Australia draws level

Lleyton Hewitt put more than four months of frustrating rehab behind him as he made a successful return to the court with a tough three-set victory over Germany’s Nicolas Kiefer at the Hopman Cup.

Hewitt, who underwent career-saving surgery on his hip last August, came from a set down to defeat Kiefer 6-7(6) 6-3 6-2.

The win levelled Australia’s tie with Germany at 1-1 after world No.56 Sabine Lisicki defeated Casey Dellacqua 4-6 6-2 7-5 in the women’s singles rubber.

Hewitt, who has slipped to 70 in the world rankings, displayed his trademark doggedness throughout the contest as he ground down Kiefer, who has now lost all four encounters against the South Australian.

“It’s good to be back,” Hewitt said after the match, which lasted almost three hours.

“It’s been a long time out, close to five months since I’ve played a match.

“I’ve been hanging for this match for a long time … it’s a great way to start the year.

“It takes a lot of courage to come back from surgery and to come back and lose the first set in a tiebreak and then win the second and third convincingly – it’s a good start.”

Hewitt converted seven of 11 break point chances and said he felt no ill effects from the hip injury that sidelined him after the Beijing Olympics.

“It feels good, the hip feels strong,” Hewitt said.

“I’ve done everything in my power to get as close to 100 per cent for the Australian summer and it’s a matter of just trying to come out here now and … get in that routine of playing a lot of tough matches going into the Australian Open, where it’s obviously going to be tough playing five sets back to back.”

Dellacqua, playing her first match since being grounded last September by a shoulder injury, served for the match at 5-4 in the third.

But the 23 year old, who failed to serve an ace and committed 33 unforced errors, lost 12 of the last 13 points of the contest to drop the match.

“It’s actually feeling really good,” Dellacqua said of her shoulder after the match.

“That’s the one [positive] thing for me coming out of a three-set match like that – the shoulder is holding up really well and it’s great news for me.”

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