Hewitt soldiers on, Tomic claims biggest win

London: Lleyton Hewitt proved he is not quite ready to hand over the baton in Australian men`s tennis as he used all his years of grasscourt know-how to beat 21-year-old Japanese Kei Nishikori in four sets.

The 30-year-old former Wimbledon champion, who has fallen out of the top 100 after a series of debilitating injuries, moved into the second round at the All England Club with a 6-1, 7-6, 6-7, 6-3 win which he celebrated by falling to his knees.

Ferocious competitor that he is, Hewitt`s best day`s are clearly behind him but 18-year-old Bernard Tomic offered plenty of cause for optimism Down Under when he beat former world number three Nikolay Davydenko -- his first win at Wimbledon and arguably the best of his career.

"I`m really happy. I wasn`t happy when they pulled my name to play him in the first round, but the way I played was really good," the highly-rated qualifier Tomic told reporters after his 7-5, 6-3, 7-5 victory over the 29th-seeded Russian baseliner.

"I`ve got a lot confidence off that match. I can`t wait for my next round. If you win the first one, if you beat a seed, things open up for you."

While Tomic, the youngest player in the men`s draw, can look forward to locking horns with another Russian, Igor Andreev, on Thursday, Hewitt will be icing his aching foot in readiness for a clash with fifth seed Robin Soderling.

Hewitt has battled back from two hip operations but he looked like missing out on a 13th Wimbledon when a foot injury flared up at the Wimbledon tune-up in Eastbourne last week.

Despite being in constant discomfort, however, the former world number one who Wimbledon great Pete Sampras once said had "the best wheels in tennis" rolled back the years to produce some brilliant tennis to move two sets up.

Nishikori threatened a comeback when he won a third set tiebreak but Hewitt, cheered on by his yellow-clad army of chanting fans out on Court 12, dug deep to carve out a 104th career grasscourt victory, the most of any active player.

"Very satisfying, considering what I`ve been through," was Hewitt`s verdict at a news conference. "Mentally and physically what I`ve had to go through to try and even get on the court.”

"I think everyone knows if it wasn`t Wimbledon, I wouldn`t be out there. I`d be obviously looking after my body a bit more. You know, this is what I play for."

Australia`s Davis Cup coach Pat Rafter, who 10 years ago lost an epic Wimbledon final to Goran Ivanisevic, watched both Hewitt`s and Tomic`s victories and will be encouraged for the forthcoming World Group qualifying tie against China.

With an old stager still scrapping and a young gun beginning to emerge better times could be on the way for one of the sport`s most successful nations.

Bureau Report

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