Washington: Lleyton Hewitt made an emotional and dramatic US Open farewell Thursday, eliminated by Australian compatriot Bernard Tomic in his final match at the site of his first Grand Slam title.
Rallying from two sets down to grab two match points in the fifth set, Hewitt could not convert and eventually fell to Tomic 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 5-7, 7-5 after three hours and 27 minutes.
"He`s a huge legend for me," Tomic said. "I always looked up to him. It was difficult to play him. It was very emotional for me.
"A lot of people think he`s a great legend -- what a privilege it was tonight for me."
The first career meeting between the Australian Davis Cup teammates, which Hewitt dubbed "awkward," marked Hewitt`s last match on the Flushing Meadows hardcourts, the 34-year-old from Adelaide having announced he will retire after next January`s Australian Open.
Eliciting the roars that became trademarks of his glory days and with his son Cruz and Aussie players Thanasi Kokkinakis and Nick Kyrgios watching, Hewitt broke Tomic at love for a 6-5 lead in the fourth set and held with his 15th ace to force a fifth set.
Hewitt grabbed three break points in the seventh game as the crowd roared. Tomic rescued the first two but swatted an errant forehand well long and wide to put Hewitt ahead and Hewitt held at love for a 5-3 edge.
Hewitt had two match points in the ninth game but a Tomic forehand winner and netted Hewitt backhand erased them.
With the match on his racquet, Hewitt netted consecutive forehands to surrender a break, Tomic quickly held to 6-5 and Hewitt promptly fell behind 15-40 after a forehand shot hit the net cord and fell on his side.
Hewitt answered with an overhead smash to erase Tomic`s first match point but Tomic smacked a forehand winner down the line on the next for the victory.
By ousting his boyhood hero and Davis Cup teammate, Tomic advanced to a third-round match against French 12th seed Richard Gasquet.
Tomic served for the match in the third set but the intensity of the moment helped Hewitt push him to the brink of defeat.
"It`s so difficult playing him," Tomic said. "I was serving for the match at 5-3 and I was so nervous. When it turned around I was so nervous. I tried my best. It could have gone both ways."
On a Grandstand court itself destined for the scrapheap after this year to make way for a renovated Louis Armstrong Stadium, Hewitt was dominated in the first two sets but battled back.
Hewitt broke back to level at 2-2 in the third set and fans cheered, "There`s only one Lleyton Hewitt," to help will him back into the contest.
Tomic sent consecutive forehands long to hand Hewitt a break and a 5-3 edge in the third set and Hewitt held to claim the set with his 11th ace.
The loss was Hewitt`s first to a countryman in a Grand Slam event. Overall he stands 2-1 in such matches and 31-9 all-time against fellow Aussies.
Hewitt added the 2002 Wimbledon crown to his 2001 US Open triumph. He has won 30 titles in all and could help power the Aussies to a Davis Cup title this year.
Hewitt helped rally Australia from a 2-0 hole to advance and reach a semi-final at Britain later this month.
Tomic, the Aussie number one at a career-high 24th in the rankings, reached the US Open third round for the first time after four second-round exits. The 22-year-old has won three ATP titles, most recently this year at Bogota.