Injured Hewitt faces Wimbledon fitness race

Eastbourne: Australia`s Lleyton Hewitt made a dramatic mid-match exit while trailing 2-6, 0-3 to Olivier Rochus in his first-round match at Eastbourne on Tuesday.

Hewitt, the former number one and 2002 Wimbledon champion, left the court after 40 minutes of his opening match in the Wimbledon warm-up event.

The 30-year-old has yet to make a successful comeback from spring foot surgery, losing early last week in Halle, Germany, where he was defending the title, and failing to complete his opening match here at Devonshire Park.

The Aussie said he had tweaked his ankle during the quarter-final loss at Halle last week and felt it was useless to go on in the match with Belgium`s Rochus.

He said he played with pain-killers but still felt constant pain.

"It was touch and go whether I`d be able to play here anyway," he said.

"I slipped over last week at the end of the first set against (Philipp) Kohlschreiber (in the Halle quarter-finals) and stirred up the foot that I had surgery on.”

"Since then I`ve just been trying to get treatment. I`ve been talking with the doctors here.”

"It just hasn`t quite improved as much as I would have liked by today, but I wanted to come out and try anyway. I obviously have to focus on Wimbledon now next week."

Hewitt had been having little success in the first-round match, committing 22 unforced errors before calling it quits.

During a change of ends, he walked over to Rochus, shook hands, smiled and walked off court with his bag in front of a stunned crowd.

Hewitt`s former number one ranking of a decade ago now stands at 130th after he fell out of the top 100 in the aftermath of his loss at Halle.

"It`s more stabbing pain the whole time," Hewitt added. "I felt like it was improving pretty well up until last week."

The Australian said he hopes to be fit for Wimbledon, with up to five days left for treatment on the problem.

"It`s frustrating when you know you`ve done all the right things. This is one of my favourite times of the year, playing these grass-court tournaments.”

"So to not be 100 percent and going out there still trying to compete isn`t that easy mentally, either.”

"I`m actually quite happy with my ball-striking at the moment, which is frustrating because my movement is such a big part of my game."

Bureau Report

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