(Reuters) – Spain’s David Ferrer could be the man to bring the curtain down on Lleyton Hewitt’s illustrious career in what could be an emotional Rod Laver Arena night session on day four of the Australian Open on Thursday.
Home favourite and former world number one Hewitt will retire after his 20th and final home grand slam and while he will fight the way only he knows how, he could meet his match in tenacious eighth seed Ferrer.
Wild card Hewitt remains the only player Australian to beat Ferrer at a grand slam tournament though and will relish a toe-to-toe scrap with the former French Open runner-up.
“He’s like a brick wall out there,” twice grand slam champion Hewitt said of Ferrer. “He’s a tough customer for nearly anyone. But, yeah, I give myself a fighting chance.”
Earlier in the day, home fans will warm up their vocal chords when big-serving Sam Groth takes on world number two Andy Murray (not before 0300GMT).
Serbia’s Ana Ivanovic kicks off the action on Rod Laver against Latvia’s Anastasija Sevastova, followed by Spain’s Wimbledon runner-up Garbine Muguruza, the third seed, up against Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens.
The day session on Margaret Court Arena begins with a battle of two Frenchmen, showman Gael Monfils against Nicolas Mahut.
Two-times women’s champion Victoria Azarenka, who did not drop a game in her opening match, is up against Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic, while Bernard Tomic, the highest seeded Australian in the men’s draw at number 16, squares off against Italy’s Simone Bolelli.
Former men’s champion Stanislas Wawrinka, the fourth seed, will attempt to stop Czech Radek Stepanek, 37, becoming the oldest man to reach the third round of a grand slam in 25 years.
American John Isner, who has the second-highest number of aces in the tournament so far behind eliminated Spaniard Nicolas Almagro, plays Marcel Granollers of Spain.
(Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; editing by Martyn Herman)