Lleyton Hewitt and David Nalbandian are two players well past their primes who always seem to be involved in the longest and grueling matches of the year. The year 2011 was no different, and these two men met in the first round of the Australian Open. As soon as the draw was released, every tennis fan knew this would be one of the best matches of the opening round. Hewitt puts on a show every time he is on the court, and Rod Laver Arena seemed to be the perfect venue for another classic.
This match was the last scheduled of the night, and it would be the only thing on TV in Australia when it finally finished. Hewitt came out very strong and dictated play from the baseline. Both of these veterans are baseline players who try to wear down opponents and take advantage of every possible opportunity. After a 40 minutes of entertaining play, the crowd went wild as Hewitt gained the early advanatge with a 6-3 first-set victory. Nalbandian responded the way a veteran is supposed to, and he was able to even the match with dominating forehands and serves. The completion of this second set validated the belief of many people that this match would not be ending anytime soon. The Australian crowd started to really play an important role in the match, and this seemingly favored the Aussie veteran, Hewitt.
The third set started very similarly to the first. Both players were jumping around the court and giving it everything they had on every point. This set was again very closely contested, but Hewitt again gained the advanatge by winning the set 6-3, just as he had the opening set. The beginning of the fourth set made it evident that if Hewitt was going to win, it was going to in this set. Nalbandian seemed to hear this same message, as he came out firing. This back and forth set was full of surprises, and teh crowd was really starting to sense how impressive this match was starting to become. The crowd was even more delighted at the end of this set, as Nalbandian dominated a tiebreak to force even more tennis.
The fifth set of this instant classic was played into the wee hours of the morning, and neither player seemed ready for it to end. Each changeover beccame the only time for either player to relax and take a deep breath. Nalbandian and Hewitt had put everything they had into this match, and the crowd was really starting to appreciate the effort of both veterans. Once the match's fifth set reached 6-6, this first-round clash became a battle of attrition. The end finally came when Nalbandian served out the set 9-7 following a break of Hewitt's serve, which came on a double fault. After nearly five hours of breath-taking tennis, David Nalbandian had outlasted the hometown favorite Lleyton. The pure emotion displayed in this match made it my favorite match of the year 2011.