August 5, 2004
THE MODERATOR: Lleyton advances to the quarterfinals here for the third time in the last four years. He'll take on 2000 US Open Champion Marat Safin. Their head-to-head is 4-4. Lleyton won the last meeting in the Tennis Masters Cup Round Robin. Questions for Lleyton.
Q. I would imagine you're fairly pleased with that?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I felt like I played well. You know, obviously after Tim had such a late night last night and having to come through a tough match against Arazi, the first thing I wanted to do is try and get off to a good start and really stamp my presence down on the match. I was able to do that. You know, held my first service game, broke, held to Love the next two games. I felt that really set things up well for me there. Yeah, it was tough conditions. It was pretty swirly wind out there. I had to make him play a lot of balls.
Q. When you have such a good record against a good player, is part of that wanting to get off to a good start wanting to remind him why you've got such a good record against him?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I guess there's probably little mental games going on out there. I think after last night it was hard to, I'm sure -- getting to bed at I don't know what time, two or three o'clock, and then having to come out and play again today, and knowing that I wasn't going to give him too many cheap points out there so he's going to have to work maybe even harder than he did last night. So just to have that in the back of your mind and your opponent's mind, I guess, when you're going out there can only be a positive for me.
Q. Were you aware of him being tired?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Not really. You know, I think he tried to, you know, finish points off fairly quickly. He obviously tried to play an attacking game. But that's his game, that's his best game. You know, when he's playing his best tennis, he's attacking a lot of the time. Obviously when, you know, he goes down a break in the first set, I felt like the momentum, you know, the positive energy really went on my side there. But then in the second set, you know, he started serving a little bit better. And the first game I had Love-40 and wasn't able to break. He sort of picked up his game in the second set.
Q. What is it about Tim that you like to play? Because you have his number at the moment.
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I don't know if there's things that I like to play. But as I said yesterday, in the past we've had a lot of tough matches. This was obviously, you know, a bit more convincing my way today. But, you know, I don't think there's one particular thing that really sets us, you know, apart or game set us apart that much. You know, I've never played him on clay. It's always been on hard court or grass. And, yeah, we've had some tight matches in the past.
Q. Is there an extra little bit of confidence you have going out there knowing you've never lost to the guy?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Not really. It doesn't change. This is a big tournament and a spot for me to come through when I feel like I've beaten a couple of good players like Kuerten and Henman back-to-back. They're both class players. I've got a lot of respect for both their games, and both as people on and off the court. It was really just an opportunity leading into the US Open for me to go out there and beat, you know, a Top 10 player.
Q. At this point how much momentum do you feel going into tomorrow's match?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Oh, I feel good at the moment. I feel like I've got better and better with every match. But Marat Safin, he's going to be tougher than all my opponents so far. He's got a great game. He's obviously got a lot of power. You know, he can hit winners from everywhere. I've got to go out there and play my game and try and make him play a lot of balls.
Q. When a guy does something like Tim did during the first set when he went to the umpire, does that say to you he's not confident? What does that say to you? What goes on there in your mind?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I'm trying to block it out as much as possible. Obviously he thought he got a bad call. And, yeah, for me, I can't tell one way or another. It's a game of inches in a lot of ways. And whether that ball was in or not, I've got no idea. Yeah, I've just got to go back there and really try and turn my back and just focus on what I've got to do. That I think set up two breakpoints 15-40. I pretty much just had to focus on the job at hand and sort of can't let any distractions enter your mind.
Q. Does it say to you something like that's almost a surrender point where he's showing that he's frustrated?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Not really. I think he can work either way. It's a lot easier to say in hindsight that maybe he was frustrated at the time. But then again I've had opportunities -- I've had matches where other guys have done very similar things, and I've ended up losing the match. So it didn't cost someone that on that time.
Q. Obviously on the court during the match you didn't show him a lot of mercy. Away from that, can you empathize with someone getting beaten in that way, sort of humbled like that?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, I don't know if it was that bad. You know, Tim's a great guy. I get along extremely well with him. It is awkward playing against him because there's not that many English-speaking guys out there. And I think Tim's probably the guy that, you know -- to practice with anyone, I'd probably practice with Tim more than any guys out there apart from some Australian guys. So, you know, it's awkward. I'm always talking to him in the locker room, playing golf, different stuff. It's probably hard for both of us out there. But I've had to play a lot of Australians in big matches in the past as well. It's something you've just got to try and deal with when you're out.
Q. Do you let him beat you at golf?
LLEYTON HEWITT: He's better than me at golf (smiling).
Q. So he gets some satisfaction?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, he's a lot better than me at golf (smiling).
Q. Do you ever look at the draw in tournaments like this and say, "I've got an easy draw," or, "I've got a tough draw." The top of the draw lost some seeds. You've got another seed to play. Is that good, bad? Does it make any difference?
LLEYTON HEWITT: In these kind of tournaments there's very few good draws. For starters, you know, I played Guga second round. You know, there's great matches in the first round. Hrbaty beats Federer. You know, and then you come into the seeds. And if you play against a seed like I did today in Tim, then you know they're great players. But if you're playing against other guys like Santoro or Robredo who get through in that section, they're in the quarterfinals. They're confident, you know. They've got very little to lose. So they're obviously doing something right to get through to this far in the tournament. There's not too many times that you look at the draw and you're thinking your section is opening up that much. Especially in this tournament where the Top 64 players are in the draw.
Q. This is a big tournament, but there's a huge tournament just a few weeks away. Are you at the point you'd like to be leading into the US Open? You say you're getting better and better.
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I think so. I haven't put a foot wrong this week so far. I feel like I'm, as I said, I got better with every match. And US Open is still three or four weeks away. And, yeah, you won't know until that time comes, that Monday or Tuesday comes. But, you know, I'm pretty happy with the way I'm hitting the ball at the moment.
Q. How close to your peak level do you think you are?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Oh, I don't know. I'm just trying to win matches at the moment.
Q. You're not thinking in those terms?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Not really, no.
Q. Take it day by day?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yep.
Q. What are your thoughts on the US Open Series? Is it an improvement, is it necessary, is it good for tennis?
LLEYTON HEWITT: It's hard to say, I guess, in its first year whether it's going to be a huge positive for tennis. You know, the biggest positive I think that tennis needs that can help with this is getting more TV coverage in America, live TV coverage in America. You know, with such small tournaments like Los Angeles, Indianapolis, Washington coming up, those kind of tournaments, if that happens, then, you know, that's great for tennis in America. There's no doubt about it. You know, it's something that as a player I don't focus on, though. I'm more worried to get my game right for the US Open and preparing for that major title. If you could tell me I was going to win the US Open Series or the US Open tournament, I'd tell you what I'd take.
End of FastScriptsâ€¦.