Tennis: Seppi outlasts Hewitt in five-set thriller

Italy's Andreas Seppi endured a more than four-hour epic in sizzling heat before finally overcoming a stubborn Lleyton Hewitt and a partisan Australian Open crowd on Tuesday.

The five-set thriller was played in temperatures that touched 42 Celsius (107.6 Fahrenheit) with 24th seed Seppi emerging a 7-6 (7/4), 6-3, 5-7, 5-7, 7-5 winner in a draining four hours and 18 minutes.

It ended a typical Hewitt fightback and shattered his dream after a build-up that saw him beat Roger Federer in the Brisbane International final and Andy Murray in an exhibition.

"It was a really tough match. I struggled at the beginning of the third set with cramp in my hand," said Seppi who overcame the heat as players on other courts wilted.

"I don't know how I played five sets but you have to keep going against Lleyton because he is such a fighter. I just tried to focus on my game."

Hewitt looked dead and buried after going two sets down, but buoyed by a vocal crowd on Rod Laver Arena he battled back to take the next two to set up a pulsating decider.

The veteran Australian even had a match point at 4-5 in the fifth but Seppi fired an ace to stay alive and gained the decisive final service break when Hewitt pushed a forehand wide.

There was no way back for the 32-year-old as the Italian held his nerve to close out victory.

"Every Grand Slam loss is tough, there's no easy ones," said Hewitt, in his 18th consecutive Australian Open appearance.

"Obviously if you come close to winning, even though it's a first-round match, it's still frustrating."

Despite the gruelling match, Hewitt still plans to push ahead with doubles on Wednesday when he will partner Pat Rafter, who is coming out of retirement to play.