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Hewitt plots Nadal downfall

Written by: Staff

PARIS, Jun 4 (Reuters) Lleyton Hewitt will attempt to pull off what Rafael Nadal's last 56 claycourt opponents have failed to do --- beat the Spaniard.

The Australian will face the left hander in the fourth round of the French Open and unlike most of Nadal's recent rivals, Hewitt will harbour realistic hopes of taming the muscular Mallorcan.

The former world number one has beaten Nadal on all three of their previous meetings but as the defending champion was quick to point out, none of the clashes were on clay.

''This is a different surface, that's the first thing,'' said Nadal, who turned 20 yesterday.

''But sure, I'm going to have a very difficult match and I know that perfectly.'' Hewitt also acknowledged that past records could count for nothing with the way Nadal has stepped up his game since their last meeting at the 2005 Australian Open.

Over the last 14 months, Nadal has collected nine consecutive claycourt titles while Hewitt has barely played on the red dirt due to injuries.

''It's a totally different ball game,'' said Hewitt.

''We've had tough matches every time we've played on hardcourt. He's an extremely tough player right at the moment, especially on this surface, as everyone's well aware of.

''So it's a matter of me going out there and sticking to what I want to do out there. I've still got to execute extremely well. And we know he doesn't give guys a lot of chances.'' BANANA DRAMA Hewitt will also be hoping Nadal's outing yesterday, when the title favourite was kept on court for almost five hours in a four-set tussle with France's Paul-Henri Mathieu, will take its toll on the Spaniard.

Nadal, who suffered a scare during that match when he choked on a banana midway through a game in the closing stages of the third set, admitted he was feeling the pressure at this year's event.

''The first year you play, you're extremely fresh,'' said Nadal, who is undefeated at Roland Garros after winning the title on his debut appearance 12 months ago.

''I think the first year, it's always easier. If you lose a match, obviously you're disappointed.

''It's much worse when you have consolidated your position at the top.

''It's true that last year I was sometimes tense. But the fact that it was my first year put less pressure on me.

''This year, I'm playing differently. I'm less liberated.'' REUTERS PG PC1716

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