Re: Next tournament : Rome
Hewitt avoids tragic hotel fire
Lleyton Hewitt was due to arrive at the five-star Parco dei Principi in Rome just hours after fire ripped through the luxury hotel, killing three people and forcing the evacuation of many of the world's best tennis players.
The blaze started about 5am on Saturday (local time).
Andy Roddick helped guests out of harm's way. Thailand's Paradorn Scrichaphan received an urgent phone call from his father, who was staying on a different floor, telling him to get outside. Marat Safin's equipment was destroyed. Dutchman Sjeng Schalken had to be plucked from the roof by a firefighters' crane.
An American man attempted to escape his fifth-floor room by jumping off his balcony using a rope made of bed sheets. He fell to his death.
Hewitt had been expected to book into the hotel later that day, the manager of the Parco dei Principi told AAP. Instead, Australia's former world No.1 and other players were directed towards the nearby Sheraton.
The hotel manager said Hewitt's Davis Cup teammate Mark Philippoussis had not been booked in at the Parco dei Principi. Hewitt and Philippoussis are in Rome for the Italian Open, which starts on Monday.
Two Canadian guests also died, but Association of Tennis Professionals spokesman Nicola Arzani told AP that no players were hurt.
She said several of the "really scared" players were evacuated and stood outside for several hours until they were taken to the nearby Austrian Embassy. Max Mirnyi was wrapped in a blanket, wearing only a pair of shorts. The players were allowed back to the hotel to retrieve belongings.
"Roddick helped people onto the roof," said Arzani.
"Several of the players had a real fright. I talked to a few of them this morning and I know that Safin, his trainer and his girlfriend were quite shaken up. A lot of people lost equipment. Safin lost a lot, he couldn't practice."
Schrichaphan's father and coach, Chanachai, left his room so quickly he left behind his luggage and passport, which were destroyed.
"I was awakened by noises but didn't bother about it until I smelt smoke in my room," he told Thailand's The Nation newspaper.
"When I opened the door, I saw fire, so I grabbed a towel to cover my mouth and rushed to the lobby.
"Paradorn was sleeping when I called him to get downstairs."
The Canadian couple died from asphyxiation, investigators said. The deceased 58-year-old American man's wife reportedly used the emergency staircase and escaped unharmed.
A minute's silence for the three victims was held before qualifying matches began.