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Federer, Hewitt take marathon routes to victory

Email|Print| Text size + By Paul Alexander
Associated Press / January 20, 2008

MELBOURNE - Roger Federer took his time about this one - needing 4 1/2 hours and five sets to advance at the Australian Open.

Lleyton Hewitt took things a step further. The Aussie set a record for the latest finish for a day's play at a Grand Slam. He beat 2006 runner-up Marcos Baghdatis, 4-6, 7-5, 7-5, 6-7 (4-7), 6-3, completing the match at 4:33 a.m. local time today.

Hewitt and Baghdatis went on court at 11:47 p.m. yesterday, the last scheduled match at Rod Laver Arena on Day 6, and Hewitt ripped a forehand winner on his fifth match point 4 hours 45 minutes later.

There was never a letup in the tension, starting when Federer was forced to rally before outlasting 49th-ranked Janko Tipsarevic, 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (7-1), 5-7, 6-1, 10-8, to reach the fourth round of the tournament he has won the last two years.

That pushed back the night session two hours.

Venus Williams beat Sania Mirza, 7-6 (7-0), 6-4, in the first night match. Then Hewitt was up two sets to one and 5-1 in the fourth when things started to go wrong. He wasted one match point in the eighth game of that set and three more in the ninth game of the fifth before he broke Baghdatis to finish off the day.

"It wasn't easy for both of us. Obviously, an incredible day of tennis. For Roger Federer to go five sets, how often does that happen?" Hewitt said. "It's tough for everyone. Marcos and I are in the same boat."

Hewitt next plays No. 3 Novak Djokovic, who beat American Sam Querrey, 6-3, 6-1, 6-3. Djokovic, the US Open finalist, is Serbia's highest-ranked player.

Tipsarevic, who never has reached a singles final, could be closing the gap on him after playing the match of his life and giving Federer everything he could handle with the packed crowd screaming on every point.

"I went on court with the idea that I can win," the Serbian said. "I was close. I lost because he was better in the important moments of the match."

Federer needed 39 aces to fend off the 2001 Australian Open junior champion.

James Blake, seeded 12th, came back from down two sets, then from a double break in the fourth before beating veteran Frenchman Sebastien Grosjean, 4-6, 2-6, 6-0, 7-6 (7-5), 6-2.

"That's got to be my biggest comeback," Blake said. "Couldn't have been a better feeling."

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