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Mahut Fights Past Hewitt In Newport Final

Newport, U.S.A.

Mahut © Kate Whitney LuceyNicolas Mahut wins his second title of the 2013 grass season.

French wild card Nicolas Mahut came back from the brink of defeat to capture the title at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships, prevailing against 2012 finalist and No. 4 seed Lleyton Hewitt 5-7, 7-5, 6-3 on Sunday afternoon in Newport. 

“When you want to win a final, everything can happen. I just can’t believe it’s true,” said Mahut, who earned $78,000 and 250 Emirates ATP Ranking points as the champion. 

The Frenchman, who will move back into the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings on Monday, won his first ATP World Tour title last month on grass at the Topshelf Open (d. Wawrinka). 

“A month ago I was playing to make the cut for the qualies at the US Open, I was [ranked] 240 with some points to defend. I told my coach, I have to play great on grass to make the cut for the qualies. A month later I have two titles,” he said.

Hewitt had a chance to serve out the match at 5-4 in the second set, but Mahut reeled off three straight games to keep his title hopes alive. After dropping serve in the third game of the decisive set, Mahut drew level at 3-all. He broke Hewitt again to go up 5-3 and served out the victory at love after two hours and 20 minutes, becoming the first Frenchman to win the Newport title since Fabrice Santoro in 2008. Santoro had also won the title in 2007 with victory over Mahut in the final. 

Hewitt had been looking to win his first tour-level title in three years. The former World No. 1 and 2002 Wimbledon champion dropped to a 7-2 mark in grass-court finals. 

Both players contested their semi-final matches Sunday morning, with rain washing out play Saturday. Mahut dismissed Michael Russell in 63 minutes, and Hewitt followed by rallying past two-time defending champion John Isner in two hours and 10 minutes, preventing a rematch between Wimbledon’s marathon men.

“It was a long battle this morning,” said Hewitt. “It was tough on both of us. In the end I got the better of John. It was going to be pretty wearing for either of us coming back-to-back this afternoon.

“If I could’ve had a day off and come back and played the final, I reckon things would’ve been different. All in all, it was a good week.”

The meeting between the 32-year-old Hewitt and 31-year-old Mahut was the second 30-over final this season, and a total of 10 tournaments have been won by players aged 30 and over.

Mahut continued his marathon day at Newport by teaming up with countryman Edouard Roger-Vasselin for a 6-4, 7-6(4) win over fourth-seeded Brazilians Marcelo Demoliner and Andre Sa in the doubles semi-finals. The No. 2 seeds will face Americans Tim Smyczek and Rhyne Williams for the title on Monday at 10:30am.

“It’s always easier to come back onto court after wins,” he said. “You know I can play a long time, I can stay a long time on the court.”

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© Ben Solomon

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