ESTORIL, PORTUGAL: Former world number one Lleyton Hewitt combined perfectly with teenage talent Alex de Minaur on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) as the one-off doubles pairing knocked the second seeds out in the opening round at the Estoril Open.
The ad-hoc Australian combination overwhelmed South African Raven Klaasen and New Zealand’s Michael Venus, with the seeds exiting 6-4, 6-4 in 66 minutes on the clay.
Venus won the doubles title here a year ago alongside Ryan Harrison, with whom he also claimed the 2017 French Open title.
But two-time Grand Slam champion Hewitt, 37, made a winning start to the week alongside his 19-year-old partner.
“Even though I know Alex extremely well, this was our first time playing together,” Hewitt said. “We’ve never even done that in practice.
“For me, it was a thrill and for Alex it’s his first ATP doubles win, it was fun.”
Australian Davis Cup captain Hewitt, who said he never officially retired from doubles, is expecting to play more ATP events before the end of the season.
He and Sam Groth reached the Australian Open quarterfinals in January.
“This was a dream come true,” De Minaur said. “I’ve watched Lleyton play so much, but to be on the same side of the net is incredible.
“It’s insane how he hits the ball.
“I wanted to give a good level, I was nervous at the start. I’m happy we got the win, I’ll never forget this day.”
Hewitt drew immediate comparisons between himself and the young gun, saying: “We’re similar in a lot of ways, the high energy, the never-say-die attitude, always giving 100 percent.
“It’s enjoyable to watch the growth in Alex, he’s like a sponge, taking in everything to make himself a better player.”
In the first round of the singles tournament, Barcelona finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas put out Pablo Andujar 7-6 (7/2), 6-3, with the Greek teenager building upon his best career week in Spain.
The 19-year-old reached his first ATP final last week with notable wins over Dominic Thiem and Pablo Carreno Busta, before losing in the final to world No. 1 Rafael Nadal.
Britain’s world number 103 Cameron Norrie surprised sixth seed Robin Haase with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 win.
The 22-year-old Norrie is playing the clay event for the first time and is joined in the Portuguese field by compatriot Kyle Edmund, the third seed.
Australian Open semifinalist Edmund will open his campaign against De Minaur in the second round on Wednesday.
Norrie will next face Spanish clay-court specialist Roberto Carballes Baena, a winner over American Bjorn Fratangelo 7-6 (7/1), 6-3.
The field at the event is headed by South African Kevin Anderson, who is yet to play this week after a first-round bye.
Seeded second is defending champion Carreno Busta, who showed signs of an upturn in form by reaching the Barcelona Open semifinals last week.
“I’m feeling good,” Carreno Busta said on Tuesday. “I played well in Barcelona and hope to keep it up here.
“Physically I’m feeling fine after Barcelona. But it’s different playing at home in front of your friends and family.
“The home crowd gives you plenty of support. But I still hope to play well in Portugal.”
Carreno Busta will begin his title defense against Nicolas Kicker after the Argentine defeated qualifier Tim Smyczek 6-2, 6-2.