AFP – Lleyton Hewitt said he was feeling fresh ahead of his 15th Australian Open after notching a rain-interrupted 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 win over Mikhail Youzhny at the Kooyong Classic Wednesday.
With the flood tragedy unfolding thousands of kilometres to the north in Queensland, poor weather was also affecting Melbourne.
Hewitt’s match was delayed by 90 minutes in the second set before the former world number one returned to court to earn a victory at the eight-man tune-up for the Open, which starts Monday.
The 29-year-old has never played the Kooyong Classic, preferring ATP events as warm ups prior to the first major of the season.
“I knew I’d get three good matches here, it’s a good field,” he said. “You can’t buy matches like the one I just had. This is how you get match-tough and that’s what you have to be for the Open.
“I feel I can compete with most guys now, I had hard weeks of training after my (elbow) injury in September. I’m fresh and feel pretty good. That’s a good sign at age 29.”
Frenchman Gael Monfils also began his season on a positive note with his third straight win over Spain’s Fernando Verdasco to open the four-day event.
Monfils, whose last competitive outing came as a losing Davis Cup finalist last month against Serbia, pulled back from the brink after dropping the opening set to win 4-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-4.
“It was good, it was the first match of the season, I’m pretty happy,” said the 12th-ranked Monfils, who said his off-season preparation consisted of “a lot of running and some gym work” as he stayed away from tennis after a long 2010 campaign.
“It was a tough start to the match, but once I found my rhythm, I was moving well. I was the aggressor on the court.”
Monfils has never lost to the ninth-ranked Verdasco, beating him in the Paris indoor third round two months ago and at Monte Carlo on clay in 2008.
Verdasco won the Kooyong special event a year ago over France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, whose opener against Austrian Jurgen Melzer was put back to Thursday after the rain. Monfils plays the winner of that match.
Monfils, watched by his Australian coach Roger Rasheed, showed good early conditioning as he mounted a comeback in an encounter lasting 2hr 52min.
The athletic Frenchman, who lost the Paris Bercy Masters 1000 final to Robin Soderling last November, came through for his first-round victory on a third match point.
Monfils struck gold with a drop shot for a third match point and took the victory as Verdasco ploughed a return into the net.
World No. 4 Andy Murray (pictured) claimed his second successive ATP Masters Series shield by halting marathon man Gilles Simon 6-4, 7-6(6) in the final of the Mutua Madrilena Masters Madrid on Sunday.
The Scot was competing in his third final in four events, having captured his first ATP Masters Series crown at Cincinnati (d. Djokovic) and reached his maiden Grand Slam final at the US Open (d. Nadal; l. to Federer). He is already assured of his place at Tennis Masters Cup Shanghai for the first time, currently No. 4 in the ATP 2008 Race.
This week has also seen Simon build a strong case for his place at the season-ending finale. The 23-year-old Nice native came into Madrid at No. 12 in ATP 2008 Race. He will now move to No. 9 in the ATP 2008 Race, within six points of No. 8 Juan Martin del Potro, and become the No. 1 Frenchman.
Madrid Photo Gallery
Dunblane native Murray becomes the first British player to win two ATP Masters Series titles, as Tim Henman (2003 Paris) and Greg Rusedski (1998 Paris) both won one each. The right-hander is also the first player to win back-to-back titles at ATP Masters Series Cincinnati and Madrid (since 2002).
Murray now joins an exclusive list of players to have won at least two ATP Masters Series titles in a season over the past five years:
2008 — Rafael Nadal 3, Novak Djokovic 2,
2007 — Rafael Nadal 3, Novak Djokovic 2, Roger Federer 2, David Nalbandian 2
2006 — Roger Federer 4, Rafael Nadal 2
2005 — Roger Federer 4, Rafael Nadal 4
2004 — Roger Federer 3, Marat Safin 2
It is the Scot’s seventh overall ATP title and fourth of the season. Murray, who also triumphed at Doha (d. Wawrinka), Marseille (d. Ancic) and Cincinnati, becomes just the third player this season together with Juan Martin del Potro (4) and Rafael Nadal (8) to win four ATP titles. He is the first British player to win four titles in a season, eclipsing Mark Cox who captured three in 1975.
Categories: Sport Tags: Andrew Murray, Bouches-du-Rhône, Cincinnati, David Nalbandian, Doha, Gilles Simon, Greg Rusedski, Île-de-France, Juan Martin del Potro, Madrid, Madrid Photo Gallery, Marat Safin, Mark Cox, Marseille, Paris, Qatar, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Sport, tennis, Tim Henman, US Open
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