NEWPORT, R.I. (AP) — Australian Lleyton Hewitt took advantage of his second chances to win a title on his third try at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships.
Playing in his third consecutive final on Newport’s grass courts, Hewitt, the No. 3 seed, beat second-seeded Ivo Karlovic of Croatia 6-3, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (3) on Sunday.
“Obviously relief to have finally won here,” Hewitt said. “It’s an important tournament, not a grand slam by no means, but the last three years I’ve come here and put myself on the line and come awfully close the last two years. It was nice to get rewarded today.”
The 33-year old Hewitt captured his 30th career ATP title in a match that lasted 2 hours, 30 minutes.
Hewitt earned the victory mainly because of his success on second serves from the 6-foot-11 Karlovic, winning 36 of 54.
“When he’s making a lot of serves, it’s tough to get into his service game,” Hewitt said. “I think my passing shots and returns are probably as good as anyone out there. In the third set tiebreaker, I returned really well.”
After winning the first set fairly easily, breaking in the third game to take control, Hewitt found himself in a tough second set.
Like last year, when he had a chance to serve out the match for the title, Hewitt was broken in the second set. Hewitt led 5-3 and was up 30-15 in the ninth game before Karlovic broke.
“Even though I didn’t play my best, I was fighting,” said Karlovic, who had 26 aces in the match. “I was trying to turn it around and I was able to do it in the third set.”
Neither player broke in the final set before the match-deciding tiebreaker.
Hewitt broke on the first, fifth and ninth points of the tiebreaker to take control, hitting a backhanded cross just inside the line to go up, 6-3.
“To go up 6-3, I hit a really good return pass,” he said. “You’ve got to do that against him.”
Hewitt then closed it out on serve when the 35-year old Karlovic hit a forehand return long. He dropped to both knees when it ended, raising his fists to the sky before being joined by his three young children.
“Things went well for me, and today was actually special for me to have them there, to be able to enjoy it and remember it,” he said.
Hewitt also was part of a doubles’ title with fellow countryman Chris Guccione later. The pair beat Jonathan Erlich of Israel and American Rajeev Ram, 7-5, 6-4.
Karlovic played in his fourth final this season after he missed a large part of 2013 with an illness. He was hospitalized for two weeks before returning to the tour in Newport last year.
Hewitt earned $81,500 for the title and Karlovic $42,900 for being the runner-up. It was the oldest final matchup in the 38-year history of the tourney.
Hewitt lost to Nicolas Mahut of France in last year’s final and American John Isner in 2012.