The following appeared on Rafa’s site yesterday:
Rafa respects and admires Lleyton Hewitt It goes back to the Davis Cup final between Australia and Spain in 2000. Inside a seething arena called Palau Sant Jordi, Hewitt scrapped and clawed his way through two thunderous singles matches on clay while a 14-year-old kid, having carried the Spanish flag into the opening ceremony, sat courtside with his jaw to the floor in awe. The kid was Rafa.
Hewitt has no recollection of Rafa being there, but the current world No. 1 watched every point as Hewitt (19 then) fought his way past Albert Costa in five sets on day one.
Thanks to the wonder of YouTube and our fellow tennis-loving crazies who post there, you can see some footage of that match and get an idea on why Hewitt made an impression on Rafa. You can even see (if you look very hard), Rafa carrying and then holding the flag in this video.
Today, nine years later and with the arch of their careers are in very different places, Rafa and Hewitt met in the 3rd round of Roland Garros. A former world #1 himself, Hewitt’s been fighting to find his place on a tour that seems to be passing him by (hip surgery last year certainly didn’t help). They do still have some things in common – a love of the battle and strong will to win. Neither of which were going to be enough for Hewitt to overcome Rafa who started out strong and just kept going. Rafa’s through to the fourth with a score of 6-1 6-3 6-1.
|1st Serve %||76%||61%|
|1st Serve Points Won||38/50 (76%)||26/46 (57%)|
|2nd Serve Points Won||10/16 (63%)||9/29 (31%)|
|Return Points Won||40/75 (53%)||18/66 (27%)|
|Break Points Conversions||7/13 (54%)||1/3 (33%)|
|Winners (including service)||24||18|
|Net Approaches||4/7 (57%)||14/24 (58%)|
|Total Points Won||88||53|
|Fastest Serve Speed||204 KMH||202 KMH|
|Average 1st Serve Speed||182 KMH||179 KMH|
|Average 2nd Serve Speed||139 KMH||145 KMH|