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January 20, 2003

Lleyton Hewitt


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. That was a high-quality match, wasn't it?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, was -- you know, it's always hard to tell when you're out there. Felt like pretty good hitting. One break for four sets, you know, high intensity like that, in a Grand Slam Round of 16, it's always, you know, I'd say pretty good tennis out there. I was just disappointing that I was on the other end of it today, I guess. I felt like I played pretty well and I had a lot of chances, you know, I had a lot of 15-30s on his serve. To his credit, he just served huge today. I really couldn't get any rhythm on my returns and, you know, he was too good.

Q. Have you played someone who served better than that, do you think, 70 percent?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, it's -- no one I could think of. Obviously, Sampras, when he's on, is extremely tough. But, yeah, I think that high a percentage of first serves, he was just hitting the lines so much out there today. You know, I knew going into the match that's how he plays. I played him at Wimbledon in I think the third round there a couple years ago, and he did the same thing. It was an extremely tough four-set match. It was the same at the US Open in the quarters just a couple months ago when we had a tough four-set match as well. He just played a lot better today than he did in those two matches. Normally he makes a few more unforced errors and can go down love-30, hit a few double-faults. There was one point in there early in the first set, 15-30, hit his second serve 185 down the middle on the line. Just in that zone, had great rhythm on his serve today.

Q. Did you sense that the crowd never quite got out of its very tense opening? Never really got going out there today? Couldn't lift you at all?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Definitely not their fault.

Q. Just seemed as though they were quiet from the word "go."

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I felt pretty good out there. I felt like the crowd was -- you know, I try and block it out as much as possible as well. It's not like I tried to use the crowd, I guess. Obviously when everyone's on the edge of their seat going into tiebreaks like that, we had three of them in the first three sets. So, yeah, I think it's pretty nervous for everyone sort of sitting out there - not only the players but also the spectators and coaches and everyone.

Q. When you missed that passing shot when you had the breakpoint in the final, you thought that you could overcome?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, I never -- you know, the game after I got broken at 3-all, the game at 4-3, I didn't get my racquet on the ball that whole game. He served huge. If he was gonna do that again, then too good in the last game, I thought. I felt that I tried to put a little bit of pressure on him out there and. You know, I had breakpoint, and I if I got a second serve, I would have had a big chance I think. But he put in a big serve. You know, he was gutsy enough to come into the net off a big forehand. If I was good enough, I could have made a pass but would have been an extremely tough pass to make.

Q. Do you think it's harder to win your home Grand Slam than it is to win other ones?

LLEYTON HEWITT: It's hard to say. Obviously, the pressure and expectation is a lot more on your focus. Whenever you're a top player playing at any Grand Slam, there's always pressure and expectation. Maybe if you're, you know, playing in London or America for me, then you don't feel that pressure quite as much maybe. But, you know, I think No. 1 seed at any Grand Slam is always a little bit of pressure these days.

Q. Is it more painful for you to lose here than anywhere else?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, yeah. At the moment, it's really disappointing. You know, no other way of putting it. Hopefully I'm going to have a lot more opportunities and that's the way I've got to look at it. I didn't leave anything out there today. I gave everything I had and he was too good. You know, that's all you can ask of yourself I guess when you go out there to play. You know, I'm sure I'm going to get, you know, some opportunities during this year or next year, whenever, tight matches like that, they go my way. So you win some, you lose some. You just got to, I guess -- it's tough at the moment but not get too dejected about it. Sort of bounce back better, bigger and stronger.

Q. A lot of people were expecting a night match rather than a day match. Is that a factor in any way?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I don't think so. I'm -- it was hot conditions out there, but it wasn't much wind out there or anything. It was hot but it was nice conditions to play tennis in. Obviously, you know, I played two night matches. This would have been my second day match. So, you know, I got no complaints.

Q. When you're at the age of 21, obviously more tennis ahead of you to play. When you get to a match like this, are you at a point now where you (inaudible) the opportunity you lost or you can still look forward? The reason I ask the question, from your experience last year, you know sometimes you're just not right for these sort of tournaments. There might not be that many chances you get, where everything's right, your health, fitness.

LLEYTON HEWITT: You're disappointed but hopefully I can come back and be healthy next January and, you know, hopefully I can go a little bit further into the tournament. But, you know, I'm the kind of person that gets a bit disappointed after any loss, I guess. I love competing. I love getting out there and playing as good of tennis as I can. And, you know, I think when I look back on this match in a couple of days or a couple of weeks, whenever I feel like thinking about it again, you know, I can honestly say that, you know, I fought as hard as I could out there. Who knows, it could make me a bigger, stronger person when I come back to play in the years to come. I don't know. We'll just have to wait and see.

Q. Are you starting to wonder, what is it with Melbourne Park? You seem to have bad luck.

LLEYTON HEWITT: Not really. It's not bad luck, I don't think, today that I lost. I played an opponent who was better than me on the day. That's tennis. That happens. It's not like golf where you go out there and you've got to just worry about your score and you don't really know what's going on. It's a one-on-one battle and you've got to win seven matches in a Slam. Today he was too good.

Q. Were you surprised at the high level he started playing from the beginning of the match; you were expecting something different?

LLEYTON HEWITT: No, I think in the times that I've played him before, he's a tough player to get rhythm off because he's got such a big forehand there, obviously a huge first serve. Even his second serve gets up there; doesn't give you an opportunity to attack at all. So, you know, probably a little bit surprised. The matches I've played in the past, he hasn't been able to string it together for that long. He didn't play any loose service games obviously today, whereas in the past he's thrown in a couple of doubles in a game or missed a couple of forehands when he's gone for too much and stuff like that. Today he, you know, played extremely well.

Q. The other day Younes said it's very easy to find out which are his weaknesses. He said you watch him playing after ten minutes, you see what is his weakness. Are you somehow disappointed you were not able to exploit those weaknesses, I mean, to play on them?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, it was just too hard the way he was serving today. It's as simple as that. Hard to find his backhand I guess when you can't get your racquet on the ball. Really was a little -- you know, it was a little out of my control. In the tiebreak it was -- you know, the second-set tiebreak, I was up 3-2. Third set tiebreak I was up 4-2. So, you know, I had my chances. The end of those couple of tiebreaks he just played a lot better than I did.

Q. Do you think he's good enough to be in the Top 10? What additions does he have to add to his game to get there?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, if he plays like that, he's easily good enough to play in the Top 10. I just think over the last couple of years or so, you sort of see him play a great tournament, then the next couple of tournaments he loses to guys he probably shouldn't. It's probably just getting -- for your ranking, it's all got to do with consistency and how you play throughout the year. There's no doubt he's a dangerous fighter in any tournament to play against. You just don't know some days whether you got him or not.

Q. You have one of the best returns in the world - maybe the best. Is there something in Younes' serve that makes him difficult to read?

LLEYTON HEWITT: He seems to hit the lines a lot more than everyone else. He goes for those. You know, obviously his serve out wide on the deuce court worked unbelievable today. But he's a very -- he's one of those guys that sort of goes for the lines the whole time. If he's on, he's very tough. You know, it was -- couple years ago when I played him at Wimbledon, I thought he served extremely well. Today he's outdone that by a fair bit. At the US Open when I played him, he didn't serve that well. I had a lot of opportunities to get into rallies with him and really needed to take it to his backhand I guess a lot more.

Q. Service percentage was 47 percent today. You only got broken once, obviously. Do you think that's something you need to work on in terms of getting your percentage up in some big matches?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Sometimes. For the tournament I've been broken three times for four matches. Not too bad.

Q. Do you remember any other match when you didn't break your opponent in four sets?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Off the top of my head the only one's the Agassi match when I was 16 in Adelaide. It was 6 and 6. But I'm sure there are other matches that I haven't broke, but I can't think of too many.

Q. Just a little insight into what it is like to have to bear the weight of the Aussie tennis expectation, how do you think you cope with doing that?

LLEYTON HEWITT: You know, I haven't really felt any extra pressure. I try to block it out as much as possible, and try and use it as a positive rather than a negative. I try and go out there and, you know, enjoy the fact that I've got 15,000 people barking for me. It's a lot easier to go out there and do that mentally rather than, you know, play in Brazil or Spain in a Davis Cup tie and have them all going against you and booing you. So, yeah, I try and use it as a positive. There's been times I guess where I've played some of my best tennis in hostile arenas, where the crowd's against you. Sometimes I think in that situation you've got to focus a lot more and sometimes for me it brings the best out in me. But the pressure of, you know, being the No. 1 Australian, you know, I think, you know, obviously we don't have anyone in the quarterfinals now. I think on a whole, it was a lot better than last year. Some of the younger guys who got wildcards and got the opportunity have sort of stepped up. It sort of I guess takes the weight off me a little bit.

Q. Do you think Hopman Cup was enough preparation for your game?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I played four matches: four singles, four doubles. I had a good training week last week. I don't think preparation was the problem. You know, I trained extremely hard, and I hit a lot of balls last week. I was feeling good coming in. So, you know, it's always a tough question of weighing it up, you know, playing competitive ATP tournaments compared with playing the Hopman Cup. At least you get in that Round Robin situation, you're guaranteed matches rather than you go in, work on areas of your game, bomb out early, your confidence is probably lower if you bomb out in Adelaide or Sydney rather than Hopman Cup.

Q. What is your goal now this year, at this moment? Still be No. 1 or winning Slams?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I don't know. I think Slams are probably the most important. You know, obviously backing it up last year, you know, No. 1 two years in a row was sort of all I wanted at the end of last year. I was able to play my best tennis towards the end of a really long and tough year. This year, you know, I don't think I'm going to play nearly as many tournaments as I did last year. Whether it hurts me, you know, trying to hold on to No. 1 again, we'll have to wait and see. But if I get in a position, you know, of doing well in Grand Slams, you're always going to have a good chance of finishing the year No. 1 anyway.

Q. Can we take it for granted it's going to make you even more motivated for a couple weeks' time in Sydney?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I don't know. I guess it depends who's showing up, too.

End of FastScripts….

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