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January 11, 2006

Lleyton Hewitt


THE MODERATOR: First question for Lleyton.

Q. Does that performance indicate the illness is all gone?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Uhm, I wouldn't say all gone just yet. It was a big step in the right direction, though. So I'm pretty pleased with the way I was able to go out there and focus on the job at hand and not worry about how I was feeling at all. You know, it's nice to win a first set as well (smiling). You know, it hasn't happened for a couple of months since I've, you know, played last. So it was good to get off to a good start, and I think that was important, you know, with the conditions out there today. The wind was swirling a lot on center court and it was tough for both players up both ends.

Q. How did the stomach feel compared to two days ago, and have you been able to find out exactly what problem it was?

LLEYTON HEWITT: It was definitely better today. I don't know if it was only my stomach today, but my whole body felt better today. I felt like I had a lot more energy out there today. The other day I just -- you know, apart from the stomach - you can normally put up with a bit of a sore stomach out there playing - it was the fatigue and energy that I just had nothing two days ago, whereas today I had a lot more energy out there and, you know, felt like I could be competitive and be myself out there. You know, who knows exactly what it is, but, you know, hopefully it's on the improve and keeps improving day by day.

Q. With the withdrawal of Safin and Nadal, can you see that the draw for the Aussie Open is quite open for you?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Not really, no. Still a hell of a lot of good players out there. As I said a couple of days ago, to play against those guys, you just about -- you got to make it to the quarters and the semis anyway. So, you know, I've got to go out there and still take care of the guys I need to in the first week and put myself in a position. You know, anyone that makes quarters or semis of Grand Slams regardless is going to be seeing and hitting the ball well. So even though it's not those guys that obviously have a good record in the big tournaments, you know, there's Nalbandian, Coria, you know, a lot of names out there still.

Q. What do you make of Roger's antics yesterday saying you were the favorite?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, well, it's very surprising, you know. I think Roger's got to go down as one of the biggest favorites of all time this year. So, you know, what did he lose, four matches last year, and at least two, maybe three of them he had matchpoint in.

Q. You've come off a bit of a break. Ivan Ljubicic yesterday said he thought there was enough flexibility in the current scheduling for people to pick and choose their events. You've managed to do that very successfully and still maintain your AFL, golf and charity interests. How important are your extracurricular activities to a balanced lifestyle and performing better on the court as well?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, well, I was still pretty lucky. I only competed -- I only finished eight tournaments last year and finished No. 4 in the world. I don't know how many times that would have happened, and yet there's no doubt it puts you under more pressure in the big tournaments that you play because, you know, if you don't perform in those, then you'll be back 200, 300 in the world. So you're starting behind the eight ball, but last year for different reasons, you know, I had more breaks. There's a few injuries and then obviously the birth of Mia at the end of the year. So I don't think that would happen every year, but I think, you know, it's getting harder and harder I think to keep your ranking at the top when you're not playing a lot of tournaments.

Q. You're still drawing positives from having the break that you might have had later in the year instead?

LLEYTON HEWITT: For me, I think living in Australia, I think that's why so many Australians in the past have lived overseas. There's no doubt that it's harder traveling around the world. And, you know, particularly the stretch, the clay court season and finishing at Wimbledon. The whole clay court and grass court season, we've basically got to stay there that whole time whereas a lot of the European players and even some American players can go back for a week or two, back to their home base, whereas Australia it's nearly impossible with jetlag.

Q. What do you make of Roger's form particularly after his loss to Tommy Haas today?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I wouldn't read a lot into today's match. It's an exhibition.

Q. What are your thoughts on the length of the season? Every year it seems we have the same thing: high-profile players dropping out of the Australian Open because they're carrying over injuries from the previous season. The Masters Cup last year, I mean, the field went away completely. For years and years, players have been asking for people to review the season. What are your thoughts on that?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, well, I think first of all the Masters Cup was a little bit of a once-off. You know, I haven't seen -- the years that I've played in the past, it would be unlucky if one of the top eight guys pull out. So last year was very unlucky for Shanghai for different reasons. In terms of the Australian Open, I think, you know, there's no doubt that it's a lot tougher on a lot of the top players. If you're playing all the year and then expected to -- normally there's going to be pretty good players playing in the Davis Cup final which is a week and a half, two weeks after the Masters Cup as well, and you've got to somehow have a couple of weeks off there, there's no way that your body can always bounce back. We saw it when I had a big year in 2001. I got the chicken pox early in 2002. Juan Carlos Ferrero had exactly the same thing 2004, started 2004. So these are the kind of things that the players and especially the top players I think have been asking for and want a look at for a long time now, but, you know, nothing still seems to be happening.

Q. Last year you fielded a lot of questions about your sleeveless tops, and it was great that you made a joke out of it. This year will be Andy's first Australian Open in Lacoste and your first one in Yonex. How has it been having to wear less Nike street ware, more Abercrombie & Fitch, and having Sydney Confidential spies pretty much photograph your entire T-shirt collection this year?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, I'm lost for words. What was the question (smiling)? Uhm...

Q. You spent a lot of time in the society pages this year as well, so pretty much your entire nonsporting street ware has been photographed as well.

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, there's not a whole heap I can do about that. You know, that I guess comes with all the acting that I've done (smiling).

Q. Adelaide Crows' colors are on your racquet as well.

LLEYTON HEWITT: No, no, that's not hard. Yonex are always going to change and come up with new designs. That's the design they've come up with this time.

Q. Tomorrow there is the possibility you'll be playing Guccione. Is that good for the tournament for you to play an Australian in the quarterfinals?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I think it's good for the tournament, I think it's good for Australian tennis. It's always hard on both the Australian players going out there and playing each other, though. It's something that I haven't had to do in the last couple of years purely because we haven't had that depth. Back when I first started there seemed like a lot of guys that I kept bumping into, a lot of other Australians, and it's never easy playing against those guys. If Chris can get through, it would be great. I'm not sure if he's made a quarterfinal of a tour event before so it would be a big step in the right direction for him and for his career. Yeah, it wouldn't be easy for either of us.

Q. Luczak said he spent a lot of time practicing with you pre Christmas. Do you see it as a role for yourself to help some of these young guys through?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I like Peter a lot. I think he's -- you know, he's probably never going to be a top 10 player, but he puts himself out there and competes day in, day out, you know, on the match court or the practice court, so I got a lot of time for the guy. It was a pleasure to have him to hit with in December. I thought he was hitting the ball great. And, you know, I saw a bit of his match today and, you know, most of the time I thought he was the better player. So he was a bit stiff. That was one of those small opportunities that sometimes you've got to take to get that breakthrough to the next level.

Q. Federer was beaten today. Do you think that suggests there might be a slight chink in the armor?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I wouldn't read a lot into today's match for Roger. Firstly, it's an exhibition. He (dropped?) Tommy Haas last week in the semifinals. I think Roger is probably cruising through right at the moment.

End of FastScripts….

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