Hewitt, Safin Advance In Comebacks

August 16, 2005 08:00 PM

Lleyton Hewitt
MASON, Ohio (AP) --
Lleyton Hewitt shook off the lasting effects of a severe stomach virus, gradually regaining his touch Tuesday as he won a first-round match in the $2.45 million Cincinnati Masters.

The third-seeded Hewitt beat Igor Andreev 6-3, 6-4 on a muggy afternoon that tested his stamina. A week earlier, the Australian had to quit a first-round match in Montreal because of the stomach ailment -- the first time he's ever given up.

"I didn't eat for about four or five days,'' Hewitt said. "So it hit me pretty bad. I felt a little bit awkward the last few days just training, getting back into the routine of things again. I'm definitely a lot better than a week ago.''

Russia's Marat Safin also got back onto the court after a much longer absence Tuesday. The fourth-seeded Safin hadn't played since Wimbledon because of an injured ligament in his left knee.

He opened his match against Jan Hernych with a double fault, and doubled faulted twice while losing the opening game. He eventually got rolling and pulled out a 7-6 (3), 6-4 win.

Safin didn't wear a brace or wrap on the troublesome knee. He moved better as the match went along, getting into a flow when Hernych was serving for the first set with a 5-4 lead. Safin broke him to even it, won the tiebreaker, then broke him again to start the second set.

Steady rain delayed the day's opening matches by 2{ hours, forcing organizers to scramble the schedule. Players who had practiced in 95-degree heat over the weekend were faced with much different conditions -- gloomy, thick air and temperatures in the 70s.

Two seeded players lost their opening matches Tuesday after the long rain delay -- No. 10 Mariano Puerta of Argentina and No. 13 Thomas Johansson of Sweden.

"It's no fun waiting around to see when you're going to play, if the rain's going to stop,'' said Robby Ginepri, who beat Puerta 7-6 (2), 6-1. "I'm pretty thrilled that the day's now finished.''

The wins by Hewitt and Safin left three of the top four players in the second round. No. 1 Roger Federer won his opening match Monday -- his first match since he won Wimbledon -- and second-seeded Rafael Nadal was scheduled to play late Tuesday.

Hewitt expects to be back to full strength in time for the U.S. Open, where he won in 2001 and lost to Federer in the title match last year.

"I always feel pretty comfortable when I get to Flushing Meadows,'' Hewitt said. "I really like the atmosphere and the court surface there. I think the whole tournament really suits my game and my attitude as well.''

Andre Agassi had to pull out of the Cincinnati tournament because his chronic back problem flared up, but hopes to be ready for the U.S. Open. Federer, Hewitt and Safin also are heading into the Open with less time on the court than they'd like -- not that Hewitt thinks it will matter to the favorite.

"Federer is in a class of his own,'' Hewitt said. "I don't think limited matches are going to affect him too much whatsoever. He's played enough big matches, and his record in finals against Top 10 players over the last two years really speaks for itself. I don't think it's really going to cause him a lot of havoc.''