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LONDON - For somebody who has lost his last 11 matches against Roger Federer and has a sore hip, Australian battler Lleyton Hewitt is amazingly upbeat about their fourth round clash at Wimbledon today.
Hewitt, who won Wimbledon in 2002 before Federer's five-year domination began, has already gone further than his 20th seeding spot this year.
"This is what you play for. There's no doubt about it," the 27-year-old told reporters when looking ahead to his 21st professional meeting with a player he first locked horns with when they were juniors.
"These are the matches I enjoy. It's good to get out there and play against the best player in the world."
Hewitt, the dominant force in men's tennis when he won the 2001 US Open and Wimbledon a year later, has not been to a grand slam quarterfinal for two years yet is still feared as one of the toughest competitors on the circuit. Federer himself is a big admirer of Hewitt, the only other man in the draw to have won Wimbledon.
"It's always a challenge playing Lleyton. He's a great player, a guy I really enjoy watching as well. He's a great competitor," the Swiss, who has looked serene so far as he chases a sixth consecutive Wimbledon title, said.
"We go back a long time. We played when we were 15 for the first time against each other. I saved match point and won in the end. So we go way back.
"I think it's an intriguing match for both of us. It's been a while, but at the same time he knows what it takes to win slams. I think Lleyton Hewitt definitely believes very strongly in his chances."
Whatever Federer says publicly, it would be a huge shock to rival anything seen so far at this topsy-turvy championships if Hewitt hustled the champion out today. Federer can do everything Hewitt does and plenty more besides.
While the Swiss can call on tennis from another galaxy at times, Hewitt's no-frills game is as rugged as the great Australian outback. - Reuter