For once, the cards have fallen in Lleyton Hewitt's favour and now he is looking to cash in at the final tennis grand slam of the year.
Hewitt has welcomed his inviting US Open draw with cautious optimism after spending five injury-ravaged years cursing his wretched luck at the majors.
Crippling injuries have not only robbed the former world No.1 of priceless court time but also his seeding protection and, more often than not, Hewitt has been pitch-forked into an early-round confrontation with a Federer, Nadal or Djokovic.
Not this time, with none of the big three, nor four-times grand slam runner-up and Olympic gold medallist Andy Murray, in sight.
The injured Nadal is sidelined and Hewitt can't possibly run into Djokovic, his most accomplished rival in the top half of the draw, before the semi-finals.
Australia's 2001 champion opens against Germany's world No.90 Tobias Kamke, with 28th seed Mikhail Youzhny his likely second-round opponent.
Hewitt beat Youzhny in straight sets last week in Cincinnati to extend his winning record over the Russian to 5-1.
The veteran wildcard admitted it was nice to receive a bit of luck in the draw, but was too experienced to start plotting a way past Spanish fourth seed David Ferrer in the third round.
"You've still got to go out there and do it, so I'm not looking too far ahead than my first round," he said.
"I don't know a lot about the guy (Kamke), so I'll go out there and just play my game and hopefully work it out during the first set and see how we go."
Hewitt's latest victory over Youzhny was his first hardcourt encounter since making an inspired run to the last 16 of the Australian Open in January, after which the dual grand slam champion underwent surgery to have his big left toe fused.
The operation sidelined Hewitt for almost four months, but the world No.125 has since reached a final on grass at Newport, beaten world No.13 Marin Cilic at the London Olympics and gone within two games of toppling Djokovic.
"Playing doubles at Wimbledon, I started feeling like my movement was a lot better and then I went to Newport and that gave me a lot of confidence that week," Hewitt said.
"Then the Olympics, I played and moved as well as I have in a long time, so that gave me confidence.
"When I'm fully fit, I feel I can go out there and compete against most of those guys.
"I felt great against Djokovic at the Olympics and I performed like that.
"But then stepping onto the hard courts it's a bit different. It takes a bit of time."
Viktor Troicki soundly beat Hewitt in the second round in Cincinnati, but the South Australian wasn't fazed.
"The first matches on hard court since the Australian Open was always going to be tough," he said.
"It was going to be tough to bounce back after the first match, so it's been good to get a lot of tough practice this week."
Like Hewitt, Bernard Tomic opens his campaign on Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on the schedule.
Unlike the other three grand slams, the first round in New York is played over three days, and the 43-ranked Tomic faces world No.44 Carlos Berlocq of Argentina in his opener.
AAPTags: tennis, sport, united-states First posted August 27, 2012 14:16:06