Melbourne - Former world number one Lleyton Hewitt defeated an ailing Gael Monfils 7-5 6-3 to win the invitational Kooyong Classic in Melbourne on Saturday and take a timely shot of confidence into next week's Australian Open.
Hewitt appeared in great touch to wrap up the match in 89 minutes, but the 12th-ranked Frenchman was clearly restricted in his movement and grimaced repeatedly when chasing down returns on a steamy day at Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club.
Monfils said in the lead up to the tournament he had struggled to recover from a knee injury in the wake of France's Davis Cup final loss to Serbia last month, but it was a back problem that afflicted him on Saturday.
"I felt something," Monfils told reporters. "I hope it's not major. That's why I took it easy in the end. I started to feel it more but I think it should be okay."
Twice Grand Slam champion Hewitt, coming back after three months off to recover from a hand injury, will take heart from three successive victories at Kooyong, where he also beat Russians Nikolay Davydenko and world number 10 Mikhail Youzhny.
"It's as good as I could have done," Hewitt told reporters. "The last two weeks I've done everything possible for me.
"I feel like my game is where I wanted it to be 10 weeks ago and physically I feel good, which is a good thing.
"We feel like we've done the best preparation possible," he added.
The 29-year-old's ranking has drifted to 54 but he is adamant he still has the game to trouble the top players at Melbourne Park.