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Hewitt ends long wait for title

LLEYTON Hewitt held on to win his first tournament in two years with a 6-2, 7-5 victory over Wayne Odesnik of the United States in the US Men's Clay Court Championships in Houston on Sunday.

The former No. 1-ranked Hewitt won his 498th career match and moved closer to joining Roger Federer and Carlos Moya as the only active players with 500 or more victories.

The 28-year-old Australian also won his first clay court tournament since he took the Delray Beach tournament in 1999. He failed to win a tournament last year for the first time in his career while recovering from hip surgery.

"This is what all the hard work is for, to play weeks like this and have this kind of feeling at the end," Hewitt said. "It makes going through the surgery and all the hard work worth it.

"It's a big day to win a clay court event. I feel every year I'm getting better on clay. Now I'm looking really forward to the French Open - With a good draw I think I can do some damage there."

Hewitt took a 3-0 lead in the second set without much opposition from Odesnik, who was making his first ATP final. The American rallied by breaking Hewitt in the fourth game of the second set, then withstanding five break points to hold his serve in the fifth.

"Clay is a tough surface to close players out," Hewitt said. "I was playing great tennis up to that point, but he's a tough player and he doesn't give you any cheap points out there. He makes you work for all of them. I felt I was able to put pressure on him up to that stage. Even though he got back in that second set every game he won, I had game points. It could easily have been 6-1 in the second set."

Odesnik broke Hewitt two more times for a 5-3 lead in the second set. Then his serving problems returned and he was broken after three break points in the ninth game and again in the 11th game. Hewitt won on the first match point on Odesnik's forehand error.

Hewitt didn't need the extended match that took 2 hours, 3 minutes. Rain had already caused a 1 hour, 25-minute delay at the start. Hewitt hoped to still catch a flight to Monte Carlo, where he is scheduled for a first-round match today.

"I might miss the flight now," he said. "It's going to be hard now but this is the why I came here, to win the tournament. Obviously playing Monte Carlo is a bonus but right now my focus has been on winning this tournament. Now I'll start worrying about next week."

Hewitt won a trip to his first clay court final in a decade with a 7-6 (4), 6-4 victory over Evgeny Korolev of Russia in the semifinals.

Hewitt failed to win a tournament in 2008 for the first time since he turned pro in 1998. He ended 2008 ranked No. 67 and currently is No. 88.


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