Chela ruins Hewitt's hopes of winning Aussie title

A subdued Lleyton Hewitt was bounced out of the Australian Open in the second round Thursday, delaying his desperate hope of winning his home Grand Slam for at least another year. Argentina's Juan Ignacio Chela solidly beat the third-seeded Hewitt, 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (8), 6-2, reversing the outcome of their spiteful third-round match here last year. The unseeded Chela rarely let the Australian star or the boisterous crowd get into the match.

"There didn't seem to be a whole lot of emotion out there," Hewitt said. "The first two sets, no one had much to cheer about."

Hewitt said the loss will hurt for a while. A finalist here last year who was in his 10th consecutive Australian Open, he was hoping to be the first local man to win the home major since Mark Edmondson in 1976.

But he committed 62 unforced errors and struggled as he did in his first-round, five-set victory over 58th-ranked Robin Vik.

Hewitt managed to rally then. But this time, Chela squelched the comeback effort after Hewitt took the third set.

Chela, winning consecutive matches for the first time since August, got his eighth break as Hewitt served at 2-5 in the fourth set, finishing it with a forehand crosscourt winner one of the 49 he smacked in the 3 1/2-hour match.

Hewitt won last year's encounter and Chela was fined for spitting in the Australian's direction. There was no such drama this time. The pair shook hands quickly and quietly before Hewitt walked off without acknowledging the crowd's applause.

Chela called it "the biggest win of my career." "He's a good fighter, and in Australia in front of all the public, it was very special," Chela said.

He said last year's controversy played no role. "When I got on the court, I was just thinking about the match, not what happened last year," said Chela.

He said it appeared that Hewitt had lost some confidence. "This year, he's not at the same level."

Earlier, it was a banner day for Swiss stars Roger Federer, the men's top seed, and Martina Hingis, on the comeback after a three-year layoff.

Conserving energy for later in the tournament, Federer needing only 72 minutes to beat Germany's Florian Mayer 6-1, 6-4, 6-0. It was the second easy match for Federer, who has yielded only 12 games in six sets.

"It's so nice to get quick matches in the heat," Federer said. "If I keep on playing the way I am, not losing too much energy on the court ... maybe it's going to pay back eventually."

His next opponent is 30th-seeded Max Mirnyi.

Hingis was on court only 52 minutes. Backed by a crowd that included a yodeler and clearly enjoying the experience at the site of where she won three of her five Grand Slam titles, she trounced Finland's Emma Laine 6-1, 6-1,

Hingis has dropped only five games in two matches. "Maybe all these three years, I freshened up a little," said Hingis. "I'm just really enjoying every second of being around here."

Losses by fifth-seeded Mary Pierce and No. 21 Ava Ivanovic mean that Hingis has no seeded players in her part of the draw until the quarterfinals, when she could face ailing Kim Clijsters, seeded second.

Pierce, the 1995 Australian champion and a two-time finalist at last year's majors, became the highest seeded player ousted when she lost 6-3, 7-5 to Iveta Benesova.

Pierce, who turned 31 last Sunday, said she had problems with her contact lenses in the hot windy conditions. But the bottom line was that she didn't play well.

"It was just one of those days," Pierce said. "Probably April or May was my last bad match. If I only have a bad match every nine months, it's OK."

Pierce made 41 unforced errors to 19 for Benesova. "This is definitely the best win in my whole career," said the 22-year-old Czech player.

Clijsters, bothered by hip and back pain, overcame 48 unforced errors to beat Yuan Meng, who only hit two clean winners. Clijsters needed treatment between sets and was not moving fluidly.

"I'm happy with the win but my body doesn't feel too good," Clijsters said. "Although I didn't play my best tennis, not even close, I always felt like I could win.

"As long as (the problem) doesn't get worse, I'll keep fighting."

Also advancing on the women's side were No. 3 Amelie Mauresmo, No. 7 Patty Schnyder, No. 12 Anastasia Myskina, No. 16 Nicole Vaidisova and No. 20 Flavia Pennetta.

Men's winners included No. 5 Nikolay Davydenko, a potential quarterfinal opponent for Federer, No. 6 Guillermo Coria, No. 12 Dominik Hrbaty, No. 15 Juan Carlos Ferrero, No. 21 Nicolas Kiefer, No. 23 Igor Andreev and No. 25 Sebastien Grosjean, reports the AP.

D.M.