By: J. Fred Sidhu
INDIAN WELLS, CA It was a love match at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden last Sunday as Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt breezed past Gustavo Kuerten of Brazil, 6-1, 6-1 to win the men’s singles championship at the Pacific Life Open.
Earlier in the day, Hewitt’s girlfriend, Kim Clijsters of Belgium, won the women’s singles championship with a 6-4, 7-5 victory over Lindsay Davenport of the United States.
Hewitt, who successfully defended the title he won last year, was nearly beaten in the first round of the tournament as he fought off three match points against Younes El Aynaoui of Morocco before winning 4-6, 7-5, 6-2.
In his third round match, Hewitt was tested again, as he needed three sets to dispatch Argentina’s Guillermo Coria 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-3.
However, once Hewitt reached the quarterfinals, he began playing the type of tennis that made him the number one player in the world and won his last three matches without dropping a set.
“My last three matches I got better and better,” he said. “That’s what you’ve got to do when you get in the quarters. “It’s important to survive those early ones.”
Hewitt added, “I had to survive a couple of early scares early. I got through those tough ones and was able to focus on the bigger matches from then on.”
The victory marked the 19th career title for the 22-year-old Australian, who improved his 2003 match record to 15-1.
In the women’s final, Clijsters won her first Pacific Life Open title by defeating Davenport in one hour and 17 minutes. Clijsters had reached the 2001 final, but lost to Serena Williams in three sets that year.
“I raised my level during the match,” Clijsters said following her victory. “I think that was very important to not give Lindsay that second set and to finish it off in two sets, because I think otherwise it would have been really tough.”
Clijsters, who is ranked third in the world, lost only one set on her to way to winning the title. She has now won 12 WTA Tour career singles titles. Her 2003 match record improves to 21-3.
In the men’s doubles championship, South Africa’s Wayne Ferreira and Yevgeny Kafelnikov of Russia edged the American duo of Bob and Mike Bryan, 3-6, 7-5, 6-4.
Davenport teamed with fellow American Lisa Raymond to win the women’s doubles championship as they defeated Clijsters and Japan’s Ai Sugiyama, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.