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January 15, 2006

Lleyton Hewitt


THE MODERATOR: Fist question, please.

Q. How's the fitness?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, no, I feel a lot better than I did last week, so, you know, at the moment, so far, so good. Last couple of days I've been able to train for a few hours, couple hours. You know, I feel pretty good on the court at the moment so, you know, I've been happy with the way I'm hitting the ball last couple days.

Q. Is it still lingering?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Not that I'm aware of. You don't know until you get out there and play five sets. But right at the moment I feel ready to go.

Q. You had worries about the court speed last year. Are they quicker than last year? Were there efforts to do that that you are aware of?

LLEYTON HEWITT: No, I don't think they're any different. I don't think there's been any efforts either.

Q. Is that still a worry for you? Is that going to be a concern?

LLEYTON HEWITT: It's something very similar to last year. You just block it out. The court's the same for everyone. You know, if it's not my favorite surface and doesn't play, I still got to go out there and compete and, you know, do all the right things. You know, there's no doubt in my mind that, you know, it's not the greatest surface for injuries either. I think it causes a lot of friction on your body, and, you know, definitely after my hip injury last year in Sydney, it didn't get any better over the two weeks playing tough matches on this surface here in Melbourne.

Q. Did you talk to Paul or anyone about it after last year's Open?

LLEYTON HEWITT: We've had a few chats and got nowhere.

Q. Obviously disappointing that nothing's been done?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, but, you know, it's disappointing when -- you know, I feel like I've done a lot of right stuff, I think, for tennis in Australia, and, it's disappointing but, you know, there's no point winge-ing about it. I've got to go out there and compete. This is my national title. I get goose bumps just walking out there on center court. Doesn't matter what the surface is.

Q. Even though you got to the final last year, do you think because of the things that happened to you subsequently in 2005 you are actually coming in with perhaps less expectation on your shoulders this year?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Maybe. I guess in some ways it feels like every time I come into the Australian Open, there's always that added expectation, I think. Until we have more Australians probably in the top 10, top 20 in the world, it's going to continue year after year. Right at the moment I've got to be prepared for that, I think, until my career's over. So, you know, that's something I look forward to and, you know, it's not something that really worries me. You know, obviously last year was a huge positive in not only my result in the Australian Open, but a big step in my career, I think, as well, playing seven extremely tough players in a row.

Q. But in terms of since the US Open, you've hardly had a tournament. The competitive edge might not be quite there.

LLEYTON HEWITT: There's been other years I had the same, though. The year I took a couple of months off to concentrate on the Davis Cup final, you know. In those big matches, when the time came and my mind was ready, I was ready to go in that situation. Even in the Australian Open, a couple weeks later, after that Davis Cup final. It's something that once the bell rings, I'll be ready to go on Tuesday.

Q. You've managed your own schedule pretty carefully, not playing too much the last few years. Do you think there needs to be an attempt to really institutionalize an off-season that's longer, or are you happy doing it yourself and making your own decisions for where you play?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, up till now it's sort of been left to yourself really 'cause nothing's happened. You know, doesn't matter how much the players winge about it or complain, you know, or we have injuries or pullouts or whatever at the start of the next year, you know, nothing's really changed. So, you know, I take it upon myself. Obviously last year was for different reasons though as well. You know, I had a few injuries and obviously the birth of Mia as well. It's a little bit different last year, but I still feel over the last four, five years I've been able to pick my schedules extremely well. When I'm based in Australia, I think that's very important to me.

Q. Should they make the off-season longer?

LLEYTON HEWITT: They've got to look at it. There's no way about it. I know it's obviously disappointing for Shanghai not to have all the top players playing last year at the end of the season. You know, it is a big hit. I think for the first Grand Slam for the calendar year not to have guys like Nadal, Safin, Agassi, these kind of guys playing, you know, every big tournament wants to have the best field and the top players playing. You've got to look after the best players. You can't expect them to play week in and week out and be fully fit to play in all the big tournaments.

Q. Without getting too political, do you see change at the ATP? Do you think that you might possibly get on with the new man a little better than you did with the last man?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Absolutely. It's a massive step in the right direction I think. Yeah, de Villiers I got a lot of time for from what I've spoken to him already on a few issues. I definitely think it's a step in the right direction. It's not going to be easy for him, though. I think he's got the right outlook and he's got the right interests at heart as well.

Q. What about your own form? Hasn't been as impressive as it was in the past.

LLEYTON HEWITT: Not really. I think once a Grand Slam starts, you've got to be ready to go. And over five sets is different. In the past I've had a lot of matches coming in, so this is going to be slightly different. But come Tuesday, you know, I'm just going to be worrying about my first-round opponent and trying to get that one and trying to get some momentum going into the tournament. If I can look at it, try to get past the first week, see what happens in the second week.

Q. Is the haircut anything to do with Wimbledon 2002? It's slightly similar.

LLEYTON HEWITT: Slightly similar. It's slightly similar to the first-round loss in 2003, too (laughing). You win some, you lose some. No, it's nothing to do with those.

Q. Have you already decided about playing Davis Cup after the Australian Open?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I haven't even thought about Davis Cup just yet. Too much on my mind at the moment.

End of FastScripts….

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