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January 19, 2006

Lleyton Hewitt


THE MODERATOR: First question, please.

Q. Any early indication of what the foot problem was?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I'm not sure yet, but I think something jarred or felt like a small bone or something to me. But the trainer felt like -- he said it's got something to do with jarring. I said, "Oh, can we strap it or do anything?" He said there was not a whole heap we could do. He said for precaution, so you just don't roll it anymore, that we'll strap it, but he said that won't take away the pain.

Q. How much did it hinder you?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Uhm, yeah, but I was down two sets to love when it happened. I was up 3-1 in the third and it happened during that game. And, yeah, I basically had to change my whole movement because of it. Every ball I was moving out wide on either side, I had to always (prop up?) my right foot. Whenever I landed on my left foot, I was history.

Q. The whole atmosphere out there seemed a little bit subdued from outside the court. How did you perceive what was going on out there?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, well, first two sets, no one had much to cheer about, I guess. So, you know, there didn't feel like a whole heap of emotion out there I guess. And, you know, I guess after I won the third set and, you know, somehow was able to find a way out of that set, then the crowd got into it a little bit more.

Q. How tough is it to swallow that defeat given your run last year?

LLEYTON HEWITT: At the moment it's a bit disappointing. Probably hurt for a few days, I'd say.

Q. Did the virus you'd brought into the tournament, did that play any role? You seemed a little flat this week. Was that playing a role up till tonight?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Maybe a little bit. Tonight I actually felt like I had more energy out there tonight than I did in my previous -- in my opening match on Tuesday. So, yeah, there's no doubt that, you know, it lingered into the tournament a bit, but I felt like I was getting better and better each day.

Q. What about the court speed? Obviously, you clearly are upset by the slow nature of it. I mean, how much did that play into Juan Ignacio's hands tonight?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Oh, you know, it definitely helped him out, there's no doubt about that. You know, he still played extremely well, and, you know, he didn't give me a lot of opportunities out there. But, you know, the court surface, it's very hard to dictate play out there. You know, and it's slower than last year, there's no doubt about that, whether it's the balls or not. They say changing to Wilson balls is, you know, to make it quicker or whatever for using a US Open ball, but the facts are this is a totally different top surface to a US Open. You can't compare two balls. This ball fluffs up on this court because it's so rough. It leaves a lot of fur out there on the court. Whereas the US Open is a painted surface on a hard court that's a lot slicker out there so the ball's going to get smaller. I don't think there's been a lot of homework done how the balls play on this surface for some reason. It's bouncing a lot higher and playing a lot slower even this year from last year.

Q. Last year you said it was playing like the French Open. Do you stand by that?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Mate, it could be slower than French Open.

Q. There were times throughout each set where the crowd was probably expecting you to win, to come back from nowhere. You've done it so many times before. Apart from the ankle and the slowness of the court, was there anything else going on stopping you from doing that tonight?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Not really, you know. I was giving everything I had out there. You know, I just wasn't up to it tonight. You know, I felt like my ball-striking actually got better and better as the match went on. It's probably the best I've stroked the ball throughout the whole Australian summer as well. So, you know, it's a bit disappointing not to have those matches before in Adelaide and Sydney to maybe have been hitting the ball a bit better coming in. But tonight I actually felt like I hit the ball a bit better than in my opening round and also how I was hitting it in the previous tournaments.

Q. How far do you think Chela can go here based on tonight's match?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I don't know. Obviously, the next round I think he plays Vliegen. He's got a good chance of winning that. You know, I don't think he's a contender.

Q. Have you made a call on Davis Cup yet? Is that still to be decided?

LLEYTON HEWITT: No, no, I haven't even thought about it. I had, you know, the last two weeks -- well, last month, I've just been focusing on this tournament.

Q. Does that mean you're considering not playing?

LLEYTON HEWITT: No, I haven't even thought about it right now. Not even thinking about it.

Q. When will you make your choice?

LLEYTON HEWITT: That's something I'll work out in the next day or two. Yeah, you never want to think about when you're going to be out of a Grand Slam, what you're doing next. So, you know, I'll sit down and think about it with my coach and work it out in the next day or two.

Q. Is there a bit of a balancing act there, just your own scheduling priorities and getting things organized in your career?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Not really. You know, we're -- for me, at the moment, you know, my priorities were definitely the Australian Open. Yeah, I've -- I've just got to sit down and work out what I want to play next. That's for sure.

Q. You plan to play a little bit more this year than last year or about the same?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Maybe a little bit more. Obviously last year the injuries, the ribs kept me out for the whole clay court season basically. So, you know, I look forward to going back to the French Open, even though it's not -- it's not the easiest Grand Slam for me or the easiest tournament. I look forward to the challenge of going back there again after not playing it last year. Yeah, so I'll play obviously a few lead-in tournaments before that, which I didn't play last year.

Q. The struggles you've had with sort of the surface here and the sort of questions that's raised, does it take away the fun or the challenge you have here? Does it sort of make it -- I know you look forward to coming here, but does it detract from that a bit?

LLEYTON HEWITT: It's a bit disappointing purely because I feel like I'm fighting with -- you know, fighting with people that, you know, we should be working together to try to make Australian tennis better. I know Flip feels exactly the same way. I know Wayne feels the same way. Yeah, I really don't know when some of these people are going to wake up to themselves.

Q. Now that the game is over, do you think it's fair the way the whole reminding of the incident of last year, the way it was treated in the last few days?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Uhm, I don't know how it was treated. I don't think -- I don't know. From what I've seen, couldn't get treated probably, you know, more fairly I'd say in any country in the world.

Q. Like calling Chela Public Enemy No. 1?


Q. Like calling Chela, Public enemy No. 1?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Who said that?

Q. I read it in the paper.

LLEYTON HEWITT: You obviously read papers I don't. I don't read too many. I don't know. I think he'd get a lot worse reception in nearly every other country than Australia, I'd say.

Q. Chela said at the end of the game he was cramping. Did you realize and try to take advantage of it somehow?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I could tell, obviously, when he had the trainer out that something was going on. The next -- the two games before that and the next couple of games, you know, I couldn't tell anything, though. He was still running to dropshots. I'm not sure how bad it was.

Q. You look at some of the players that have progressed easily through their first-round matches, namely Roddick and Federer for fairly obvious reasons. Is there something about your game that has slipped from where it was, or something about the guys you're coming up against, that they're tougher to beat than they ever were? What do you think it is about it? You've got these massive battles on your hand to get through early round matches that you used to feel your way through methodically.

LLEYTON HEWITT: I think this tournament is a little bit different because I wasn't striking the ball as well as I would have liked to have been. The other Grand Slams, the last couple, US Open and Wimbledon, I got through my matches pretty easily until it got to the second week and the business end of the tournaments.

Q. Can you see anyone beating Roger?

LLEYTON HEWITT: No, I can't. You know, it's -- yeah. It's very hard to back against him, I think. I haven't seen him hit a ball here, though. Obviously, his score lines are pretty convincing and, you know, when he's playing with that much confidence, you know, it's a huge boost to have on your side as well, I think. So he's -- yeah, I can't see anyone beating him, but, you know, someone's going to have to play extremely well and he's going to have to be a little bit off, I think.

Q. How tough is it for you to make the Australian Open the top priority? I mean, you play against opponents, there's a lot of expectations as no Australian has won in 30 years, the surface, stuff like that. Is that something you consider in the off-season? Maybe you should make another tournament more your priority, or is it still --

LLEYTON HEWITT: All the Grand Slams are, you know, as big as each other. You know, I love going. You know, Wimbledon is one of my favorite tournaments of the year. I love going there and playing. You can't take away -- it's like Henman playing at Wimbledon: you can't move away from the expectation of playing in your home Grand Slam when you're a top four or five player in the world. There's always going to be that weight of expectation and that extra pressure. That's what comes with being a top five player in the world. Somehow you've got to be able to handle it. I think for the most part I've handled it pretty well. All the majors are very important to me, and trying to prepare as well as possible. You know, obviously playing in Australia or anyone playing in their home Grand Slam is, you know, more important in some ways. But, you know, they're all equally important to everyone, I think.

Q. Your willingness to play Davis Cup, when you sit down and make that decision, is it at all linked to the issues that you're frustrated about with Australian tennis?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Not right at the moment, no.

Q. You can't expand on that? Sort of an unclear answer.


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