Dent, Hewitt: so close, yet so far

4th-round foes share age, Australian ties, but play, prestige set them apart

Wimbledon

June 27, 2005|By Lisa Dillman | Lisa Dillman,LOS ANGELES TIMES

WIMBLEDON, England - They were born two months apart, and beyond sharing the same birth year and expertise in the same sport, Taylor Dent and Lleyton Hewitt are the sons of Australian sportsmen.

And that's where their similarities screech to a halt. Hewitt is the quintessential baseliner; Dent is practically an endangered species, a true serve-and-volleyer. Hewitt has two Grand Slam titles and a past No. 1 ranking behind his name, and Dent is in the second week of a Grand Slam for only the second time in his career.

Hewitt is Mr. Australia. And Dent, despite having a well-known, tennis-playing Australian father, Phil, does TV commercials for an American insurance company, not Vegemite.

Third-seeded Hewitt, who will play Dent today in the fourth round at Wimbledon, was asked what the Dent name means in Australian tennis.

"Well, not a whole heap when he's got USA written at the end of his name," Hewitt said. "Not a whole heap."

Likewise, Phil Dent, who scouted Hewitt's third-round match against Justin Gimelstob, would not be any less forthcoming with his son because he is playing an Australian.

"Oh, no," Taylor Dent said. "He's Dent more than Aussie, that's for sure. He's going to want me to win out there. He'll be champing at the bit to tell me everything he knows."

This is only their fifth meeting. Hewitt won the first three matches, including a five-setter at Wimbledon in 2001, and Dent defeated Hewitt the last time they played, 7-6 (4), 6-3, in the quarterfinals at Adelaide in January. If anything, simply getting on the board after three losses helped immeasurably.

"It's big," Dent said in an interview Friday after this third-round victory. "If I come into the match, 0-for-4, 0-for-5, I would have said to myself, `Geez, this is asking a lot.' But now I know I have beaten him. I beat him playing solid tennis. I didn't zone. I didn't play unbelievable; it gives me some backbone out there.

"If I am down two sets to love or two sets to one, I'm still in there."

This could be Dent's biggest moment on tennis' biggest stage. He endured some pain to get here, needing a cortisone shot in his right ankle the week before the grass-court tuneup tournament at Queen's.

Dent vs. Hewitt is one of the more intriguing fourth-round matches on what is perhaps one of the best days in tennis. Barring inclement weather, all the fourth-round singles matches are on the schedule. Perhaps the best women's match today will feature top seed Lindsay Davenport against No. 15 Kim Clijsters of Belgium.

Davenport defeated Clijsters a few weeks ago in the French Open for the first time in their past seven meetings, rallying from a 6-1, 3-1 deficit in the fourth round. Here, she has lost eight games in three matches.

"I feel a lot better than when I did at the French when I was barely winning matches and sets," Davenport said. "I've played three opponents that I've been able to take control of the match and dominate. Obviously Monday's going to be a lot different story. Kim's not going to let me do that so easily and will get more balls back and really press me a lot more."

The day is so packed with marquee power that two-time champion and 14th seed Venus Williams is back on Court 2. And so is Jill Craybas, who will try to complete her sweep of the Williams sisters. In the third round, on Court 2, the No. 85-ranked Craybas defeated an out-of-shape Serena Williams, who had been in the previous three Wimbledon finals, winning in 2002 and 2003.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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