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Heat, humidity helps eliminate several in men's draw

Lleyton Hewitt hits a backhand return against Tomas

Lleyton Hewitt hits a backhand return against Tomas Berdych in a men's singles match during the U.S. Open tennis tournament on Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014 at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Here at the Flushing Meadows chapter of AARP, three men retired from first-round U.S. Open action Wednesday. And another fellow of decidedly senior status, the tournament's 2001 champ, was sent away with an old question:

Will we see you on tour next week?

"Don't know," Australia's Lleyton Hewitt said after his straight-sets loss to No. 6 seed Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic. "Get asked that every week."

At least Hewitt, 33, ranked 41st and playing his 14th Open and his 62nd major, was able to walk off the court under his own power.

Steve Johnson, 24, a former NCAA champ from Southern California, twice fell on the court when severe cramps set in during his fourth set and had to surrender to Japan's Tatsuma Ito, a qualifier ranked 126th in the world. At the time, Ito was trying to level the match at two sets, 6-2, 3-6, 5-7, 4-1. It was a good draw for the 51st-ranked Johnson, but it was a hot and humid 89 degrees on the sunken Court 17, which tends to block any breezes.

Hours later, mostly rehabilitated by hydrating, Johnson said his greater pain was the fact that he had to retire. "That's the first time I've ever retired in a match," he said. "It's not the end of the world, but it feels like it right now."

He landed awkwardly attempting an overhead at 1-0, 0-15, "and the next point, out of nowhere, my right calf just went," he said. "Then it all started to go. Both my quads were cramping, my hand was cramping. I couldn't hold the racket. I wish I could have done something differently, maybe take a game penalty for a couple and maybe it would go away. But both my legs locked up."

Also done in by cramps was Croatia's 53rd-ranked Ivan Dodig, who was even with No. 19 seed Feliciano Lopez of Spain early in the fifth set, but whose final score read, 1-6, 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 1-1 ret.

And 29-year-old Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis, once an Australian Open finalist, had to leave with an ankle injury after falling behind No. 14 seed Marin Cilic of Croatia, 6-3, 3-1.

In contrast to those sufferings, No. 7 seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria displayed plenty of vigor to defeat American wild card Ryan Harrison, 22, who is ranked 184th, 6-2, 7-6 (4), 6-2.

Harrison got only two break points on Dimitrov's serve, winning one, and he was broken five times and committed 37 unforced errors to Dimitrov's 19.

By nightfall, then, only three American men -- of 12 in the singles field -- were still alive entering the tournament's second round: No. 13 John Isner, 57th-ranked Sam Querrey and 90th-ranked Tim Smyczek.

On Thursday, the hobbled Johnson is scheduled to team with Querrey in a doubles match against the other cramps victim, Dodig, and his partner, Marcelo Melo of Brazil. That's after Querrey is slated for a singles match, against Spain's Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, on Johnson's Waterloo court, No. 17.

New York Sports