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Hewitt Calls All the Shots, Dominates Men's Final

Wimbledon: Punctuating many strokes with a yell, he beats Nalbandian, 6-1, 6-3, 6-2, in most lopsided title match since 1984.

July 08, 2002|LISA DILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WIMBLEDON, England — The tennis wheel of fortune kept spinning and landed on a different name, and a new winner emerged at every Grand Slam event, starting at Wimbledon 2000.

Eight events yielded eight winners. What ever happened to plain old domination?

The answer came through loudly Sunday at Wimbledon. If you couldn't see Australian Lleyton Hewitt's full-scale baseline assault on newcomer David Nalbandian of Argentina in the final, well, it probably could be heard outside the grounds. Even when Hewitt was far ahead in a 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 victory, he punctuated punishing shots by yelling, "Come on!"

The top-seeded Hewitt recorded his second Grand Slam title, a bookend for his U.S. Open championship in September. It was the most one-sided victory in the final since 1984, when John McEnroe defeated Jimmy Connors, 6-1, 6-1, 6-2. It was the first singles title for an Australian since Pat Cash won in 1987 and climbed into the stands. Hewitt watched Cash's victory as a 6-year-old at his grandparents' house.

Hewitt, 21, repeated Cash's gesture and his journey into the Friends' Box was about as effortless as his 1-hour 57-minute victory against the 20-year-old Nalbandian, who was making his first appearance on Centre Court in his Wimbledon debut.

"I had no idea what I was going to do if I won," Hewitt said. "I sort of went back to my chair. Then I thought, 'Stuff it, I'll go and do it.' It's been 15 years since an Aussie won. I spoke to Pat [Cash] before and after the match. He was one of my favorite players when I was growing up, the headband and everything, the way he showed the fire out there."

Patrick Rafter, who lost in the final the last two years, called Hewitt to wish him luck and "to do it for Australia." Cash was there in person, doing TV commentary.

"It was faultless," Cash said. "He [Nalbandian] just didn't have anything left in the tank and Lleyton was his usual ruthless self. There was nothing that was going to get in his way."

It was the Argentine's first grass-court tournament as a professional, and his jitters and Hewitt's baseline consistency combined to produce a lackluster final.

It said something that a streaker dashing across Centre Court early in the second set and evading officials for several minutes, even hopping the net, was the most dramatic action. The crowd laughed but the security breach was yet another in a series of lapses at the tournament.

Nalbandian was irritated, calling it "terrible," that security took so long to get the intruder off the court. Hewitt's agent, Tom Ross, was displeased, saying: "It's disgraceful that it happened."

Whether it was a streaker or two rain delays, little seemed to bother Hewitt. He had a special sense about this Wimbledon several months ago. "I just had a feeling," he said. "There's something about it. I couldn't have said that I was going to do this well. I could have bombed out in the first round. There was something that was drawing me."

Because of the many upsets in the tournament, Hewitt had to beat only one top-10 player, Tim Henman, which was in the semifinals. Now comes another question: How many Grand Slam titles can Hewitt win?

"It's tough," said Australian Todd Woodbridge, who won the doubles with Jonas Bjorkman. "Ever since I've known Lleyton, he's gone better than I ever thought he could do.

"I think he's a four-to-six-Slam winner. It's just a matter of keeping fit, the drive and motivation he has. He's just a freak really in a way. People like Lleyton come along every 15, 20 years."

Hewitt's coach, Jason Stoltenberg, talked about his emergence after the lack of domination.

"For him to win a second Slam ... he's won two of the last four Slams and that's something else, especially in today's game," Stoltenberg said. "And the way this tournament was heading, you were starting to wonder whether we were going to have another one. We put that to an end. It was his day, his tournament."

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