Lleyton Hewitt found another gear when he encountered trouble Wednesday night, and that’s all the Australian needed to pull away in his second-round match at the Mercedes-Benz Cup.
Top-seeded Hewitt, looking closer to the form that made him the No. 1 player in the world throughout 2002, needed only 71 minutes to overwhelm wild-card Michael Joyce, 6-3, 6-0, at the Los Angeles Tennis Center at UCLA.
Joyce had broken Hewitt’s serve to forge a 3-3 tie in the first set, but Hewitt quickly regained control by breaking serve, on his way to winning the last nine games.
“I felt like I took my foot off the pedal a little bit at stages, but then again to go from three-all to win nine games straight, I felt like I was in total control,” Hewitt said. “It was important [to break Joyce at 3-3]. I just tried to play more percentage tennis.”
Hewitt was most pleased with the improvement in his serve. He had 14 aces, after getting only five in the first round against Cecil Mamitt.
“I felt like I had a lot better rhythm out there,” Hewitt said. “It set up my whole game a lot better. It put a lot of pressure on [Joyce’s] service game, because he wasn’t really getting into too many of mine.”
Hewitt will play Kevin Carlsen of Denmark in the quarterfinals Friday. Carlsen advanced with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over former USC player Prakash Amritraj.
For the second year in a row, Nicholas Kiefer of Germany is making himself at home in Los Angeles. He upset third-seeded Sjeng Schalken of the Netherlands, 6-4, 6-4, and afterward talked about how he enjoys playing here.
“It’s a great place,” said Kiefer, who teamed with Sebastien Grosjean to win the Mercedes-Benz doubles title last year. "[You’ve got] Sunset Boulevard. We went to the Playboy mansion. There are a lot of different things to do here. I like it, but it’s too far away from Germany, so I can’t live here.”
Kiefer’s victory was not much of a surprise. He had defeated Schalken in straight sets in their two previous matches.
“It helps if you know you’ve beaten this guy already,” he said.
Kiefer said he felt good about overcoming the heat, humidity and a tenacious opponent to advance to the quarterfinals Friday against eighth-seeded Vincent Spadea, who beat Jan Vacek 7-5, 2-6, 6-2, in Wednesday’s late match.
“It’s never easy against Sjeng because he comes back every time, he never gives up,” Kiefer said. “In the middle of the second set I saw that he was getting a little more tired. I tried to play long rallies and keep him running, and it helped.”
In today’s most intriguing match, fifth-seeded Mark PhiIippoussis, riding the momentum from his runner-up finish at Wimbledon, will play sentimental favorite Michael Chang. It will start after the noon match between fourth-seeded Gustavo Kuerten and former UCLA player Eric Taino.
Chang’s victory over Zach Fleishman late Tuesday marked only the third time in nine events this year that he had won in the first round.
“I think any win I can get from here on out is a good win for me,” said Chang, 31, who will retire after the U.S. Open. “It’s nice to be able to get through the first round.”
Chang realizes he’ll be a heavy underdog against the 6-foot-4 Philippoussis.
“It’s not going to be an easy match,” Chang said. “Obviously, he is coming off a high from being in the Wimbledon final.”
Staff writer Gary Klein contributed to this report.