Lleyton Hewitt rolls back the years in Brisbane

ED JACKSON
Last updated 02:23 04/01/2014

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Just like for so much of his long tennis career, it seems Lleyton Hewitt isn't ready to quit yet.

Two years ago, when his foot was in plaster after surgery and his world ranking had plummeted to 186, Hewitt's career was seemingly all but over.

On Friday, having clawed his way back to a ranking of 60 by the end of 2013, Hewitt provided further evidence rumours of his tennis death had been greatly exaggerated as he breezed into the semi-finals of the Brisbane International.

The 32-year-old proved too good for Romanian qualifier Marius Copil, racing to a 6-4 6-2 win in an hour and 11 minutes to continue a start to the year which has now included three straight-set victories at Pat Rafter Arena.

Copil, the world No 147, who reached his first ATP Tour quarter-final with a shock win over French third seed Gilles Simon on Thursday, had no answer for Hewitt's trademark intensity and tenacity despite a strong start where he led 3-1 early in the opening set.

But once Hewitt broke back he never looked back and cruised into the semi-finals with a commanding second-set display.

Next up is world No 17 and tournament second seed Kei Nishikori after the Japanese eliminated Croatia's Marin Cilic in a brutal 6-4 5-7 6-2 quarter-final which took two hours and 37 minutes in Brisbane's afternoon heat.

The two-time grand slam champion said his form and confidence going into this month's Australian Open couldn't be better, although he is keen to go even further in his second Brisbane International.

"This is still why you play the game, to have a crack at the best guys out there," Hewitt said.

"Obviously every match gets tougher. Nishikori tomorrow is going to be tougher again. Another step up in class.

"He looks like he's hitting the ball well at the moment and really clean out there.

"It's obviously great preparation for the Australian Open, but I wanted to do well here this week. So far, so good."

Nishikori admitted he'd battled with the heat at times in his clash with Cilic and he'll be unhappy to see a forecast suggesting temperatures in Brisbane could top 40 degrees Celsius on Saturday.

Hewitt however took no fear from the south-east Queensland heatwave.

"I like the conditions," he said.

"It was nice. It was good conditions to play in."

Hewitt's success comes on a day when three Australians contested quarter-finals at an ATP Tour event for the first time in 10 years - emulating Hewitt, Mark Philippoussis and Todd Reid's efforts at Sydney in 2004.

Victorian Sam Groth fell 7-5 6-4 to French eighth seed Jeremy Chardy in his quarter-final with the winner of Friday night's quarter-final between Australian No 3 Marinko Matosevic and 17-time grand slam champion Federer to meet Chardy in Saturday's semis.

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Hewitt said the trio's results shouldn't be talked up as a renaissance for Australia tennis, though he was happy Matosevic had ended a losing run on home soil which had left him with a 0-9 record in Australia before the Brisbane event began.

"I'm really happy for him winning his first couple matches in Australia," Hewitt said.

"I think that was really important for him."

- AAP

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