LLEYTON HEWITT lined up a clash with five-time champion Roger Federer in the last 16 of Wimbledon after disposing of Italian Simone Bolelli yesterday.
The Australian flew out of the blocks following a rain delay to claim the opening two sets at a canter, and though the 22-year-old Bolelli showed more aggression in the third set, Hewitt came through in the tie-break to win 6-1 6-3 7-6 (7/2).
Hewitt, the only man other than Federer in the men’s draw to have won the tournament, will now take on the Swiss number one in a mouth-watering clash.
Asked how he would treat the match with Federer, Hewitt said: Obviously you treat it a bit different to other matches. In the last five years, no-one has been able to get it right — Rafa (Nadal) has got close but no-one else.
“I am going to have to play extremely well. Is that my absolute best? I don’t know, it depends how he plays as well.
“Serve and return on grass are two huge keys. If I can serve well and take any half-chances I have a chance.”
For his part, champion Federer admitted he felt he had something to prove as he cruised into the second week of the tournament.
Federer overcame a slow start after the first rain delay of the fortnight to defeat France’s Marc Gicquel 6-3 6-3 6-1 in just 81 minutes on Centre Court, his 62nd straight win on grass.
By Federer’s high standards, it has been a poor season, a bout of glandular fever contributing to just two tournament wins and he suffered a hammering from Rafael Nadal in the French Open final.
Asked if he had something to prove, the 26-year-old said: “To myself maybe, yeah. I always like to win all the tournaments. It doesn’t happen all the time because it’s not possible.
“But playing at Wimbledon creates extra pressure because it’s what’s closest to my heart. I wish someday my career ends here in a way, because it’s the most prestigious tournament we have.
“That alone creates pressure, so I want to prove it to myself I can do it.”
Federer has a 13-7 win/loss record against Hewitt, including the last 11 in-a-row and two victories at Wimbledon — a 2004 quarter-final and 2005 semi-final.
“I’ve definitely played well against him the last times I’ve played him,” Federer added. “It’s always a challenge playing Lleyton.
“He’s a great player, a guy I really enjoy watching as well. He’s a great competitor. We played when we were 15 for the first time, I saved match point and won in the end.
“Especially here, him being a former world number one, former champion here, I think it’s an intriguing match for both of us.”
Federer and Hewitt were joined in the fourth round by 22nd seed Fernando Verdasco, the Spaniard beating 11th seed Tomas Berdych 6-4 6-4 6-0.
Also through to the last 16 is former semi-finalist Marcos Baghdatis, an equally convincing winner over German qualifier Simon Stadler, the 10th seed recording a 7-6 (7/2) 6-4 6-2 victory on Court Two.
The Cypriot will face Spain’s Feliciano Lopez after the left-hander defeated American Bobby Reynolds 6-4 7-5 4-6 6-4. Former semi-finalist Mario Ancic sent another seed packing from the tournament when he beat number five David Ferrer 6-4 6-4 6-7 (5/7) 7-6 (7/3) in the final match on Centre Court.
The Croatian made the last four in 2004 and quarter-finals in 2006 but missed Wimbledon last year with glandular fever.
He also broke a small bone in his shoulder late last year and sat out January’s Australian Open with a stomach virus.
He said: “I was looking forward to playing on Centre Court.
“That was my dream. I’m so, so happy I’m back again.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved