Hewitt loses in an epic against Nalbandian.

David Nalbandian saved two match points as he won an epic contest against home hope Lleyton Hewitt at the Australian Open. The Argentine prevailed 3-6 6-4 3-6 7-6 (7/1) 9-7 in a classic contest lasting four hours and 48 minutes. The clash, a rematch of the 2002 Wimbledon final, was clearly the pick of the first-round ties when the draw was made and it lived up to expectation. It was a rollercoaster affair. Hewitt took the first set but Nalbandian appeared to be in control when he won the second and immediately opened a 2-0 lead in the third. However, the Australian stormed back by winning eight of the next nine games to open a two-sets-to-one lead with an early break in the fourth set. The see-saw nature of the match continued though as Nalbandian levelled the set before sweeping through the tie-break to force a decider. The Argentine broke Hewitt in the third game of the final set and stepped up to serve for the match at 5-4.

But with the clock well past midnight, Hewitt, roared on by those fans who had stayed to see the finish, managed to break back and stay alive. Hewitt, who beat Nalbandian 10-8 in a fifth set at the 2005 Australian Open, saved two break points in the following game and then held match points in game 12 as the atmosphere on Rod Laver Arena reached fever pitch. However, a superb half volley from Nalbandian saved the first before a nerveless volley snuffed out the second chance. Former world number one Hewitt again staved off break points as he moved 7-6 ahead. Hewitt, who is now down at 54 on the ranking list, again found trouble on serve at 7-7 though and lost the game to love, gifting it away with a double fault. Nalbandian managed to serve out int he following game and the quality of the fifth set was summed up by the superb lob the 27th seed produced to seal victory well past 1am local time.


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