsarevic pass. That was pretty. 30-all. Hewitt gets to game point on a simple volley. Tipsarevic nets a regulation forehand, and Hewitt manages to hold.
4-2, Hewitt: Tipsarevic misses a forehand passing shot quite casually at 30-all, but an ace gives him break point. Which Tipsarevic takes after Rusty badly mishits a forehand.
In unrelated news, I’m hungry. Not sure anything is open at 4:00 a.m, though.
4-3, Hewitt: A great point won by Tipsarevic is followed by a bad unforced error by Rusty. Hence, he’s at 0-30. Another unlucky letcord for Tipsarevic, and it’s 15-30. This is clearly worth sighing about. Positive tennis from Hewitt brings us to 30-all. Rusty hits an ace, Tipsarevic challenges but walks to the other side of the court, and the challenge proves to be successful. Still, the Serb botches a short ball, and it’s game point for Hewitt. It’s erased by an absolute beauty of a backhand down-the-line pass by Tipsarevic. Rusty then serves and volleys to good effect, and drives an ace out wide to clinch the game.
Oh that was just ridiculous from Hewitt. What a first volley off that serve and volley.
— Foot Fault (@FootFault_) January 14, 2013
“To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.” Nietzsche.Quoted for Janko – he needs inspiration rigth now.
— Chris P (@scoobschris) January 14, 2013
5-3, Hewitt: An ace makes it 40-0 for Tipsarevic, who seems to be improving at the right time of this set. A forehand winner later, and he has completed one of the shortest holds of the match.
Surely that last game will put even more pressure on Hewitt, who’s had to work quite hard to hold in the later part of this set.
5-4, Hewitt: A wonderful wrong-footing backhand from Hewitt brings him to 30-15. Tipsarevic uses his great backhand to good effect, forcing Hewitt wide with the cross court variety, then finishing down-the-line for 30-all. Hewitt survives more than a few Tipsarevic aggressive missiles, and when he has his favorite shot lined up, a backhand down-the-line, he misses wide to give Tipsarevic a break point. A wonderful combo of a down-the-line backhand plus a cross court backhand winner saves it for Hewitt, who has 10 of the 17 backhand winners so far in the match. Hewitt comes to net on deuce, where he’s won a ton of points recently, but Tipsarevic’s pass is too good. Break point number two of the game for the Serb. Hewitt hits a great wide serve, Tipsarevic responds with an even better return, and Hewitt sends the reply long. Carlos Ramos is forced to make the call, which was well out. Rusty is in serious trouble now.
Hewitt was up 3-0 with two breaks in this set, and now his lead has disappeared. He couldn’t even muster a set point on his own serve in the previous game. Tipsarevic has overcome his drop in form from the beginning of the set, and this match is again feeling like a mismatch.
5-5: An ace brings Tipsarevic to 40-0, and a service winner puts him ahead for the first time in this set. Rusty seems lost.
— Amy Fetherolf (@AmyFetherolf) January 14, 2013
6-5, Tipsarevic: Tipsarevic fired a winner for 0-15, but then two errors put Rusty two points away from a tiebreaker. However, Hewitt gives one of the presents back, and it’s 30-all. Tipsarevic goes on a Tasmanian Devil-like onslaught. Hewitt survives most of it through courageous defense, but it’s too much for him. Set point for Tipsarevic. But Hewitt digs deep and comes up with a huge serve out wide. Tipsarevic donates the next point, sending a forehand return long off a second serve. Tipsarevic is starting to come up with Crazed Tipsarevic shots more often now: an incredible running backhand down-the-line pass makes it deuce again. And now a similar crazy shot, but off the forehand wing. He’s getting into one of those classic Possessed Tipsarevic modes, and sends a return winner past Hewitt to quiet the Aussie crowd and go up two sets to love after being down two breaks in that set.
That was crazy. Possessed Tipsarevic is fun to watch: it’s like watching Super Mario eat a star and go berserk. He moves faster, reads the points faster, and goes for crazy shots that somehow land in. It’s not often that Janko reaches these enlightened state, but when he does, man is it scary.
Third Set: Tipsarevic will serve first
0-0: Tipsarevic makes another great passing shot for 40-30, but misses one to send us to deuce. Two straight errors from Hewitt let Tipsarevic hold.
1-0, Tipsarevic: Hewitt misses a volley badly, and it’s 30-0. He seems strangely subdued, as if he feels like the power disparity in this match is too large to overcome. Still, he forces a Tipsarevic error, and has a chance to stop the bleeding and hold. No can do: a botched regulation backhand makes it deuce. Another makes it break point for Tipsarevic, who then lines up a backhand down-the-line, and misses it wildly. That is followed by a shanked return, and Hewitt has another chance to hold. The chance flies away with another second ball backhand error by Rusty, and a double fault gives Tipsarevic yet another break point, emphatically converted by yet another crazy Tipsarevic backhand down-the-line winner, which was hit from outside the doubles alley. That was nuts.
Tipsarevic has won the last six games. It’s goodnight and good luck for Hewitt, it seems.
2-0, Tipsarevic: An array of winners makes it 40-0 to Tipsarevic, who continues to be on fire. He misses a forehand down-the-line, and it’s 40-15. The Serb holds after a most perfect lob over the ex-King of the Lobs. That was a beauty.
Tipsy just hit a lob winner while literally being 180 degrees turned away from the net. The dude can do no wrong right now.
— Brodie (@MindTheRacket) January 14, 2013
All this negative energy about this being bound to be a marathon seems to be working superbly. Tipsy up two sets & a break. Sorry Lleyton.
— Alexandra Willis (@alex_willis) January 14, 2013
At a very basic level, Hewitt just doesn’t have anything that he can use to bother Tipsarevic from the baseline, particularly when Tipsarevic starts using more pace. Rusty has struggled with depth during the whole match (or, during the past three or four years of his career), and that wasn’t a problem when Tipsarevic was nervous and tentative. A confident, aggressive Tipsarevic is blowing Hewitt off the court, and perhaps, off the tour.
3-0, Tipsarevic: Hewitt has stopped the bleeding, finally. Tipsarevic plays a loose game for the first time in a while, and the home fans get to cheer for something.
This level of match is unreal! @tipsarevicjanko is playing & moving superb I’m glad I don’t play him 2night @australianopen #teamontheroad
— Aljaz Bedene (@AljazBedene) January 14, 2013
3-1, Tipsarevic: What do you know … Hewitt gets a good run with depth, and he has two chances to get back on serve. Somehow, Tipsarevic saves the first one after two insane gets from Hewitt, who supposedly is in the best shape he’s been in about three years. Hewitt breaks! That was vintage Hewitt! A beautiful lob set up a simple pass, and we’re back on serve!
Just as I was writing Hewitt off, he produces a game almost brought back from the early 2000s via time machine. This is not over yet!
Aaaand. I just jinxed it. Hewitt breaks back for 2-3 in the 3rd. His face is practically purple. #ausopen
— Alexandra Willis (@alex_willis) January 14, 2013
3-2, Tipsarevic: Hewitt is serving 28% first serves in this set. That’s problematic. Tipsarevic goes up 15-30, but can’t handle a serve to his forehand. 30-all, and Hewitt moves in to put away a volley for 40-30. What comes next? Yet another backhand down-the-line winner from Tipsarevic. Such a pretty shot, which is followed by an ugly backhand unforced error by Hewitt. Break point for Tipsarevic. Another serve to the forehand, another unsuccesful return by Tipsarevic. He challenges, to no avail. Hewitt then goes on a tirade against Ramos because Tipsarevic looked to his team before challenging. Anyway, deuce. Hewitt then provokes a very short return, and does not fail to put it away. A service winner ties this set up.
3-3: In about a minute, Tipsarevic is up 40-0. After a good backhand return by Hewitt forces an error from the Sigher, a service winner ends the game.
4-3, Tipsarevic: It’s the backhand errors that kill Hewitt. That’s his best shot, and he routinely misses regulation balls, as well as shots he lines up after carefully constructing the point. A couple of those pegged him at 30-all, and a great shot by Tipsarevic generates a break point. Hewitt then comes to net, seeing that Tipsarevic was stretched wide, but the Serb comes up with a very smart and pretty slice passing shot that Hewitt can’t handle. The ninth-best player on the planet will serve for the match.
5-3, Tipsarevic: A tough rally takes place at 0-15, and Hewitt once again lines up a kill shot after working hard to get Tipsarevic out of position, only to miss it wide. Tipsarevic then gets to a Hewitt drop-volley and drills a cross court backhand past Hewitt for 30-15. Hewitt goes for an inside-in forehand return winner, and misses by about an inch. 40-15. Hewitt goes for an aggressive inside out backhand return, and misses by a mile. Game, set and match to Janko Tipsarevic, 7-6(4), 7-5, 6-3.
It is noteworthy that even though Tipsarevic made this match way more difficult than it needed to be, he did win it in straight sets. This is what a top 10 player does: win the matches he’s supposed to win. The Sigher gets extra credit for beating Hewitt at Rod Laver Arena, where the Aussie was sure to have the crowd in his pocket.
As for Hewitt, he will drop out of the top 100 with this loss, and there were very few passages of the match where it seemed like his shots were threatening to a top 10 player like Tipsarevic. Rusty’s struggles to get consistent depth on his groundstrokes make him extremely vulnerable to today’s elite, and it never helps that he can’t rely on his backhand to stay error-free during key parts of the match.
However, Hewitt is healthy for the first time in a while, and seems quite motivated to get back into the mix of things. If he can get a couple of good results in the following months and climb up the rankings, who knows, maybe he can stay on tour for a few more years.
Still, the saddest part of today’s match for Hewitt and his fans was the stretch where he lost six straight games at the end of the second and beginning of the third set. Unlike the Hewitt of old, this version was completely subdued, and almost clueless as to what he could do to hurt an opponent that was overpowering him from the baseline.
During that tortuous stretch, Hewitt was probably wondering what was the point of killing himself to get in great shape if he couldn’t even compete against somebody that was on the edge of the top 10. It had to kill Rusty that he couldn’t even hold a double break lead over a guy who seemed completely lost. The next six months will be interesting in Hewitt’s career, and might dictate whether we’ll get to see him again at the Australian Open next year.
As an Aussie it was hard to see Hewitt lost, but his shots just don’t have enough penetration as you said and he is not as fast nowadays.
I just discovered your website and I’m really enjoying it, keep up the good work.
I’m very glad you found us! Thank you for the very kind words.
About Hewitt, I agree about the shots. But I will have to say that Hewitt did pull out a number of vintage Rusty defensive gets, something I hadn’t seen from him in a while. Maybe it is true that he’s in the best shape of the past few years.
I was thinking about Hewitt when I woke up, and I wondered if his myriad injuries have actually kept him going instead of forcing him out. In a way, it seems like his thought process is “when I’m healthy, I’m competitive”. That’s why I think the next few months will be interesting, because he’s definitely healthy…but will he be competitive? Like I wrote, and you noted, it’s his lack of depth and timely errors that ended up burying him last night. If those things aren’t fixed, then he won’t have much success against other top 20 guys, which is sad. We’ll see what happens.
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