Lleyton Hewitt has suffered a heavy first-round US Open defeat to complete the worst grand slam season of his celebrated 18-year career.
Powerhouse sixth seed Tomas Berdych had too many guns, ousting Hewitt in straight sets on the very court where it all began for Australia’s former world No.1.
Berdych’s 6-3 6-4 6-3 victory at Flushing Meadows will inevitably cast doubts over Hewitt’s playing future after a miserable 2014 at the four majors.
The 33-year-old’s only grand slam win this season came against world No.120 Michal Przysiezny at Wimbledon.
In addition to his early US Open exit, Hewitt also crashed out in the first round at Melbourne Park and Roland Garros.
It’s been 13 years since Hewitt dismantled the great Pete Sampras in straight sets at Arthur Ashe Stadium to land the first of his two grand slam trophies and pave a path to the No.1 ranking he held for 80 weeks.
The now world No.41 also made the final in New York a decade ago, falling to career-long rival Roger Federer.
But the baseline warrior was no match for Berdych on Wednesday.
Berdych is certainly no mug.
He is a former Wimbledon runner-up, 2014 Australian Open semi-finalist and two years ago destroyed Federer’s flawless record under lights at Flushing Meadows.
Hewitt, though, will be disappointed to have wasted a 4-1 second-set lead and to have also have been broken three times in the third set to allow the sixth seed to complete a comfortable win.
Berdych took the opening set after claiming the only break in the fourth game.
Hewitt broke Berdych’s opening service game in the second set, released his first customary “come on” and fist pump and seemed to be on his way.
But from 4-1 up, Hewitt won just two more points on serve for the set.
He was broken to love in the seventh game, then double-faulted on game point down in the ninth game and missed three break-point chances on Berdych’s serve in between.
The world No.7 took a stranglehold on the match with a booming forehand winner to close out the second set.
Berdych closed out the match with a scorching forehand winner after two hours and 18 minutes to book a second-round date on Friday with either Slovak Martin Klizan or Belgian qualifier Steve Darcis.
Hewitt will now switch his focus to Australia’s Davis Cup World Group playoff against Kazakhstan in Perth.