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January 16, 2016

Lleyton Hewitt

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. 19 Australian Opens, you only played another Australian once. Your 20th, you get one in the first round. Was it something you were hoping to avoid?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, absolutely. Always bound to happen, wasn't it? Especially now that I've got a second hat on, a full-time job as Davis Cup captain.

Yeah, it's obviously a bit surprising I haven't played more over the years with all the wild cards that Australians get into the tournament, as well.

Yeah, it's awkward, but in another way it's fun to go out there with Ducks. I've been helping him the last few years. He's been part of the Davis Cup squad on a number of occasions. He's a great kid.

I think he's going to push on the next couple years and get a lot better.

Q. Todd Larkham, 2003. Any memories of that match?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, it was pretty quick.

Q. What is the most dangerous thing with Ducks' game for you?
LLEYTON HEWITT: He has a good serve, good forehand. He has a quality first serve, good second serve. Gets a lot of kick off the court, as well. He's a different kind of player. He's a good competitor, as well, very good competitor. He changes up his game style. He comes in a little bit. He stays back. Tries to rush you at times.

I've seen him play some really high-quality tennis. He beat Simon in Brisbane last year. Had a good match with Roger here the only other time he played on center court. I saw him push Nishikori in Washington last year, which I was impressed with.

Q. Does it seem real to you that you could be one match away from the end?
LLEYTON HEWITT: To tell you the truth, I don't know how it feels. A tad strange feeling, but I'm trying to soak it up as much as possible.

I guess it's different in the fact that if you do go out then, yes, it is the end. But you got to try to block that out as much as possible. You could go through all the same emotions again two days later, as well.

That's going to be the tough part to deal with.

Q. How have you seen your role change as you've progressed in your career as far as first coming up as a youngster, being world No. 1? Do you feel you've taken on a different role as your career has gone on?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, the last probably five years or so I've taken on more a mentoring role with the younger Australian boys, especially in terms of the Davis Cup squad, even trying to help them out and hit with those guys a lot when I'm on the road, as well. A lot of guys have come to my houses and trained with me, whether it's in Australia or overseas.

But I've enjoyed that, seeing these younger guys get better. They're going to be the leaders of our sport in our great country. I've taken a lot of pride in that.

Q. How are you feeling physically?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I feel pretty good, yeah. I've been really happy. Played pretty good in the Hopman Cup. Had the Fast Four in Sydney, which is a good hit-out. Played two really good quality matches in Adelaide actually.

I feel like just to get that match toughness back, into the routine of playing matches again, the last two weeks has been good. I had a good hit-out with Fed yesterday. Hit with Murray this afternoon. Hitting with the best guys.

Q. What did you make of the events in Sydney yesterday with Bernie?
LLEYTON HEWITT: There was no doubt he was under the weather, I think. He was struggling. I spoke to Bernie. Yeah, it's unfortunate. I know he was really keen on playing Sydney, because he won it before and lost in the finals.

Awkward position now, only a couple days out from the Australian Open. There's no doubt he wasn't 100% yesterday. Yeah, I think he's got to now try to refocus and put that at the back of his mind because he can play well here in Melbourne.

I was really impressed with how he played in Brisbane. To beat Nishikori, a quality top-10 player. Fingers crossed he has a good two weeks here.

Q. When you were a teenager, feeling invincible, how many times did you think you'd be playing at the Australian Open at that stage?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I didn't think I'd be playing past 30, that's for sure. 30 years old, not 30 times (smiling).

Yeah, I guess the biggest difference was is I had those injuries in that timeframe. When you're away from the game and you miss the hard training, doing all the preparation, it all depended on how motivated you were. If I wasn't motivated to still go on and push myself, go on and do gym sessions by myself, hop on the practice court, I still wouldn't be playing.

That's what's pushed me the last few years. I don't struggle for self-motivation, to get up early and do the hard work that no one sees. There's no crowds or cameras around there. It's just you in the gym or on the practice court.

That's one of the things I will miss, not having to go out there and push yourself day in and day out.

Q. You inspired Federer's career. Did he inspire yours as well?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Roger? Yeah, absolutely. What he's done is amazing. To see how well he's still playing now, it's incredible. He's a great ambassador for our sport. I think it's very hard to ever have a better ambassador than Roger for our sport.

How highly in demand he is for what he's achieved, to do it for such a long period, stay in the top, be a chance of winning every single tournament that he enters is pretty remarkable.

Q. Is it difficult when you come up against someone who you know so well, who you're mates with off the court, to play your natural game?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, a little bit. I played Bernie at the US Open. Was really tough. I hit with Bernie about three days before we played each other. He was asking me things to help his service and stuff like that (smiling). That was really awkward.

I'm sure this will be no different.

Q. Ducks said you were giving him some tips over the last little while. Do you fear it might come back to bite you?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Perhaps. See how good a student he is.

No, yeah, these guys, I speak to them all the time. Ducks was text messaging me yesterday morning before the draw was out. So, yeah, obviously I think both of us will look back on it. No matter what happens, it will be a satisfying enjoyment of going out there and playing against him.

It's his only opportunity to play against me obviously on a big court as well. I think later on in our career, his career, me once I've retired, it's something that we'll enjoy.

Q. What is your all-time favorite moment from here in the last 20 years?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Probably beating Roddick in the semifinal of '05. I'd been through a lot of grueling four- and five-set matches to get that opportunity to play on the final Sunday of this tournament. I think just the satisfaction of knowing that you'd done it was pretty amazing.

Q. The '91 US Open, Jimmy Connors was 38, had a wrist injury leading into the tournament, made it to the semifinals. Do you still feel like you can go deep into a tournament? Do you start each tournament in a Grand Slam thinking you can win?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I go in thinking I can be competitive with these guys, absolutely. I'm not looking past Ducks, though, at all. Got to take it one match at a time and focus on that.

That's something I've done so well throughout my career, though. I haven't looked too far ahead at all. It's important to do that, but I feel like I'm hitting the ball well enough to push a lot of guys out there. Hopefully the body holds up.

Q. Are there still the same pretournament nerves going into this last event or is it a completely unique feeling this time around?
LLEYTON HEWITT: No, I think it's still similar. The buildup, obviously the demands are a bit more at the moment. But, as I said, I've tried to enjoy it as much as possible. A couple days out from a slam, you're always a bit on edge, a bit nervous. I think that's the same for every player. Doesn't matter how many times you've done it, if it's your first or possibly your last.

The first match of a slam's never the easiest, I don't think.

Q. What are you anticipating with the Rod Laver Arena crowd? A bit different going out against another Australian.
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, it will be. I'll probably have a fair bit of support out there. It is a unique situation. It's something that I haven't had to deal with, playing another Aussie on Rod Laver Arena, that much.

I just try to go out there and put on a good show.

Q. Which was the most important rivalry of your career and why?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I think against Roger, purely because we grew up, the same age, grew up together. We had a connection with his coach Peter Carter and my first coach, then Darren Cahill. So Peter Smith and Darren Cahill were very close to Peter Carter as well. I'd say some of the epic matches in my career especially, more so than probably Roger's career, he's had a few more epics, were against Roger.

Q. For such a long time you've been the standard bearer for the Australian men. How long do you think the Australian public can wait for another man to win a Grand Slam tournament?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, it's hard to say. I think Nick and Bernie are in a decent position now, the next three years, to have a real crack. There's small areas of their game they still have to work on.

Nick, over five sets in slams, that's when he plays his best tennis. But he's going to have to do it probably Round of 16 onwards, or even third round here onwards against absolutely quality players over five sets. How he can back up two days later and be able to do that, that's the big question. He's only going to get better in the next three to five years anyway.

You have Thanasi pushing forward after his surgery. Hopefully they put themselves in a position to make the semis. Then draws can open up and anything can happen.

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