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January 10, 2020

Lleyton Hewitt

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

(From ATP recording.)

Q. Tough test yesterday. Do you feel you got the best of the schedule this time with a two-and-a-half-day break?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, well, it's been good for us, you know, just to have those days off in between our matches.

It was a tough one yesterday. I knew it was going to be a big ask for the boys. Just coming from Brisbane, I know it's only an hour difference, but we played a couple of nights before, as well, in totally different conditions than we had to play yesterday. So I knew yesterday was going to be a really tough ask, no matter which team we came up against.

We'll really try and focus on trying to get through that one, and then the boys could really have an easier day today. Obviously from tomorrow morning they'll start focusing on whoever we come up against.

Q. Have you had much time watching the game next door?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I'll watch it. I'll have a little bit of a look at it. The matchups are very different to tonight's matches, so, yeah, we'll just -- I'll have a look. You know, I'll be looking at other footage, as well.

Q. How much of a difference would it make to the team to know who they were playing?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, the No. 1 and 2 are always meant to play. That's based off rankings. I think that's where a lot of people and the public have to start understanding, you know, it's not the same as Davis Cup, because there is ranking points involved. The No. 1 and 2, unless they are injured or medically can't play, then they're going to be playing.

And so you've got to work out ways of dealing with that. And obviously right now, how the rules stand, if you don't actually put one of those guys in the singles, they can't play doubles for that particular tie.

You know, those other days when Alex and Nick didn't play the singles, because it was more precaution looking after their bodies, that actually ruled them out of possibly playing doubles, as well. So that's more for me to work out and deal with than the players having to deal with that.

All in all, when the No. 1, 2 players are fit to play, then they're going to be playing.

Q. What have they done this morning? How did they pull up after those pretty exhausting tense matches yesterday?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Alex has had a day off today, so for him it's been recovery, physically and mentally. That took a massive effort for him, not just physically.

I knew he'd come out in the doubles and be able to bring that energy, intensity for two sets and a super-tiebreaker. Wasn't concerned about that. It was more mentally being able to be so close to closing out the tie and do something that he really wanted to do here in Australia and have a great win, but to bounce back and actually come out and lay it on the line yet again, if that didn't go our way, which it could have in the doubles yesterday, then he would have been pretty shattered last night.

So it was a bit of a roller coaster for him. For him, it's perfect. He's played enough tennis. He's hitting the ball great, moving really well. I'm not worried about him having a day off.

Nick came out and he looked good today. I hit with him out here. Very similar to a lot of his days off this week, and, yeah, he seemed full of energy. I think he'll be ready to go tomorrow tonight.

Q. (Question off microphone.)
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I'll see. I'll see. A lot depends -- there is a lot of factors in this. You only get five minutes to decide once the on-court interviews are done (smiling). There is not a lot of time.

Obviously, yeah, you have to talk, especially to Alex, the No. 1 player, and also he's the guy that just comes off the court of playing, too. For him to have a clear head after losing that match yesterday, and me, I spoke to his private coach, Adolfo, as well, and we had to come up with a choice.

Q. Why are Nick and Alex doing so well?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I don't know. I think Nick always -- he went out of his way when we put a lot of faith in Alex as an orange boy in the Davis Cup ties for a lot of ties he came to.

Nick was fantastic with him. He's always been great with the orange boys, the younger boys that have come. He enjoys doing the two-on-one sessions, working him extremely hard. I think he gets enjoyment out that.

Alex was never the kid that was going to give in or show pain. I think Nick appreciated that, as well.

Yeah, I think they have struck up a really good friendship because of that, and I think Alex brings out the best in Nick on the practice court, as well, just Alex's intensity, the way he goes about it. Nick can't switch off in a practice set or practice with Alex, which that's fantastic. Both of them, yeah, sort of push each other to get better, as well.

Yeah, it's fantastic to see. You know, even though at the moment Alex has passed Nick in the rankings, Nick couldn't be prouder of Alex. He's like a little brother to him out there, firing him up and wanting him to have success, as well.

Alex growing up, Nick was always that kid that was the top Australian and the big prospect coming up, as well. He, in some ways, has probably idolized Nick, as well.

Q. Makes your job easier?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Most of the time. Yeah, just not when they're talking about cars and stuff. Yeah, most of the time it's not too bad.

Q. Irrespective of what happens in the semis or if you go beyond that to the final, how important has this event been for the Australian boys and getting started the way the season has, which is so different to any other year as you look to the Australian Open and even beyond through 2020?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I think it's been important for the boys to get a lot of good matches. Yeah, every match we've played, it's felt like it's been an epic encounter in some way, whether it was one of the matches or both of the matches in the singles, and then obviously the doubles last night.

But, yeah, to go through those pressure situations, because at some stage both of those boys are going to be challenged at the Australian Open, they're going to have the weight of expectation of playing in front of their home crowd, both seeded players in their own Grand Slam, and so I think, you know, that's priceless. For them to be able to go through those nerves a couple of weeks out from a major is pretty important.

They're both playing well. Now they've got the miles in their legs, coming off the preseason. Alex probably had a tougher preseason than Nick, and so I think it's been really important for Nick, as well, to just get these matches.

Yeah, he probably had a few doubts coming in, just because he hadn't played a lot of matches at the back end of last year, and now I think he's starting to get more and more confident.

Q. A lot of people ask about Rafa, but they also have a very strong No. 2 in RBA. How important do you think he is for their team?
LLEYTON HEWITT: He's very important. He showed it in the Davis Cup final. He was able to go out there and win his point and get them off to a good start. And then, you know, Rafa is not a bad closer to go out (smiling). Probably the best in the world.

He's very important. Obviously Nick is going to have to go out there and focus on the job he's gotta do at hand.

A lot of the time it can be on Nick's racquet, though, as well. If he goes out there and plays well and executes and is in the right frame of mind, then I'm going to back him against a lot of No. 2s.

Q. If you play Belgium, a bit of history there.
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, it was nice to beat them in Madrid, that's for sure. We enjoyed that win.

Once again, Steve Darcis plays above himself when he plays for his country. He could come out and play exceptionally well tonight against Bautista. Obviously Goffin, quality player.

Yeah, even how well Demon played against him in Madrid, the tennis, second half of that second set was incredible. Goffin stepped it up. Demon went with him. He was very fortunate to scrape through in straight sets, but I have a lot of respect for David Goffin and the kind of tennis player he is. That's going to be a great match tonight between him and Rafa.

Q. Talk about the ATP Cup. What about the middle-tier phases? Not quite as many opportunities there for those guys to play tournaments before the Australian Open?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, it's tough. It is. I have obviously spent a lot of time talking to those slightly not as high ranked players especially because we have quite a few in Australia that would have got opportunities to play quallies in Brisbane and these kind of events in the past.

Yeah, the challenge is, though, I know Canberra got moved to Bendigo, and, yeah, it's some of the toughest challenges we have had. The quality of player -- Kohlschreiber and these guys are playing in these challengers.

That's like nearly a 250 event there, anyway. At least they are getting matches, which is important coming in. Obviously the guys who get wildcards into the Australian Open will get an opportunity to play in Adelaide, either in quallies or main there.

So there is still opportunities, but I can understand how this has sort of changed everything I guess with a lot of the preparation.

Q. (Question off microphone.)
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah. Well, yeah, obviously it's going to be a big crowd tomorrow night, I would expect, and we have to use that as much as possible to our advantage.

But we've got to reset and start again. Yeah, the boys obviously can come out and use that energy that they got up from yesterday, but we're going to focus on a totally different team.

It's going to be a lot of excitement, especially if we do play Spain and Rafa is part of that team. To have him in Australia and playing these events before the Australian Open is pretty special, especially here in Sydney. I know in the past he's only really played a couple of XOs here, the Fast4 events.

So for the New South Wales people to get to see somebody of that caliber up close, it's fantastic for our sport and this country.

Q. Your players, the cricket players, most of the public guys at the moment, the athletes getting into the bushfire support, raising money, is that helping guys like Nick? He's really taken a bit of the lead with the tennis players. Has it helped his profile? And has it also brought motivation, inspiration for him?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Possibly. It's not something we have spoken about a whole heap. You have seen him after the matches when he gets asked questions. He does get pretty emotional about it, as well. And Canberra and how bad it is to move an actual ATP challenger tournament from there, which they wait 12 months for every year.

He saw it firsthand throughout December, as well, and how it was there. So I think that's probably affected him more.

It's fantastic, you know, what the cricketers and, you know, the fellow Aussie tennis players -- as I said the other day, I think the whole tennis community has really supported it, and I think that's where Tennis Australia has done so well, looking after the players down here for so many years now, that they actually feel the pain that the Australian public is going through.

So, yeah, I'm pretty proud of the whole tennis community worldwide.

Q. Obviously you have been through sitting as captain for a number of Davis Cup ties. Has this ATP Cup been different for you compared to sitting on a Davis Cup tie?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Not really (smiling). No, yesterday was as tough as any Davis Cup tie that I've sat through.

As I have said, and I had some messages from people last night, it's tougher sitting on the sidelines than being out there playing. You really, yes, you can say a few things to these guys and try and control their emotions. But in a situation like that, yeah, you must refer -- as a tennis player and a person who has been out there, you prefer to be out there and have it on your racquet. You're a little bit helpless once you're in the stands and trying to help out just with the odd word here and there.

But, yeah, it is nerve-racking from the side. Yeah, me and the coaching staff have tried to do as much background work and homework on the opponents as we do for the Davis Cup ties, as well.

We have really treated it pretty high on the agenda to try and have success here.

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