November 17, 2002
Hewitt Goes Back-to-Back
By Bill Scott
Lleyton Hewitt concluded another ATP dream season in awesome style Sunday, defeating Spain's Juan Carlos Ferrero 7-5, 7-5, 2-6, 2-6, 6-4 to lift his second straight title at the $3.75 million Tennis Masters Cup.
The victory added more luster to the 21-year-old standout's career as he finished No. 1 again after doing it a year ago in Sydney. But it was not without drama, as Ferrero mounted a mid-match charge which threatened to spoil the tiring Hewitt's afternoon.
After two breaks apiece in the final set, Hewitt scratched into winning position as he held with a ace for 5-4. A game later, he ended the tense showdown in Shanghai with a winning topspin lob which Ferrero could not touch.
Hewitt ends the year with five titles, his second straight top ranking and total prize money of $3.7 million, which includes $1.4 for his performance in China's largest city.
A capacity crowd of nearly 10,000 watched the world-beater end his week in emphatic style.
His prize packet also includes a fully-equipped Mercedes CLK320 to be delivered to his home in Adelaide. Hewitt will perhaps have to add an extra space in the garage of the home he is building on the city's waterfront for his newest set of wheels.
Ferrero's defeat leaves Alex Corretja (Hanover, 1998) and Manuel Orantes (Houston, 1976) as the only Spaniards to win the season-ending championship. Ferrero moved to fourth place in the ATP Champions Race by reaching the final and will become the first Spaniard since Sergi Bruguera (1993-94) to finish in the Top 5 in consecutive seasons.
Hewitt began the campaign to close out his 61st win of the season as he showed his resilience after dropping serve in the seventh game of the opening set to trail 3-4.
He quickly got the break back to square it at 5-all. Ferrero then began to fade in the face of the Australian's attack, losing the set as Hewitt profited from a return long off the Spaniard's racket.
The Australian quickly seized the swinging momentum, staking a claim on the second set with a break in the second game. That raised the challenge for Ferrero, who broke back in a fifth game filled with spectacular rallies and duels from the baseline.
Showing the power that has characterized his game all week at the year-end event, Hewitt grabbed a two-sets margin as he pounced on a Ferrero double-fault which produced two set points for the Australian.
The first was saved, but Hewitt snapped up the second with a winner.
It was all Ferrero in the third and fourth sets as the accumulation of a long season perhaps began to show in Hewitt's legs. By early in the fifth set, the Australian had notched 60 unforced errors.
But he soldiered on into a make-or-break fifth set, littered with breaks in the first three games. The Australian got it back on court with a break-back for 3-all after a volley duel.
Hewitt then marched to victory and immediately announced the good news to girlfriend and WTA Championships winner Kim Clijsters in Belgium in an on-court mobile phone conversation as the pair celebrated a trophy double at year-end events.