March 22, 2002

Hewitt Crowned Pacific Life Open Champion

By J. Fred Sidhu

After finishing 2001 as the number one player in the world, Australia's Lleyton Hewitt came down with the chicken pox and lost in the first round of the Australian Open in January.

Following his recovery, the 21-year-old is back on track to defending his number one ranking after winning his first Tennis Masters Series trophy at the Pacific Life Open last Sunday at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Hewitt played nearly perfect tennis in defeating Tim Henman of Great Britain, 6-1, 6-2 in one of the most lopsided finals in tournament history.

"It's nice to finally win a Masters Series event," Hewitt said following the match. "I worked extremely hard, put in a lot of hours on the court in my backyard when I was able to pick up the racquet again after a few months off. To come out and play the way that I have, be mentally tough out there with the fitness level back again, it's a great feeling."

Henman tried practically every kind of tactic against Hewitt. All attempts ended without success. The Englishman tried to stay on the baseline and rally with Hewitt, but could not keep up with the speedy Australian. He tried to serve and volley only to watch Hewitt pass him time and again.

It was difficult to pick out a strong point in Hewitt's game. His return of serve was so strong, Henman could only hold service once during the match, which took one-hour and 21-minutes to complete.

"I felt like I was in a good rhythm, seeing my returns and feeling it out there," Hewitt said. "I didn't give him any chance on his service game. I was sort of taking it away from him a little bit out there."

Hewitt's exceptionally quick footwork also came into play as he tracked down many of Henman's shots.

Henman, who usually hits his share of winners, could only muster seven winners against the speedy Australian, while committing 30 unforced errors.

"He's setting the standard in a number of areas," Henman said. "Whether it's returning or whether it's foot speed around the court, I think those two stand out."

For Hewitt, the victory over Henman capped an incredible week of tennis at Indian Wells.

Hewitt lost only one set in the tournament as he defeated Carlos Moya, Andrei Pavel, Jan-Michael Gambill, Thomas Enqvist and Pete Sampras. He lost the first set against Pavel, but came back to win the match.

"He's playing phenomenal tennis," Henman said.

Hewitt received a check for $392,000 for his victory.

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