Lleyton Hewitt knocked out of Brisbane International by Denis Istomin
LLEYTON Hewitt rates his early Brisbane International exit as a minor glitch, rather than a calamity, as he builds towards the Australian Open.
The Australian's progress was yesterday stopped in straight sets by world No.43 Denis Istomin on Pat Rafter Arena.
Istomin, a tall right-hander from Uzbekistan, appeared to have Hewitt's measure from the outset.
He was never hurried nor rattled by the local favourite, using his powerful and reliable serve to keep Hewitt on the back foot.
Yet Hewitt says he is confident of his chances this summer, which continues next week at the Kooyong Invitational.
"Throughout the first set, I felt like a better player," Hewitt said after the 7-5 7-5 loss.
"He served well on the big points and hit the ball extremely clean. It could have gone either way."
Hewitt said he failed to take his chances against Istomin, who is coached by his mother Klaudiya.
But Istomin did not hand him many. Every time Hewitt challenged him in the first set, Istomin motored out of trouble with 200km/h serves or perfectly placed passing shots.
Istomin hit three aces and 14 winners in the opening set to establish the upper hand.
Hewitt, finally fit and healthy after a battling a toe injury, kept on counter-punching.
His best chance to seize and retain momentum came midway through the second set when he saved three break points to hold serve.
Each winner was followed by his trademark pump of the fist and a loud "c'mon".
The former world No.1 broke Istomin, but the languid Uzbek regathered his rhythm and accelerated past the South Australian.
"It was one of those matches where I just tried scrapping around there and hang in for as long as I could," Hewitt said.
"It's nice that I can put myself in a position where I can feel good and play match after match.
"But it's frustrating when you have chances, and feel like you're in a match, and you don't come away with a win."
Hewitt said experiencing the tough situations in Brisbane would prepare him well for Kooyong where world No.7 Juan Martin Del Potro is the highest-ranked player in a field that also includes Milos Raonic and No.9 Janko Tipsarevic.