MELBOURNE, Australia — Well, it was not the spitting image of Hewitt-Chela, Part I.
First of all, the winner was different: Unseeded Juan Ignacio Chela of Argentina survived cramps and a partisan crowd Thursday, defeating third-seeded Lleyton Hewitt of Australia, 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (8), 6-2, in the second round at the Australian Open.
Last year, Hewitt beat Chela in the third round in a fiery night match, marred when Chela spat in Hewitt's direction, making for one interesting photo to see over breakfast the next morning. Chela, who said he was not spitting at Hewitt, was fined nonetheless.
The highly awaited rematch was considerably tamer. Hewitt lacked his usual sound and fury, hobbled by an injured left ankle, which required treatment. He committed 62 unforced errors.
Chela kept the crowd mostly out of it until the third set, and came close to pulling off the upset in straight sets, saving seven set points in a roller-coaster, 18-point tiebreaker.
The Argentine said it was the "biggest" victory of his career. Hewitt, who recently married and had a child, hasn't seemed quite the same player in 2006, and has not advanced past the quarterfinals in three events.
Coincidence? Those questions will probably come later. Here, the focus was on the slow court speed at the Open, and Hewitt continued to hit that point hard. He has gone past the fourth round only once in 10 trips here and that was in 2005 when he lost to Marat Safin of Russia in the final.
"I don't think there's been a lot of homework done how the balls play on this surface for some reason," Hewitt said. "It's bouncing a lot higher and playing a lot slower even this year from last year.... It could be slower than the French Open."
He wasn't quite done, later taking another shot at Open officials: "I feel like I'm fighting with people that we should be working together to make Australian tennis better. I know Flip [Mark Philippoussis] feels exactly the same way. I know Wayne [Arthurs] feels the same way. I really don't know when some of these people are going to wake up to themselves."