at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Newport, United States – Former world number one Lleyton Hewitt defeated second seed Ivo Karlovic 6-3, 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (7/3) Sunday to win the $474,000 ATP Hall of Fame Championships.
After runner-up finishes the past two years, Hewitt finally captured the Hall of Fame title, although it took a 2 1/2-hour battle after the Australian faltered while serving for the match in the second set and squandered two match points on Karlovic's serve.
Third seed Hewitt took the $81,500 top prize in windy conditions for his 30th career ATP title, his second of the season after a January crown at Brisbane, and an eighth career ATP grass-court championship.
It was a breakthough triumph for Hewitt after falling to US star John Isner in the 2012 Newport final and to Frenchman Nicolas Mahut last year.
Hewitt, now 8-2 in ATP grass-court finals, had been 7-0 in such matches before dropping those matches.
Karlovic, 35, and Hewitt, 33, met in the oldest ATP final showdown so far this season and the oldest since the event was first staged in 1976.
In the third set, Hewitt never managed a break point but denied Karlovic three times on break points to force a final tie-breaker, which ended with the Aussie taking five of the final six points, the last when Karlovic send a forehand long.
Hewitt, who has undergone five surgeries in the past five years to continue his career, broke the Croatian in the ninth game to claim the first set in just 33 minutes.
Karlovic took only 5-of-17 second-serve points while Hewitt dropped only three points on his serve in the opening set.
Hewitt, ranked 12 spots below his rival at 43rd in the world, exchanged early breaks with Karlovic in the second set.
In the eighth game, Hewitt smashed a crosscourt backhand winner in front of Karlovic broke for a 5-3 lead and served for the match.
But in the same situation he faced a year earlier when he lost, Hewitt faltered again, double faulting two points from the title and then missing a backhand to surrender a break.
Hewitt managed two match points on Karlovic's serve in the 12th game, but they were saved with a service winner and an ace, setting up the tie-breaker in which Karlovic won the last three points to force a third set.
Karlovic lost for a third time in his third final of the year, having fallen to Japan's Kei Nishikori at Memphis in February and German Philipp Kohlschreiber in May at Dusseldorf.
Karlovic has not won an ATP title since claiming the fifth of his career last July in Colombia, which ended a win drought of more than five years.
Hewitt, the 2001 US Open and 2002 Wimbledon champion, won for the second time in six meetings with Karlovic, who notably eliminated the Aussie defending champion in the first round at Wimbledon in 2003.
Hewitt turned the tables by beating Karlovic in the first round of the 2009 French Open, his only win in the rivalry until Sunday.– Sapa-AFP