London - Lleyton Hewitt suffered a frustrating farewell to Queen's Club as the
four-time champion squandered a match point in a 6-7 (5/7), 7-5, 6-2
defeat against South Africa's Kevin Anderson on Monday.
embarking on a prolonged goodbye tour before retiring after next year's
Australian Open and he was hoping for one last hurrah on his final visit
to the Wimbledon warm-up event.
But the injury-ravaged
34-year-old, making his 16th Queen's appearance, is ranked 100 places
below the big-serving Anderson and he was unable to bridge that class
gap in a hard-fought first round clash.
After failing to serve out
the match in the second set, Hewitt allowed Anderson to wriggle out of
trouble and the world number 17 eventually coasted through to a second
round tie against French Open champion Stan Wawrinka or Australian
youngster Nick Kyrgios.
"I've loved playing here for so many
years. It's one of my favourite tournaments of the year outside of the
majors," Hewitt said.
"It was special to come back. Knowing it was
going to be the last one, as well. I've played so many big matches in
front of big crowds here over the years.
"For most of the first two sets I played pretty well out there.
don't think it will be that emotional the rest of the year. I'm
fortunate because not many people in sport get to go out on their terms
and so far it looks like I'll be able to do that."
Becker, John McEnroe and Andy Roddick have won Queen's as often as
Hewitt, who made his debut here as a brash teenager in 1998 and claimed
the last of his titles in 2006.
Despite his success in this
manicured corner of west London, the most recent of Hewitt's two Grand
Slam titles came way back in 2002 at Wimbledon and he has spent the
latter part of his career battling to overcome a series of debilitating
injuries, including having a metal plate inserted into the toe of his
His ranking has slipped down to 117 as a result and a
fifth defeat in his six matches in 2015 suggests he is limping rather
than sprinting towards his career finish line.
Granted a wildcard
by nostalgic tournament organisers, Hewitt did his best to roll back the
years and, although he couldn't convert five break points in the first
set, he did just enough to take the tie-break.
saving a break point in the second game of the second set, Hewitt was
back on the offensive and he broke for a 4-3 lead when Anderson tamely
netted a backhand.
But crucially he couldn't convert a match point when he served for the win at 5-3 and Anderson broke back.
proved the turning point as the South African reeled off four
successive games to take the set before overpowering the fading Hewitt
in the decider.
While his farewell hadn't gone to plan, Hewitt was
still given a standing ovation by the packed Centre Court crowd, which
included his wife Bec and assorted members of his family.
Richard Gasquet became only the third Frenchman in the Open era to win
400 singles matches after defeating Italian qualifier Simone Bolelli
6-1, 6-2 in the first round.
The world number 19, who was back in
action for the first time since his French Open last-16 exit against
Novak Djokovic, joins Yannick Noah (476) and Fabrice Santoro (470) in
the select group of Frenchmen to reach 400 victories.
28-year-old is one of 13 active players to have won at least 400 matches
and his reward for reaching that notable landmark is a second round tie
against Canadian third seed Milos Raonic or British wildcard James
Results from the first day of the ATP Queen's Club tournament on Monday (x denotes seeding):
Fernando Verdasco (ESP) bt Roberto Bautista (ESP) 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7/4)
Richard Gasquet (FRA) bt Simone Bolelli (ITA) 6-1, 6-2
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (ESP) bt Pablo Andujar (ESP) 7-6 (7/3), 6-2
Kevin Anderson (RSA) bt Lleyton Hewitt (AUS) 6-7 (5/7), 7-5, 6-2