Among Australia's largest second-round cast at Wimbledon since the turn of the century there is one common presence. His name: Lleyton Hewitt. The last of the survivors from 1999 remains an accomplished - a passionate - grasscourter in 2014, and Tuesday's first-round win at the All England Club was his 13th.
Hewitt has beaten far more celebrated opponents here than world No.120 Michal Przysiezny, but at the age of 33, in what is likely to be his final competitive visit to the All England Club, any win will do. Hewitt prevailed 6-2, 6-7 (14-16), 6-1, 6-4 to book a follow-up against 15th seed and 2013 semi-finalist Jerzy Janowicz on Thursday.
"it doesn't get any better than playing out here in this tournament,'' Hewitt said later. "Physically I've come through a few things over the last couple of years with surgeries ... but it's all worth it out here.''
Only thrice in his his 16 visits to the All England Club has Hewitt stumbled at the first hurdle, and in 2002, of course, he won the title in comprehensive fashion against the now-retired David Nalbandian. There are only four other former champions in the men's draw, and the one in Hewitt's quarter is seven-time winner Roger Federer, who accounted for Paolo Lorenzi in far brisker fashion, 6-1, 6-1, 6-3.
Statistically, everything about the Hewitt-Przysiezny contest had screamed grasscourt mismatch, for the second most successful active player (behind Federer) boasts a 121-37 career record on the specialist surface compared with the Pole's 4-5. Seven of his 29 career titles have come on grass.
That superiority was evident during an outstanding first set from Hewitt, who won 16 of the first 21 points to bolt to a 4-0 lead, and, after 27 minutes and 6-2, was landing an uncommonly high 76 per cent of his first serves, with a ratio of 13 winners to just three unforced errors.
But the match tightened up - as perhaps did Hewitt, as his service level dropped away - in the second. His frustrations became evident during a marathon tiebreak in which he castigated his footwear ("so slippery, these shoes") and his large entourage (''Are you for real? What do you want me to do?") before losing 16-14 after failing to convert seven set points.
Still, the South Australian was able to reassert himself in the third set, and close out a lengthy fourth against the persistent Pole, who had dropped his previous 13 matches at tour-level and six of his 10 grand slam first rounds, but did cause Hewitt some uncomfortable moments over the course of more than three hours.
"I came out really being aggressive at the start, and played a great first set, and then it's always tough because you've got to start again. I had a couple of break points at the start of the second set... and he served really well from then,'' Hewitt said.
"After having ups and downs in the second set, mentally getting back on at the start of the third was really important. He sort-of had a little bit of a lapse and I started getting onto his serve again. Yeah, that was kind of the turning point after that,'' Hewitt said. "Fitness-wise I felt fine. Not a worry. I think it was just over three hours. But felt I could have kept going.''
The story Lleyton Hewitt prevails in four to enter second round at Wimbledon first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.