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January 16, 2005

Lleyton Hewitt


THE MODERATOR: First question for Lleyton, please.

Q. Roger was in just before. He nominated you as his greatest potential rival for this tournament. How do you take that?

LLEYTON HEWITT: It's still two weeks away from possibly playing him. So right at the moment, you know, I'm not thinking about Roger too much. You know, if it comes to that opportunity, I know that I'll be playing for the title if I have to play him anyway, which would be a great, great thing for me, I think. But, you know, he's obviously going to be the favorite going in. But there's no point in me worrying about just Roger right at the moment. You know, I've got enough tough guys in my path. You know, I've just got to try to take it one match at a time and not look too far ahead into the tournament.

Q. He nominated you perhaps because he said that you're Australian, you're in form. Do you feel like you're in form going into the tournament, at your peak?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I feel like I'm hitting the ball well at the moment. Grand Slams are different, I think, to, you know, other tournaments that you play week in and week out. You know, it's a matter of trying to get through that first week and put yourself in a position to really have a crack at it in the second week. Right at the moment, I'm happy with where my game's at. Both physically and mentally I feel good, feel fresh coming into the tournament. But you've still got to go out there and get the job done. Yeah, under the circumstances, playing best-of-five sets, as well, which is a totally different thing to, you know, playing in Adelaide or Sydney the last two weeks.

Q. How much under pressure do you feel being Australian going into this tournament, compared to the other Slams?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Not that much added pressure. You know, obviously there's a lot more talk probably about me I think, you know, in this tournament than anywhere else, the other three Slams. But, you know, I just try and prepare myself as well as possible for all four of the majors. I feel like, you know, all four of them, I have a good chance. Probably, you know, the French maybe not so much as the other three every time I go into the tournament. So I just try and prepare as well as possible and get myself in the right frame of mind, you know, going into the tournament. And then, you know, just try and take it one match at a time. None of them are easy, though. I think when I've won the US and Wimbledon, I've had probably two totally different preparations going into those two tournaments. You know, before Wimbledon I could hardly lose a match on grass. But before the US Open, before I won that, you know, I wasn't actually, you know, setting the world on fire before that. But you've got to go out there in Grand Slams and find a way to get through some of those tough matches early on.

Q. Do you think you've ever come into the Australian Open so well-prepared?

LLEYTON HEWITT: There's been other years I think where I've been hitting the ball well and winning a lot of matches. All last year, though, I hit the ball extremely well on every surface, I think. And the guys, you know, took -- most tournaments that I played, if I didn't win the title, then I ended up losing to the winner pretty much nearly every week. You can take confidence away from that, I guess, that it's taken the best players to beat you week in and week out, and it was probably as consistent a year as I've ever had, even when I was No. 1. It's been a long period that I've been able to, you know, keep my game at a high level. So, you know, I take that confidence into it. And obviously the last, you know, all four majors last year, I lost to the eventual winner in all four of them. I wasn't that far away from having a pretty successful year last year.

Q. When it comes to the start of the tennis year, do you wipe the slate on what's happened here previously at the Australian Open, or do you feel there's things you have learned along the way about surviving that first week, and every year you come back you're a little bit closer to getting where you want to in this tournament?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, you know, even though I haven't passed the Round of 16, I think, you know, I actually haven't played that badly. Last year it took -- you know, if I didn't play Roger, I could have made the semi or final, and played and ended up losing to the eventual champion. So I didn't think I was that far away from actually being the second or third best player in the tournament last year. Before that, I lost to El Aynaoui in a weird match where I actually didn't feel like I played that badly here. He had a day out that day, played incredible tennis. The year before that I had chickenpox. You know, I actually don't feel like I've prepared that badly coming into any of the Australian Open campaigns, especially the last few years when I've really been in the top, you know, two or three players in the world coming into this tournament. But, you know, this year I obviously feel pretty confident about where my game's been at. Apart from Roger, I feel like I've, you know, been as good as anyone else out there in the last year or so.

Q. Since you've been here, have you taken the opportunity to catch up with Paul McNamee at all?


Q. Do you plan to?


Q. Is that issue for you rested, like you're not -- still not an issue for you?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I'm here to play the tournament. Nothing's going to change. So, you know, for me it's all about focusing on, you know, what I got to go out there and do, you know, to beat my opponents. You know, I won't be worrying about whether it's the media or whoever, no outside influences. I'm just worried about -- you know, it takes seven -- I've got to look at seven opponents in the next two weeks. That's all I'm focusing on, one at a time.

Q. It's pretty well-documented coming in you haven't been happy with the surface as it stands. You wouldn't want that to happen again next year. Are you going to be addressing it at all at some stage?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Oh, I don't know right at the moment. It's not in my thoughts at all coming in through this tournament. The whole time I'll be having positive thoughts. And I feel like I'm good enough to go out there and do well on any surface right at the moment. It won't even be in the back of my mind right at the moment.

Q. The work you did in the off-season, was that focused on increased power?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah. There was a lot of power and strength training. But it hasn't just been, you know, the off-season or the couple weeks that we had off after Houston. It's been a buildup of 12, 18 months Roger and I have really been working hard in the gym, training hard, trying to work on areas that are not only going to make me a better player for the Australian Open this year, but also in the years to come on every surface. I think that's really maybe starting to pay off the last six months or so. You know, I'm sure it helped during that whole US Open -- lead-up to the US Open this year or end of last year and through Houston where I played some of my best tennis.

Q. What constitutes success for you in the tournament? Is it only winning the tournament that makes it a successful tournament for you?

LLEYTON HEWITT: No, not at all. You know, tennis is a game where there's only -- you know, there's two players out there. A lot depends on your opponent and how well they play, as well. All you can do is go out there and give your best, give a hundred percent. You know, hopefully everything goes right out there. But when you're playing the best players in the world, it's only one or two points sometimes in a match that can change the outcome. Sure, if you lose here at the Australian Open, you're going to be disappointed. But if you look back on it and you know you've done all the hard work leading into it, and you put everything on the line, which I plan to do every time I step out there in practice or matches, you know, then I can look back and have no regrets.

Q. Is it a case of perhaps trying to get to the quarters first, then anything on top of that is a bonus?

LLEYTON HEWITT: At the moment I'm just trying to get to the second round, worry about Clement, then see who I come up against then. But, you know, I'm not even thinking about trying to get to the quarters or getting my best result at the Australian Open. You know, if I put myself in a position to be there late in the second week, then I've got as good a chance as anyone.

Q. Do you ever get sick of playing the same player it seems week in and week out?

LLEYTON HEWITT: It happens a lot. I prefer to be me than him, though (smiling).

Q. In past years it's been you and Mark Philippoussis as Australian players. Do you feel a lot lonely being the only sort of realistic chance from an Australian point of view?

LLEYTON HEWITT: What do you mean, Todd Reid is not going to win it (smiling)?

Q. He could. He's 150.

LLEYTON HEWITT: No, yeah, you know, obviously Mark, I think no matter what his ranking is, because of his firepower, the potential that he has, he's always going -- people are always going to have high expectations of him. And obviously him not being here this year, you know, a bit more focus will be on me. But every time I go out to play a Davis Cup match in Australia or wherever I am around the world, a lot of focus is on me anyway, going out there and playing for your nation. It's nothing that's, you know, going to worry me or, you know, affect my chances of doing well here.

Q. You say you don't worry about external influences. Sometimes in a two-week tournament, being an Australian player playing in the Australian Open, you might have reason to call on the local organizers whether it might be scheduling a match, whether it be a night match, that sort of thing.

LLEYTON HEWITT: Doesn't really matter, I don't think. You know, going out there at the end of the day, I think Channel 7 is going to have the most pull about when I play, purely for ratings, you know, what's going to help -- you know, what people want to see. Obviously I'm going to play a lot of night matches. I'm happy playing with that. That's the prime time to be playing, especially in your own home Grand Slam. It's always a great atmosphere playing at night. I plan on probably playing quite a few night matches the longer I keep going in the tournament. But, you know, it doesn't bother me whether I play, you know, late afternoon or night matches. You know, it doesn't bother me either way.

Q. You've actually done your part with raising money for the tsunami relief, public service announcements, the racquets. How does it affect the tour? Are guys talking about it? What is your feeling on that?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, I haven't spoken to the other players really about it. But I know the ATP has done a lot of stuff to try and help, you know, the disaster that happened across Asia. I think especially a lot of the top players have tried to help out as much as possible as well. It's not an easy time to be trying to help out either for a lot of the top players that are coming down to try and concentrate on playing one of the four majors as well. But, you know, I know Roger and Andy and myself and a lot of the top guys are donating racquets, trying to raise as much money as possible. But, you know, as I said, it's not probably the best timing for us either, you know, the week or so before a Grand Slam starts.

End of FastScripts….

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