An expected thriller failed to materialise as Australian Open fan favourite Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus was forced to retire in his third round match against Australia’s Leyton Hewitt.
The forfeit has handed Hewitt an automatic berth into the fourth round where the Aussie will line-up against 2004, ‘06 and ‘07 Australian Open winner Roger Federer, an opponent who Hewitt has not beaten in their previous 14 meetings.
Baghdatis had been hampered by cramps earlier in the tournament but had told reporters that he was the fittest he had ever been after his five-set comeback against Spaniard David Ferrer which lasted over four hours on Thursday.
“I was feeling the pain when I wanted to hit the ball on the impact,’’ Baghdatis said after the match.
“When you do that, then you stop moving, everything goes wrong because you’re just thinking about the pain and not the forehand and the serve.’’
Hewitt effortlessly wrapped up the opening set 6-0 against Baghdatis whose usual tennis weapons were rendered completely impotent given his injury.
The usually efficient Baghdatis made an incredible amount of unforced errors very early, a sign that he was hardly at full potential.
His usually strong serve barely troubled Hewitt who cleanly returned everything back to the Cypriot.
After dropping his serve in the second set to trail 4-2, Baghdatis conceded the match, lasting just 54 minutes and 12 games. He won just 21 of 67 points, failing to hit a winner in the entire 21-minute first set.
The near-capacity crowd was naturally disappointed by the sudden and unexpected ending to the match, but none more so that Baghdatis who immediately left the court after an embrace and a few words with Hewitt.
“He just said he was obviously feeling it in his serve a little bit… his shoulder,” Hewitt said of the quick chat after the match. “He just wished me good luck.”
The 54 minute match was a far cry from the epic that Baghdatis and Hewitt had enjoyed in 2008, a match which is regarded by local fans as one of the all-time great Australian Open matches.
Then, the third round match had lasted four hours and 45 minutes and is the latest recorded Grand Slam finish (the match finished at 4.34am).