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Tennis: Gritty Hewitt downs Russell to end losing streak

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Lleyton Hewitt ended his losing streak as the Australian battled into the second round at Queen's Club with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 victory over America's Michael Russell on Monday.

Hewitt is a four-time champion at the pre-Wimbledon warm-up event, but thoughts of a record fifth crown were some way from the former world number one's thoughts as he arrived on the grass courts in west London.

The 32-year-old is well into the twilight of his career and his lowly 82nd position in the world rankings reflects that diminished status.

His last match was typical of his current troubles as he suffered a frustrating first round defeat at the French Open when he squandered a two-set lead against Gilles Simon.

That was Hewitt's fourth successive defeat and he hadn't tasted victory since the first round of the Miami Masters back in March.

But the former Wimbledon champion put an end to that depressing sequence with a gritty win over Russell to set up a second round clash against Bulgarian 10th seed Grigor Dimitrov or Israel's Dudi Sela.

Hewitt had to save two break points in the sixth game and he was under pressure again as he served to stay in the first set at 4-5.

This time he cracked as a tame forehand into the net on set point gave Russell the lead.

Hewitt responded well to that setback and broke in the opening game of the second set.

At 35, Russell is one of the oldest active players on the ATP Tour. And the world number 97 started to fade after Hewitt saved five break points in the second game to preserve his lead.

Another Hewitt break made it 3-0 and he raced through the rest of the set for the loss of just one game.

Hewitt appeared to have taken complete control with a break in the second game of the deciding set.

A double fault from the Australian gave Russell an instant break back.

But Hewitt kept his composure and landed the knockout blow when a wayward forehand from the American gifted him a 5-3 lead, which he immediately capitalised on by serving out the match.

There was more success for Australia as Hewitt's compatriot Marinko Matosevic clinched a 7-5, 6-2 win over good friend Frederik Nielsen of Denmark.

"Yeah, it is (tough playing a friend)," Matosevic said. "I know Freddie really well. He's a great guy, one of the nice guys on the tour.

"It was a tough first set but the second set was pretty good. I'm feeling good.

"Happy to be off the clay (courts) and on the green stuff. Grass is one of my favourite surfaces."

World number 65 Matosevic, beaten in the French Open first round by eventual runner-up David Ferrer, next plays Spain's Pablo Andujar or France's Michael Llodra.

British wild card Daniel Evans caused a surprise as the world number 277 thrashed Argentina's Guido Pella, who is ranked 75th, 6-3, 6-1.

The 23-year-old then revealed he is determined to win enough matches to become a regular on the Tour because he wants to escape the strict confines of the National Tennis Centre, where many of Britain's most promising players live and train.

"At the NTC, you have to be in bed by 10:30. It's good being 15 again!" said Evans, who plays 13th seed Jarkko Nieminen or America's Ryan Harrison in the second round.

"There is a security guard who comes and checks. That's God's honest truth. They're pretty strict there on the juniors."

Belgian veteran Xavier Malisse set up a second round clash with former US Open champion and third seed Juan Martin del Potro after defeating Spain's Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-4, 5-7, 6-4.

Holland's Thiemo De Bakker earned a clash with second seed Tomas Berdych thanks to a 6-2, 7-6 (7/5) win against Serbia's Ilija Bozoljac.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130610/tennis-gritty-hewitt-downs-russell-end-losing-streak