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Soeda spoils Hewitt's bid for clay-court milestone, rallying for three-set win

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HOUSTON — Japan's Go Soeda rallied to beat Lleyton Hewitt 4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-3 on Monday night in the first round of the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championship.

The 34-year-old Hewitt, a former world No. 1 and the tournament's 2009 champion, needed two wins here to become the seventh player in the Open Era to have 100 wins each on hard courts, grass and clay. He was a held serve away from getting No. 99 on clay before Soeda broke, won the subsequent tiebreaker, then kept the upper hand throughout the third set. The match ended on a Hewitt double fault.

Hewitt has won 367 times on hard courts and 128 on grass. Boris Becker, Jimmy Connors, Roger Federer, John McEnroe, Stan Smith and John Alexander have previously topped 100 wins on each of the three surfaces.

Currently ranked 109th, Hewitt was a late entry here, receiving a wild-card from tournament organizers. He has announced his plans to retire after the Australian Open next year. It was believed Houston would have been his final clay-court event, but he's now expected to get into one of the upcoming European tournaments to complete his triple century.

Also advancing were Hewitt's Australian countryman, Sam Groth, eighth-seeded American Sam Querrey and Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania.

Groth had 17 aces to eliminate Victor Estrella Burgos of the Dominican Republic 7-6 (3), 6-4; Querrey moved on when his Australian opponent, Marinko Matosevic, retired with a left foot injury down 1-4; and Berankis knocked out Federico Delbonis of Argentina 6-2, 7-6 (5).

Spain's Feliciano Lopez is the top seed in North America's only men's clay-court tournament.

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