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Djokovic Fights Back To Oust Hewitt At Olympics; Plays Tsonga Next

London, England

Djokovic© AFP/Getty ImagesRelief For Novak: The Serbian improved to 6-1 lifetime against Lleyton Hewitt.

Second-seeded Serbian Novak Djokovic was forced to work hard for a place in the London 2012 Olympics Tennis Event quarter-finals on Wednesday.

Djokovic required just under two hours to beat Lleyton Hewitt of Australia 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 on Centre Court, in a match that was interrupted by a brief rain shower. It also kept Djokovic in the battle to regain No. 1 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings.

Hewitt won all 26 of his service points in the 40-minute first set, including one break of serve in the ninth game. The pair exchanged service breaks midway through the second set, as Hewitt kept pace with Djokovic.

“I was trying to focus on my game and trying to see what I could do to get into his serve,” admitted Djokovic. “He was serving really well, with a lot of efficiency. I just needed to step in a bit. That’s what I did [and] I changed the momentum in the middle of the second set when I made a break. Yes, he [broke back], but I felt I got back into the match.”

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The 2008 Beijing Olympics bronze medallist raised his game, hitting nine aces and 16 winners, before he won five straight games from 1-1 in the deciding set. It was Djokovic’s sixth straight win over Hewitt.

“I think he plays his best tennis on grass,” said Djokovic. I have a lot of respect for him. He’s a great competitor. He has shown again that he’s a player that loves to play on a big stage. He loves to play big matches, especially for his country. We all know how much effort he puts into playing the Davis Cup, when he wears the Australian shirt.”

When asked about his form at the Olympics, 31-year-old Hewitt admitted, “It’s been great. I did the right preparation and couldn’t have asked for anything more. Once again at Wimbledon, I’ve lost to a quality player.

“I probably pushed [Djokovic] more here [than at the Australian Open in January]. In a three-set match, it’s obviously a little bit different to five sets, but today I was on top for a good part of the match.”

Djokovic will next play fifth-seeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who defeated Feliciano Lopez of Spain 7-6(5), 6-4 in just 69 minutes.

In a big-serving contest, between two players who feel at home on grass courts, Tsonga hit 13 aces and won 67 per cent of his service points. Lopez struck 17 aces and won 66 per cent of his service points. Tsonga converted one of his three break point opportunities and hit 31 winners.

“It’s going to be a big match [against Djokovic], but it is like every day,” said Tsonga. “I have to win and I have to win for my country.”

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© Ben Solomon

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