Published July 12, 2012
NEWPORT, R.I. – Lleyton Hewitt is finding the grass courts of Newport to his liking.
Hewitt defeated Dudi Sela of Israel 6-4, 6-3 Thursday to advance to the semifinals at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships. It marked his second straight-set victory in three matches.
Hewitt will play for Australia in the London Olympics at the All England Club in a few weeks.
"It worked perfectly to come here before I go back to London and get ready for the Olympics," he said. "Any time I get an opportunity to represent Australia, it means a lot. I've done it in terms of Davis Cup, but the Olympics is a little bit different. To be able to play on grass, which is my favorite as a tennis player, is going to be great."
Wild card Ryan Harrison beat fellow American Jesse Levine 6-3, 6-4 to advance to the quarterfinals, while German Benjamin Becker ousted Canadian Milos Raonic 6-3, 6-3.
The 31-year old Hewitt, the No. 1 player for 75 consecutive weeks from 2001-03, has had five surgeries in the past four years. He entered the week ranked a career-low 233 on the ATP tour.
He said his most recent operation on his left foot, which required a fusion with screws, was the toughest to overcome.
"It's been good. I wasn't sure what to really expect this week coming back to playing after having 4 1/2 months off," he said. "It was probably my toughest rehab to get over — the foot surgery. I had a couple of rough draws at Queens and Wimbledon (this year). It was nice to be able to get some rhythm this week and play my game. I feel like I've been getting better as every match went on."
In the other quarterfinal match, No. 2 seed Kei Nishikori of Japan was upset by American Rajeev Ram, the 2009 Newport champion, 7-6 (6), 6-3.
Ram will face Hewitt on Saturday after Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.
"Lleyton is someone I grew up watching on TV," he said. "I respect him a lot."
The tourney, the only one held on grass in North America, is played in conjunction with Hall of Fame inductions. Jennifer Capriati heads the 2012 class.
Defending champion John Isner faces Izak Van Der Merwe in one quarterfinal on Friday.