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Nalbandian Saves 2 M.P. In Late-Night Hewitt Win; Soderling Aims For Better Showing

Melbourne, Australia

Soderling© Getty ImagesRobin Soderling also reached the second round in 2004 and 2009.

David Nalbandian narrowly avoided a first round exit at the Australian Open early Wednesday morning when the Argentine No. 27 seed saved two match points in the fifth set to beat former World No. 1 and 2005 runner-up Lleyton Hewitt 3-6, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(1), 9-7 in four hours and 48 minutes.

Hewitt led Nalbandian 3-1, 0/40 in the fourth set and had two match points at 7-6 in the 93-minute decider. Nalbandian broke Hewitt's serve with a sliced passing shot and held his nerve to close out the pair's sixth meeting at 1:07 a.m. local time.

Nalbandian, 29, had his best result in 2006 when he reached the semi-finals (l. to Baghdatis). He plays 20-year-old Richard Berankis in the second round.

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"It was the kind of matches that nobody can forget it," said Nalbandian. "I think we played a very intense tennis today. We both fight until the very end. I have a day off tomorrow - or today (smiling). I am going to do all the things necessary to try to recover, to be ready. These kind of matches give me a lot of confidence, as well."

Hewitt, 29, has gone beyond the fourth round just once in 15 appearances at Melbourne Park. "It's disappointing to come so close and fight for so long and not able to quite get the win tonight," said Hewitt. "The bar's always getting raised by the top guys. If I can stay fit and healthy and play a full calendar, then hopefully I can get better as the year goes on."

Fourth seed Robin Soderling equalled his best performance at the Australian Open by reaching the second round early on Tuesday. The Swede needed just over 90 minutes to beat Potito Starace of Italy 6-4, 6-2, 6-2, hitting 12 aces and 47 winners. 

"Winning in straight sets, it's a very good start," said Soderling. "I struggled a little bit in the first set, but I think after that I played better and better. I'm not fearing anyone, but at the same time I fear all. I know that when I play well, I can beat everyone. I think it's a matter for every player, even the best players, that they really have to stay focused every match. For me that's the most important thing."

Soderling, who has reached at least the quarter-finals at the other three major championships, won one match at Melbourne Park in 2004 (l. to Escude) and 2009 (l. to Baghdatis). He lifted his seventh ATP World Tour title at the Brisbane International (d. Roddick) nine days ago.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the No. 13 seed and 2008 finalist, recovered from a two-sets-to-love deficit for the second time in his career to defeat talented German Philipp Petzschner 4-6, 2-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 in three hours and 15 minutes during the night session.

Tsonga, who reached the Qatar ExxonMobil Open semi-finals (l. to Federer) in the first week of the 2011 ATP World Tour season, improved to a 16-4 record in Melbourne.

France's Michael Llodra, the No. 22 seed, hit 66 winners past Juan Ignacio Chela in a 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 win over the Argentine in two hour and 23 minutes. Llodra will next face Canadian Milos Raonic, who struck 27 aces past Bjorn Phau of Germany for a 7-6(3), 6-3, 7-6(8) win.

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