The first set was vital for Hewitt, without it he was going to get steam rolled against the huge hitting Soderling. Soderling fed off Hewitt’s pace and anything that dropped short had the cover smacked off it. Hewitt did well to stay with Soderling who had the advantage of serving first but as the set wore on his first serve percentage dropped below 50%.
At 5-6 Hewitt somehow managed to get himself out of trouble despite the fact that he was desperate for a first serve. Thanks to some tight errors from Soderling and some great varied play from Hewitt it was Lleyton who somehow got the first set point in the tiebreak and made no mistake, converting as Soderling sent another ball long.
By 2-1 Hewitt had only hit 4 unforced errors in the match as it became evident that Soderling, under the Hewitt pressure, was struggling to construct points. At 3-2 Hewitt had two break point chances, the product of wayward forehands from Soderling and Hewitt’s stubborn refusal to allow his opponent get any rhythm.
In the eight game Hewitt managed to win the first point of Soderling’s service game for the first time in the match and quickly found his way to two more break point chances. A huge serve from Soderling look to have saved the day as he pummeled a ball cross court. Hewitt’s instincts took over and he hurled himself on the ground, hitting a winner as he somersaulted across the court, taking a moment before he realised he’d pulled off possibly the shot of the year.
With his first serve still MIA Hewitt struggled to close out the set but changed the pace enough to irk the Swede and take the second set 6-3.
In the sixth game of the third set, Soderling having settled into a better rhythm on his forehand, put pressure on Hewitt to hold. Lleyton responded by throwing himself on the ground again to pick up a volley and create a blinding winner.
Despite the brilliance Hewitt was still being crippled by his first serve percentage which gave Soderling the chance he needed to break and take the third set 7-5 instead of finding himself in another tiebreak. Unfortunately for Hewitt the break meant Soderling would have the advantage of serving first in the fourth set.
As Soderling’s confidence grew his game plan changed and he seemed to have the edge and started mixing the play to disrupt Hewitt’s rhythm in much the same way as the Australian had done in the first two sets. Soderling slowly overwhelmed the former Wimbledon champ to force a fifth set despite more flying volleys.
As soon as Soderling took the fourth set there was a feeling that Hewitt would have one last push left in him but that it might not be enough to combat the free points Soderling was quickly gathering on serve.
Hewitt was immediately at a disadavantage being without his usual match fitness have been in a foot cast after surgery just 9 weeks ago. Soderling seemed more relaxed, thinking his way out of trouble where he would normally just have tried to power himself out of danger.
In the second game Hewitt, desperate to fire himself up and create something, found himself with triple break point but again the big serving for Soderling saved the day. Finally, with a loud “C’mon” Hewitt broke for 2-1 lead. By the time Hewitt had finished celebrating (well, not quite) Soderling had broken back.
With Soderling again serving first Hewitt struggled to keep up, finally giving up his serve, and with it, to love. The crowd applauded the efforts of Hewitt and wanted him to win but his lack of match fitness and poor first serve percentage proved to be the difference.