Lleyton HewittPERTH – It’s very early days, but Lleyton Hewitt is cautiously optimistic that his troublesome left foot will hold up to the rigours of professional tennis this year.

In his first competitive match since reinjuring his foot in September, Hewitt pushed Spain’s Fernando Verdasco all the way on Sunday before losing 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 at the Hopman Cup in Perth.

Australia went on to lose the tie 2-1 with Hewitt and Jarmila Gadjosova blowing a match point in the deciding mixed doubles.

But the tough loss was offset by the news that Hewitt’s battered foot held up as he eyes another Australian Open campaign later in the month.

The veteran moved freely and showed no outward discomfort against Verdasco, who, at No. 24 in the world, is ranked 162 places higher than his Australian opponent.

Although Hewitt admits that his foot still caused some pain, the former world No. 1 said it wasn’t enough to keep him off the court.

“You have to try to block out the pain as much as possible and concentrate on what you need to do on the court, tactics and game plan and everything else that’s going on out there,” Hewitt said.

His foot will be put to the test again when he faces off against France’s Richard Gasquet today.

World No. 33 Jarmila Gajdosova, who defeated Anabel Medina Garrigues in three sets on Sunday, will aim to upset France’s world No. 9 Marion Bartoli in the women’s singles today.

Meanwhile, world No. 7 Tomas Berdych hopes to improve on his grand slam performances in 2012 as he attempts to keep pace with the world’s top-eight tennis players.

Berdych, whose career highlight was reaching the final of Wimbledon in 2010, failed to fire in last year’s grand slams, with a quarter-final appearance at the Australian Open the best he could manage.

A first-round exit at the French Open, a round-of-16 defeat at Wimbledon and a round-of-32 flop at the US Open followed, although Berdych still ended the year with a top-10 ranking after solid performances in other ATP events.

Berdych, who combined with Petra Kvitova to lead the Czech Republic to a 2-1 Hopman Cup victory over Bulgaria yesterday, wants to have more of an impact in the grand slams.

“The expectations are pretty much similar to last year,” Berdych said.

“I want to end up again in the world tour finals in London, which means that I (need to) end up the year in the top eight.

“That’s what I would say (is) the bottom line.”

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