- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 4, 2009

It has been five years since Lleyton Hewitt won the Legg Mason Classic, but his victory Monday night against 20-year-old wild card Donald Young showed he expects to be around the rest of the week.

Hewitt, a former world No. 1 and Wimbledon and U.S. Open Champion, dispatched the lefty 7-5, 6-2 in his first match since losing a five-setter to Andy Roddick on the grass in London last month.

“It’s always hard, the first match after a few weeks off,” said Hewitt, who said he was still getting used to the higher bounce on hard courts. “It’s nice to get through in straight sets.”

Hewitt is ranked 42nd in the world, largely because of a five-month absence after hip surgery last year. With no ranking points to defend for the rest of 2009, he expects his ranking to shoot up.

In Young, Hewitt faced a player who has been viewed as a future star among American men. A former top junior, Young has struggled since joining the senior circuit despite being praised for his quick feet and deft net play.

“He’s very talented but probably hasn’t filled his potential just yet,” Hewitt said. “It’s a big step up from juniors to seniors, and he’s probably grown a bit in the last couple years. He gets to a lot of balls, but he probably plays the big points not so well still.”

In Monday night’s other marquee match, 2007 finalist John Isner beat Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan 7-6 (8), 6-3, continuing a good run of hard-court play this summer after missing nearly two months fighting mononucleosis. Isner, who stands 6-foot-10 and relies on a heavy serve, will face third-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France in the second round.

UVa product advances

Somdev Devvarman’s first full year on the ATP Tour has been a challenge. But the University of Virginia graduate and two-time NCAA singles champion continued his strong play in the District by advancing to the second round with a 6-0, 7-6 (6) win against Yuichi Sugita of Japan.

Devvarman made a surprise run to the quarterfinals of this event last year but has since endured a difficult year on tour, traveling around the world to play mostly in Challenger circuit events. His victory Monday was his first main-draw ATP Tour win since the India native reached the finals of the event in his hometown of Chennai in January.

“Obviously it’s been challenging,” Devvarman said. “You learn a lot, because you take a lot of losses on tour. That’s definitely different from my college experience, but I feel like I’ve been dealing with it well.”

Hard-fought battle

Perhaps the match of the day came during the afternoon session when Yen-Hsun Lu of Tapei and American Michael Russell battled for nearly three hours. Lu prevailed 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 in a match with long, topspin-aided rallies and heavy counterpunching.

Despite being ranked 117th in the world, Russell attracted a loud contingent of fans. He has been a fan favorite since serving for the match but falling in the fourth round of the French Open against two-time defending champion Gustavo Kuerten in 2001.

Kendrick stumbles

American Robert Kendrick appeared on his way to an easy victory against Mikhail Youzhny of Russia. But after winning the first 12 points and taking a 5-2 lead in the first set, he let Youzhny come back for a 7-5, 3-6, 6-1 win.

It was a difficult first-round draw for Kendrick. While he is ranked 74th in the world and Youzhny is 65th, the Russian is just 18 months removed from being ranked in the top 10.

Best and the rest

The Washington Tennis & Education Foundation held its annual pro-am Monday night. Several top players, including Ivo Karlovic, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Daniel Nestor, played alongside such notable tennis hacks as radio host and political analyst Mark Plotkin and former Louisiana Senator John Breaux.

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