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January 28, 2011

Lleyton Hewitt

THE MODERATOR: Good morning. Thanks for joining us today for today's phone call with former ATP World No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt, who joins us from the Bahamas. Lleyton will be making his second appearance at the Regions Morgan Keegan championship this year having last played in Memphis 2009 when he reached the semifinals, lost in a thrilling three-set match to eventual champion Andy Roddick, 6-2-7, 4-4-6.
Last season, Lleyton captured his 28th career title on the ATP World Tour by defeating World No. 2 Roger Federer in the final of Halle, Germany. Before we get underway, I want to turn it over to Tournament Director Peter Lebedevs who would like to make a few comments.
PETER LEBEDEVS: Thanks, Jim. Lleyton, glad to have you coming back. We had a lot of fun with you a couple of years ago. And you brought a crowd favorite. Everyone loves seeing the typical Australian attitude of never giving up as you've displayed over your outstanding career in there, and we're glad to have you back again and 100 percent healthy, glad to have you here. Your first trip was in '09, started with a match against Pete, as we talked about there, and got used to the court. Tell us about your impressions of our intimate setting here in Memphis and what your first time was like here.
LLEYTON HEWITT: It was great. It's always nice to go to a new tournament. You are never 100 percent sure of the surroundings and always lucky to play in an exhibition against the person that I won my first Grand Slam against in Pete Sampras.
So fantastic for me to get out there, play some matches as well. I felt that really helped me throughout the week, because I had an extremely tough draw playing James Blake in the first round and was able to get that in three sets and play some of my best tennis for the next three or four matches.
PETER LEBEDEVS: That's great. We always think of it as a great springboard here. Talking about that match with James, you had a really interesting thing happen there, and I'll be honest, my first year as tournament director, halfway through the match a gentleman had a heart attack and we had to stop that match. Tell us about what was maybe going through your head when that was happening, how do you get back and come back and play so well and win that match?
LLEYTON HEWITT: It was a tough situation, because something you don't go through that often. So both James and I, it was halfway through the first set and we felt we were both playing pretty well at the time. It's hard to keep your concentration, but I was able to do it and lost that first set but then played some great tennis to come back and actually win it in three sets.
PETER LEBEDEVS: We're going to get Mr. Claiborne out there, the gentleman who had the heart attack, a guy I used to teach tennis to. We'll have him come out do one of the coin tosses with you. You have a special place in his heart now. We're very glad, and as I said hopefully we don't have that again. Questions?

Q. I was going to ask you, I caught the tail end of the San Jose call, and this kind of relates back to early in your career. Can you remember what it was like early in your career playing at the Australian Open, moving to No. 1, just simply what it was like for your country's hopes, what kind of pressure that was?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, it was obviously I grew up in an era where we were doing pretty well. We had Pat and Matthew and Woody just before I came on the scene. So I had sort of seen the pressure and expectations they'd been under.
But when I was able to get World No. 1 winning the 2001 Masters in Sydney, I guess it went to another level, because you're expected to do extremely well and be at the business end of Grand Slams. And that's where a lot of pressure was on me to win Wimbledon or do well there in 2002 and I was able to come through.
So I guess coming on at such a young age as well I'd always been in the spotlight and you'd have to learn to deal with that and the expectations that come with that.

Q. Is that ever fair for someone at that age to feel that kind of pressure?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, it can be. I guess it depends on your personality in a lot of ways, and I embraced it in a lot of ways. The first year and a half when I first got on the tour it wasn't that easy.
Everyone was sort of seeing and checking you out, I guess, in a lot of ways. And a lot of the other opponents would work out some of your strengths and weaknesses. So it was a lot harder for me to go out there and beat some of those guys.
After about that second year on the tour, I really felt like I was settled in and started doing well in the big tournaments and doing well against the best players.

Q. Do you see like Sam Stosur going through some of that now, as she kind of comes through and has made a name for herself?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, she's obviously under the radar now in terms of pressure and expectation. She had a huge opportunity, obviously, to win the French Open last year after beating two or three world-class players in the finals.
So for her, she understands now if she does get in that same position in another Grand Slam final, the expectations that she's going to be under. And I still feel she somehow struggles with her nerves in some ways in big matches probably more so playing in Australia than away from Australia where there's not quite as much limelight on her. It will be interesting how she really backs up this year.

Q. Through the years that you've been playing, have you seen any changes in the attitudes and the play style these days of the competitors since you've come from the No. 1 spot?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, I think the play style, there's so many good baseline players these days. The serve and volley game has pretty much gone out. It's really only some of those bigger guys such as John Isner and Ivo Karlovic that even are able to mix it in these days.
The return of serve has gone up so much. There's so many good players who double-hand, backhand, return, hit it on your shoelace every time.
There's a lot more guys serving and staying back, waiting for that first opportunity to have a real crack at a big forehand.

Q. Looks like, too, that there's just a lot more endurance that's going on in some of these matches with some of these guys that are playing. The matches themselves lasting so long.
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, well, there's obviously a lot of long matches. I think there has been over the years anyway. You probably just don't hear quite as much about it back then. But obviously with the Isner/Mahut match at Wimbledon last year was extraordinary. And it really took it to a new level.

Q. What are you doing to change your game to stay as competitive?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I think Tony Roche and myself, my coach, is sort of working on things to add other dimensions to my game. Obviously keep my strength as well as possible, and play to those strengths.
But I think some of my flight weaknesses, just not be so predictable, mixing in, coming in, I always get a high percentage of first serves as well. That definitely helps my game style.

Q. When you're talking about Isner and obviously players like Sam Querrey and Ivo, any explanation for that trend? Seems to be a lot more of the 6'5" and taller guys.
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, there are a lot more these days, I think, and I think the game is going to go more and more to that. Those guys for such big guys with big serves, they all move extremely well. So that's making it a lot harder for us shorter guys to go out there and compete against those boys.
But the game's always changing and always improving. I think there's more and more power out there, and whether that's with the technology or just bigger boys, I'm not really sure.

Q. So you would still have pursued the sport had there been, had you been coming up now and seeing these guys out there; it wouldn't have changed your desire to play the sport?
LLEYTON HEWITT: No, not for me. I always felt comfortable. I guess I drew a lot of respect from watching a guy like Andre Agassi play and how well he did. He wasn't the biggest guy out there, but he used his strengths extremely well. He was so smart on the court. And obviously he's one of -- one of his biggest strength was his return of serve which he took away one of the bigger guys biggest strengths in their big first serves.

Q. Goals for 2011, you know you worked your tail off to get in great shape after the injuries and everything. What are your goals in '11? Are we talking we want a ranking goal? Are we talking results goal? What are you looking for in 2011?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Hopefully to stay injury-free at the moment. Because I feel my body's in a really good position at the moment where I want it to be. So hopefully if I can play the full 12 months this year, my ranking will take care of itself. Purely after having an interrupted injury season last year.
So for me, the Majors is where my game is at the moment. And where my age is, I feel the Majors are my priority. I sort of work everything around those. I feel like I've got an extremely good chance at Wimbledon. I think my game suits grass extremely well and get some upsets there.

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