Roger Federer skidded and fell to the ground before recovering to beat Lleyton Hewitt 4-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 and extended his U.S. Open winning streak to 37 matches by reaching the fourth round.
Federer was serving, ahead 4-2 and 40-love in the first set, when he proceeded to spray shots all over Arthur Ashe Court, losing five straight points on the way toward dropping the first set. He committed 23 unforced errors in the first.
“I just had to believe that I could still turn this around,” Federer said. “And with the great streak I have against him, I knew that if I could get back into the match then I could get back on a roll, because I’ve done it so many times against him.”
Even when he looked to be cruising to the victory in the closing set, up 5-2 and getting ready to serve out the match, he got broken. All that did was extending the match a few more minutes, though it did nothing to quash the notion that Federer was not on top of his game on this day.
“You know how good he can play when he’s on and you try to take advantage of those small opportunities when they come,” Hewitt said. “You’re not going to get a lot, obviously.”
Hewitt, who has lost 14 straight to the top-ranked Swiss player, is one of the few out there who knows what it’s like to beat Federer - regularly.
He won eight of the first 10 meetings in this series, but that was years ago, before Federer started winning Grand Slam tournaments with regularity, and before Hewitt started enduring hip problems that dropped him out of the top 100 before his more recent resurgence.
Federer is trying to become the first player to win six straight titles in New York since Bill Tilden in the 1920s.