BRISBANE, Australia - Lleyton Hewitt won a title for the first time since 2010 with an upset 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 win at the Brisbane International over Roger Federer, his longest-standing rival on tour.
The 32-year-old former No. 1s have met 27 times dating back to 1999, and after Sunday's unexpected victory Hewitt improved his record to nine wins against the 17-time Grand Slam champion.
Top-seeded Federer was broken three times and committed 22 unforced errors in the first set, making some uncharacteristically basic mistakes including an air swing and two shanked forehands.
He recovered in the second set and had breakpoint chances in No. 61-ranked Hewitt's first three service games in the deciding set, but couldn't get the vital breakthrough when he needed it most.
"The way you tough it out ... congratulations," Federer said in a court-side interview. "I would have loved to have won the title, but Lleyton was better than me today."
Hewitt received the trophy from Australian great Rod Laver, a regular at the Australian Open final presentations involving Federer over the years.
"It's been a while since I won a trophy. For me to get it from you really means a lot," Hewitt said. "I don't need to congratulate Roger, he gets congratulated every week when he's up here for finals!"
Hewitt had not won a title since he beat Federer in the final at Halle in 2010 and his most recent tournament victory on home soil was the 2005 Sydney International; the same year he lost the Australian Open decider to Marat Safin.
That result at Halle ended a 15-match losing streak to Federer. Now he has won two of their past three matches in the twilight of a career that peaked when he was ranked No. 1 for 80 weeks and won the 2001 U.S. Open and 2002 Wimebledon titles.
Hewitt's ranking was projected to reach the low 40s with a win. He finished last season at No. 61 in another disrupted season after toe, foot, hand, hip and back injuries kept him off the tour for long periods between 2007 and the start of 2013.
"We've been through a rough four of five years, five different surgeries, it's been tough," Hewitt said, thanking his support group and paying tribute to his wife and three children.
Hewitt only lost one point on serve in the first set, made just three unforced errors and secured it on his fifth set point in 27 minutes.
Hewitt faced break point in the fifth game of the second set but saved it with a lunging, angled backhand volley and held for a 3-2 lead.
Federer, who is ranked No. 6 and didn't win a major last season as he experimented with a new racket, fended off a breakpoint to hold at 4-4 in the second set and then rallied from 40-love to break Hewitt in the next game. He took the second set with three aces and a rifling inside-out forehand winner.
Hewitt fended off four break opportunities in the opening game of the third set that lasted more than 10 minutes, and again faced break points in his next service game.
But just when Federer seemed to getting the upper hand, Hewitt broke for a 3-1 lead. Federer made a misjudgment when he left one of Hewitt's groundstrokes at 15-15 that landed well inside the baseline and the momentum turned from there.
A raucous section of the stadium, dressed in canary yellow singlets and calling themselves the Fanatics, were chanting and singing for Hewitt throughout the match, drowning out the support for Federer, who is usually a favorite with Australian crowds.