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January 18, 2003

Lleyton Hewitt


MODERATOR: Questions for Lleyton.

Q. What was more difficult, the match or talking to John McEnroe?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, it's always tough. I get a bit nervous talking to John. Yeah, I think it's fantastic that he comes all this way, though, to commentate. I think he really adds a lot of attention and spice to the tournament. You know, I think it's great that we have a personality like John who is able to -- I think everyone saw how much the fans love him just going out there and saying some words. He's turning into a bit of a comedian out there, as well.

Q. After the first two games, did you think you would have a tougher match?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I thought it would be a little bit tougher than it turned out. It was different conditions, though, tonight compared to two nights ago when I played Larkham. The breeze was a lot stronger I felt out there tonight. It was coming straight down the court. And I was into it that first game. So it was a little bit tougher from that point of view. I didn't make any first serves I think that first game. I still had a lot of chances to hold serve. He probably played nearly as well as he could that first game. You know, it was probably one of the better games he played for the whole night. He served extremely well in the next game. From there, I felt like from that point on I felt pretty much in control of the match.

Q. Following on from John McEnroe's question to you about playing in front of a home audience, what percentage would that lift you from playing in Shanghai or playing in New York or somewhere else?

LLEYTON HEWITT: It's hard to put a percentage on it. I think especially in tight matches when the going gets tough, you sort of look there and you have 15,000 people screaming for you, I think that can really help. So far probably the test has been Magnus Larsson in the first round when I went to the fifth set, and they really helped me sort of bounce back after I lost that tight tiebreaker in the fourth, I was able to get out of it and go up an early break in the fifth. I think the crowd works both positive for me and negative for your opponent sometimes as well. It feels like they're playing the whole crowd, not just myself out there sometimes.

Q. How much of a relief is it to be into the second week after last year?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, it's a big relief. You know, nothing went right last year, obviously. There was obviously a lot of pressure and expectation coming into it this year again, being the No. 1 seed, being a little bit fitter and healthier, as well. You don't have to play your best tennis just yet, as I said when I was out there with John. You just got to try and find a way to win the first few rounds, get your way into the tournament. You know, the last few Grand Slams I've been able to play some of my best tennis towards the end of the Grand Slams rather than at the start. I feel like I'm getting better and better with each match. This is the time now you really got to step it up another gear.

Q. Obviously, there was a lot of expectation on you. Given the intensity that you bring to the court, was there a lot in yourself to get through this first week, given last year?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I just took it one match at a time. I didn't want to look too far ahead of myself. You really can't go out there and expect just to cruise through just because you're the No. 1 or 2 seed or whatever. You've got to put your head down and work extremely hard to get through the first few matches. You're playing obviously lower-ranked guys in the first couple of rounds, and they want to knock off the No. 1 or 2 or whoever, you know, the Top 10 players in a Grand Slam event. That's sort of their dream out there. So I guess you're sort of the top dog ready to get knocked off, as well. Sometimes they play better tennis against the better players.

Q. When you pump yourself, are they timed at any particular point? Is that when you feel like you're actually getting the advantage?

LLEYTON HEWITT: It just comes out naturally, I guess. It's not something I think about before the match. "If I break in the second or third game, I'm going to get pumped and get the crowd into it." It just happens when I'm out there. You know, that's me, I guess. You know, there's not much I can really do about it. I like to get the crowd involved and I like to show my emotion out on the court. You know, I can't really put a time or a certain spot in the match that I'm deliberately going to get pumped up. Sometimes I break serve and I just give a little pump or yell out, "Come on." I don't know why.

Q. You said you have to lift yourself up in the second week. How much do you have to lift yourself up for the match against Younes El Aynaoui?

LLEYTON HEWITT: It's going to be a tough match. He's got a big first serve. He's got a big game. He's got a huge forehand. You know, we played a tough four-set match in the US Open in September in the quarterfinals there, in the second week. I was able to scrape through that one. He's obviously playing well. He had a tough match today against Lopez. You know, I just got to go out there and play my game. If I execute as well as I can, I'm giving myself as good a chance as I can have.

Q. Serena Williams said she's at 75% at the moment, and she times herself to peak at the finals. Can you afford to do that in men's tennis?

LLEYTON HEWITT: No. You got to be on your game I think right from the word go, as you saw in me against Larsson. There's upsets in men's Grand Slams day in and day out. Obviously Moya losing to Fish, not a lot of people would predict that. There's a lot of upsets in men's tennis. You know, that just shows the depth, I guess. You just can't take it lightly, especially over five sets, depends on the conditions of the day that the guys have played before, how much that's taken out of them. There's so many variables, I guess.

Q. The issue that's been brought up several times in the last several weeks of drugs in sport, that whole issue, what are your feelings, thoughts on the issue of drugs in sport, drug testing, whether you think it's rampant at the moment?

LLEYTON HEWITT: You know, I'd like to think that the sport's clean, you know, as I think every other tennis player would, as well. You know, it's sort of out of my hands a little bit, I guess. You know, I believe in drug testing. I got no problem with that. But, yeah, there's not a lot I can do about it. I've just got to sort of concentrate on myself. I know I'm as clean as you can get. You know, I'd like to hope that every other opponent that I'm playing out on the tour is as clean, as well, so it makes a fair dinkum battle out on the court. You know, so far there's only been a couple of incidents where people have been caught positive. You know, the two guys who have been caught in the last couple of years, I know at least one of them was by accident, something was in vitamins or something that wasn't meant to. It's very tough when you get in that situation.

Q. Do you get tested often?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, very often. You know, the end of last year I got tested every week. I got out-of-competition testing. Yeah, from I don't know when, just before the US Open, till the end of the year, every tournament I was tested. I had out-of-competition tests a couple times in there, as well. That's a fair bit, I'd say.

Q. There's a lot of young guys in your half of the draw. How do you rate them?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Oh, they're all great players. They've all played well in big matches, as well. You know, Roddick obviously has a huge game. He plays Youzhny now. I thought he's pretty good for a while now, and it didn't really surprise me the way he handled the situation in the Davis Cup final from two sets to love down. I played him in Rosmalen and Wimbledon last year, as well. I thought he handled the situation very well. Federer is still there. Blake is still there. There's a lot of tough young guys, I guess. You know, a lot depends on just going out there on the day and see how your game matches up, I guess who is feeling a bit fitter as well. That's the big key in Grand Slams, is how you feel, if you have a couple tough matches, how you pull up the next time.

Q. With Safin no longer a chance of meeting you in the semifinals, that has to be a good thing should you get that far?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I have to worry about getting to the semifinals. If you make it to the semifinals, you're not playing a pigeon in it. You're playing a guy who has won, what, five matches to get to the semifinal. It's going to be no easy beat, I don't care who you play. Obviously in that situation, down in the bottom half, the favorites, I'm not sure who they play, but Blake and Federer from the top of my head are probably the two favorites to get through there now. You know, the way the game is these days, you can't take anyone lightly.

Q. Public expectations for you to win this in Australia for the first time in however many years, does that pressure sometimes get you? How do you sort of try to overcome that?

LLEYTON HEWITT: You know, I just block everything out. I block all the sort of outside pressures, I guess, and expectation out. I just worry about going out there and doing the job. You know, basically just take it one match at a time. I'm not getting ahead of myself at all. I'm in the Round of 16 now. Three down, four to go hopefully. If I'm good enough, then I'll be here on the final Sunday. If not, then I'll be back next year.

Q. With regards to Safin's injury, he said it was partly due to the short off-season. I don't know whether you've been asked this summer about your feeling on what is the best date for the Australian Open.

LLEYTON HEWITT: It's a tough one. You know, I still feel like the Australian summer deserves to be the first thing at the start of the year. I still think it's our summer, I think it's a fantastic time to play tennis. Whether it's maybe a couple weeks later, one or two weeks later, that would probably be ideal. Obviously, it coincides with school holidays and stuff at the moment. That's another issue that people on the Australian Open organization may have some problems with. But for the players, I think it would be better in a couple of weeks later. But I definitely prefer to start the new year playing in Australia rather than going over to America or whatever, then coming back and playing, whatever, March or April. I still think starting with the Australian Open at the start of the year would be much better.

End of FastScripts….

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