Lleyton Hewitt is unfazed about the prospect of spiralling out of the world's top 100 as he casts his steely gaze towards the only prize that matters - Wimbledon.
Hewitt crunched Argentine qualifier Leonardo Mayer 6-2, 6-3 in barely an hour in his long-awaited comeback from foot surgery to reach the second round in Halle, Germany.
After dodging a scheduled first-round clash with Roger Federer following the Swiss ace's late withdrawal from the event, Hewitt unleashed six aces and converted all three break-point chances in a polished performance.
But Australia's former world number one still has four matches to win to successfully defend the title he won last year with a hoodoo-busting final triumph over Federer.
Failure to retain the trophy will almost certainly result in Hewitt falling from 73rd in the standings to outside the top 100 entering Wimbledon.
"Ranking is not important to me," he said after booking a second-round meeting with Italian Andreas Seppi on Friday (AEST).
"I have been out of the game for over three months and I feel it's tough to re-adjust ... I couldn't care less about points.
"I have to pick up my game again, my timing, movement, footwork - everything has to become second nature again.
"You can't hurry things up."
Hewitt, an 11th-hour scratching from the French Open, had a hunch Federer might withdraw from Halle following his sapping French Open campaign.
"This time of the year is very difficult since we have two majors so close together," Hewitt said.
"With Roger having played two tough weeks in Paris, I saw a small chance that he might pull out.
"(But) seeing that I was due to play Roger Federer in the first round didn't bother me. I didn't worry about the draw. I am focusing on my fitness and my matches."
Hewitt has now won nine of his past 10 grasscourt matches, his lone defeat a four-set loss to Novak Djokovic in the fourth round at Wimbledon last year.
Written off by English bookmakers pre-Halle as a 660-1 chance to land a second Wimbledon crown, nine years after his first, Hewitt is happy enough just to be back on court and feeling injury-free ahead of his favourite tournament of the season.
"I don't feel too bad. I had no expectations going out there," Hewitt said after his 69-minute work-out against Mayer.
"You have to adjust to the climate and the conditions - obviously the practice courts here in Halle are very different to the centre court.
"My body feels pretty good."
In other results, 2007 Halle winner and second seed Tomas Berdych will face Serbian Viktor Troicki in the quarter-finals following his 6-3, 7-6 (9-7) second round win over Czech compatriot Jan Hernych.
Troicki beat Russian Igor Andreev 6-3, 6-1 in just 52 minutes.
Big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic also sealed his place in the quarters with a 7-6 (7-2), 6-3 victory over German Tobias Kamke.
Raonic, who hit 14 aces, will play another German in Philipp Petzschner, who defeated Spaniard Daniel Gimeno-Traver 6-2, 6-4.
- AAPTags: tennis, sport, england, united-kingdom First posted June 09, 2011 18:33:34