The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Singles life not easy for Hewitt, Clijsters
- Tennis’ most famous couple seeks redemption in Davis and Fed Cup

London: Where singles is concerned, it has been a harrowing few months for Lleyton Hewitt and Kim Clijsters.

But the most famous couple in tennis could find redemption in the sport’s top team competitions, the Davis and Fed Cups.

World No.1 at the turn of the year, Hewitt has dropped to seventh in the rankings and he desperately hopes to salvage something from the wreckage of 2003 in the Davis Cup.

Hewitt leads Australia in the semi-final against Switzerland, led by Wimbledon champion Roger Federer, next week in Melbourne.

November’s Fed Cup semi-final between the US and Belgium in Moscow could be one of the great sporting showdowns of the year if both teams turn up at full strength.

Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne have taken Belgium to the top of the tennis rankings, usurping the Williams sisters, and won the cup in 2001.

Venus and Serena helped the US thrash the Czech Republic 5-0 in the Fed Cup first round but left the quarter final against Italy in July to their understudies, who also won 5-0.

Both sisters missed this month’s US Open due to injury, leaving the way open for Henin-Hardenne to win her second Grand Slam title of the year.

As at the French Open, Henin-Hardenne beat Clijsters in the final, leaving Clijsters as the world No.1 in name only — she has yet to win a Grand Slam and Serena, who beat her in the Australian Open semi-final from 5-1 down in the final set, is still the primary force in women’s tennis.

Belgium thrashed the reigning Fed Cup champions, Slovakia, in their Fed Cup quarter final so the Belgians versus the Williams over four singles matches and a doubles in Moscow would be a tennis clash of seismic proportions.

Question marks

But there are a number of question marks over the tie — will the players be willing to travel to Moscow in mid-November, will the Williams sisters be fit and will the Belgian duo be prepared to bury their personal differences to play as a team'

Clijsters, regarded as one of the nicest women on tour, appears to lack Henin-Hardenne’s grit and determination when the going gets really tough.

Unlike Clijsters, Hewitt’s form has been in steady decline since he won Indian Wells in March.

A third-round defeat in the French Open was followed by his shattering first round loss to Croatian Ivo Karlovic at Wimbledon.

He reached the quarter finals at the US Open where he lost to French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero, who leads Spain in the other Davis Cup semi-final against Argentina in Malaga, and the Australian also injured his left hip.

Hewitt is determined to make amends for the shattering defeat by France in the 2001 Cup final in Melbourne when he lost the opening singles to Nicolas Escude and the doubles with Pat Rafter.

“The Davis Cup is probably sitting at number one (in my priorities) at the moment,” Hewitt said before his Open defeat.

“We haven’t won it for a few years so I’d love to win it this year.”

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