Hewitt comes up short on comeback

 

Tennis:Fernando Verdasco fought off a valiant effort by former world number one Lleyton Hewitt to help Spain get a 2-1 win over hosts Australia in the Hopman Cup.

The 30-year-old Hewitt, playing his first match since September in his latest comeback from a bad toe injury, produced a superb second set before world number 24 Verdasco took their match 6-3 3-6 7-5 victory in 128 minutes.

Hewitt's team mate Jarmila Gajdosova defeated Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-3 3-6 6-3 in the women's singles but third-seeded Spain won the mixed doubles 6-3 3-6 (11-9).

Hopman Cup rules state that the third set in the mixed doubles is decided by a tiebreak in which the first pair to reach 10 points with an advantage of two take victory.

Hewitt has not won a major title since Wimbledon in 2002 and has plummeted to number 186 in the rankings.

Despite being a constant subject of retirement speculation,

Hewitt refuses to accept that the injury to his left big toe makes it impossible to scale the heights again.

"I just want to play pain-free this year and hopefully finish my career in a good way over the next couple of years," Hewitt said. "I feel pretty good tonight - we have a day off then we're back out here on Tuesday night. Maybe I should just chop the foot off."