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January 17, 2015

Lleyton Hewitt


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. How do you rate your chances heading in, I suppose?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Oh, I just take it one match at a time obviously. Just try and focus on my first-round opponent, what I need to do to try to get through that match. Played him a couple times before in Davis Cup over five sets, so at least I'm well-prepared for what to expect out there. Obviously just try and get my body as close to 100% by Tuesday. Hopefully go out there and execute what I need to do.

Q. Was it a relief to finally get somebody that wasn't a high seed in the first round of the Australian Open?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, you don't really focus on it that much, to tell you the truth. It's nice not to play one of the real top guys. But you've got to be prepared to play anyone. I try not to worry about it leading into the draw obviously. I've been in this many times to this tournament, it's not something I focus on, I guess, leading up a couple days out from it.

Q. Do you think you'll find yourself soaking up the atmosphere a little bit more? I know you've said it's not your last one, but every one is closer to the last one.
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I don't know. When you go out there to play, though, I don't think I'd be thinking like that. I'm trying to do absolutely everything in my power to get over the line and get the win. I think once those thoughts sort of enter your mind, yeah, it can probably distract you and be a little bit of a negative influence when you're trying to perform at your best out there. So I'm that big a competitor, I think once I hit the match court out there, my focus will basically be on the one-on-one aspect out there and try to get the best out of myself.

Q. You played him twice before, both in Davis Cup. What are his strengths and what are you expecting come Tuesday night?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I'm playing night, am I (smiling)? Yeah, it's good that I least know what to expect. I've obviously played him twice in Davis Cup, seen him play Bernie in Davis Cup, as well. Yeah, he's a dangerous player. He swings from the hip on a lot of shots. He's got a good serve, nice forehand, backhand. Likes changing direction off both sides. Yeah, he has had a couple of pretty good wins in his career. He seems to play well at the Shanghai Masters every year where he gets a wild card there. He's a good competitor, as well. I've got to go out there and at least I know what I'm going to expect and we'll come up with a game plan, then it's about me trying to execute that on the day.

Q. Being a competitor, do you go into this thinking you have a genuine chance to win? Is that dream still alive?
LLEYTON HEWITT: When you start the tournament, that dream's still there for everyone, the 128 of us that are in the draw. Nothing changes in that aspect. Over the years I think I pride myself on not looking too far ahead anyway. Even when I was No. 1 in the world, I always played every match on its merits, gave the utmost respect to my opponents, who I had to play. I've said it so many times: it's a matter of trying to get through the first week of a Grand Slam. Doesn't matter how you do it, but you have to try to find a way of getting through that, put yourself in a position in the second week. Yeah, anything can happen in Grand Slams. Over five sets, obviously, guys can get injured. There's a lot of ups and downs over two weeks.

Q. What do you think of the other young Aussie chances? Pretty good talent coming through.
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, obviously Nick has a pretty good section of the draw I think that he's in. Bernie is in a pretty good section, as well. Bernie has been playing well the last couple weeks. Obviously took someone like Nishikori to play extremely well - he's a quality player - to beat him in Brisbane. Gilles Muller, 6-6, could have gone either way in Sydney in that match he lost. Obviously Nick would have liked some more matches under his belt coming in. If he can get his teeth into the tournament, I don't think that's a big worry for Nick. Thanasi has a tougher first round against Gulbis. He's got a fighting chance in it, though, for sure Thanasi has improved a lot over the last year.

Q. Is this the most excited you've been in your time of the youngsters coming through?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I guess it's probably a few more in a group coming through than I've ever seen in my time. Probably happened a bit before I actually started. You had the guys, the Woodies, Stolz, Philippoussis, Rafter, Fromberg, so many guys coming through at that stage. For a while, I guess I was the only one and we didn't have a lot of juniors, we sort of struggled to make that transition from really good junior players in the Grand Slams to making it onto the senior tour.

Q. How is the body feeling?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, feels pretty good at the moment, so... I don't think that will be a problem come Tuesday.

Q. Will you provide any sort of mentoring towards Nick, specifically during the Open?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I'm not sure. Obviously I've got to try to focus on what I need to do to get the best out of myself. Bernie contacts me quite a bit. I've been in contact with him over the last month or so quite a bit. He asks a lot of questions about opponents and stuff, as well. I'm always there for any help that they need, how to handle any situations that may arise.

Q. How do you feel he's going at the moment mentally?

Q. Yes.
LLEYTON HEWITT: I think he's in a good head space at the moment. As I said, I felt like he played pretty good tennis in Brisbane, and Sydney. He beat Kohlschreiber convincingly in Sydney. That may be his seed in the second round, which I think is a good matchup for him. In Brisbane, as I said, it took a red hot Nishikori to knock him off there. Apart from that, he played well obviously beating Thanasi, but first round against Sam Querrey, as well. He's hitting the ball well, moving well, serving big.

Q. Andy Murray was saying he thinks the tournament is wide open. There's a lot of talk that the top four are more challenged than previous years. Do you feel that's the case?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Possibly. It's still hard. Obviously Andy Murray is not in the top four in the rankings at the moment. I think guys still see him as one of those big threats as the top four anyway. Obviously there's Raonic, Dimitrov coming up, putting pressure on. Nishikori. Cilic won a Grand Slam now. These kind of guys. I still think the core is going to be those top three or four guys. Over five sets, it's still extremely tough to beat two or three of those guys back-to-back at the end of these tournaments.

Q. You're obviously one of the great veterans on tour. If you look over the course of your career, how has tennis changed? How are you looking at this tournament, looking at it in terms of the tools you need to bring, the game you need to bring?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, obviously the surface changed here throughout my career.

Q. Sorry to bring up something annoying.
LLEYTON HEWITT: No, doesn't matter. The players, they're a lot more bigger, stronger guys these days than when I first came on tour. I think the bigger guys move so much better these days than they did in the past. You just got to look at guys like Raonic that have such big games but are still very consistent from the back of the court, able to make a lot of balls from the back of the court, whereas some of the bigger guys when I first started, they were a bit hit-and-miss, spraying a lot more shots. Even guys like Isner and Karlovic, they obviously hold so many service games, but they're not hackers from the back of the court. They can make balls on their return games as well, which makes it tougher.

Q. How is the surface playing at the moment? Medium paced?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I've only hit on center court most of the time. I would say that's probably a bit slower than the outside courts purely because it gets laid last by a little bit of time after all the other courts, doesn't get as much play on it to quicken it up. I'd say it's probably a medium. It's certainly not quicker than medium. But I wouldn't say it's much different to last year.
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