LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - Former world number one Lleyton Hewitt beat Austrian Juergen Melzer 6-4 7-6 to win the Las Vegas Open on Sunday, his first tournament victory in eight months.
The Australian came back from 4-1 down in the second set and saved four set points before winning an epic tiebreak to clinch his 26th career title, making amends for his defeat by American James Blake in the final 12 months ago.
“It is a big win,” world number 20 Hewitt said in a courtside interview. “After the U.S. Open last year I didn’t play until the Australian summer, this year. I had to take the whole indoor season off and that was rough, not only for me and my rhythm for tennis but also mentally and trying to get back.
“This week I really wasn’t expecting a whole heap, after pulling out of Marseille and Rotterdam (with a hamstring injury) so it’s really great to have an early win here in Vegas.”
After trading early breaks, world number 31 Melzer tested Hewitt with a variety of shot-making, but the Australian snatched the first set by breaking in the 10th game when Melzer missed a simple smash.
Melzer broke in the second game and held the advantage until 4-2 when a series of errors allowed Hewitt to get back on serve.
The second seed saved a set point at 5-6 with a solid smash and three more in the tiebreak as he recovered from 6-4 down to win it 12-10 on his fourth match point when Melzer netted a forehand.
Hewitt became only the second man, after American Andre Agassi, to win the Las Vegas title three times and he has now won an ATP Tour event in each of his 10 years as a professional.
“It was a close second set,” Hewitt said. “I was down an early break and had to fight hard to get back into it and definitely didn’t want to give it away.
“He played some of his best tennis when he was down and in that tiebreak, he really took it to me, so it was just nice to hang on in straight sets.”
Melzer said he should have forced the match into a third set.
“Being in the final is nice but you want to win it,” he said, after losing to Hewitt for the fifth time in five meetings.
“I had enough chances at least to take it to a third set. I didn’t take them — some of them maybe a little unlucky, some of them I choked.
“Compared to the other matches I played against Lleyton, this was my best one. I changed tactics, played a bit slower, which is completely the opposite of my normal game, and did not rush.”
The Austrian is projected to rise to a career-high ranking of 27 when the new list is released on Monday.
“Overall, when I wake up tomorrow morning or in two days, it’s a great week,” he said. “To be in the finals is always nice, but today is disappointing.”