Enquirer News Update   -   Updated 6:40 p.m.

Hewitt bounced from Tennis Masters

Wimbledon champ Federer narowly avoids upset

By Joe Kay
The Associated Press

MASON - Lleyton Hewitt lost his composure and his first-round match today, falling to Xavier Malisse 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 in the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters at the Lindner Family Tennis Center.

Roger Federer
(Gary Landers photo)
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Scott Draper
(Gary Landers photo)
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The fourth-seeded Hewitt became angry at himself and swiped his racket in frustration as Malisse took control early in the third set and held on for his first victory over a Top 10 player this year.

Wimbledon champion Roger Federer narrowly avoided a first-round upset earlier in the day, saving seven match points before defeating Scott Draper in three sets.

Federer, ranked No. 2 behind Andre Agassi, rallied for a 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (10) victory over a qualifier who never has been ranked higher than No. 42.

"I've improved coming from behind this year," said Federer, the tour's second-leading money winner. "That's something that you have to do when you're on top."

Other seeded players advanced much easier. No. 2 Juan Carlos Ferrero beat Nikolay Davydenko 6-0, 6-2, and No. 8 Rainer Schuettler beat Stefan Koubek 6-2, 7-5.

Feliciano Lopez of Spain beat ninth-seeded Paradorn Srichaphan 6-7 (1), 6-4, 7-6 (5).

Malisse, who has been matched against Top 10 players in five of his last six tournaments, played with much more energy after he broke Hewitt's serve to take control of the second set.

"I held my serve and started to feel a lot better," he said. "At 4-2, I just started to believe that I could get to the third set and anything can happen."

Hewitt looked sluggish and was in trouble after losing serve to open the final set. He angrily smacked a backhand into the net in the third set, when Malisse broke him again for a 3-0 lead.

"The last few weeks, it's been a little bit up and down," said Hewitt, who said his legs felt tired.

Malisse, a Wimbledon semifinalist last year, sensed a difference in Hewitt after he got behind.

"He made a lot more mistakes than he usually does," Malisse said. "If you lose a couple of matches, your confidence goes down a little bit. Everybody does that."

Federer managed to regroup and make tough shots as he repeatedly faced first-round elimination. He fought off two match points in the 12th game of the third set, then fell behind 6-2 in the tiebreaker before pulling even with Draper.

"I threw the kitchen sink at him," Draper said.

Federer wasted three match points before a double-fault by Draper gave him another chance to close it out. Draper, a qualifier ranked No. 114, returned the second serve long to finish it.

"I played well on the match points," said Federer, who won his tour-best 58th match of the year. "It wasn't his mistakes. I played well at the end and deserved to win."

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