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September 8, 2005

Lleyton Hewitt


THE MODERATOR: First question for Lleyton.

Q. Lleyton, seems maybe the first four sets, it was a bit up and down, but your energy level didn't quite seem normal, what we're used to from you. In the fifth you certainly kicked it up a gear. What happened in the first four sets?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, just felt like, yeah, I was just struggling a little bit with, you know, my movement. Just felt a step slower, a bit sluggish out there. It was just a matter of trying to stay tough mentally out there and put myself on level terms. Late in the third set he stepped his game up against the breeze for one game to get the break. And, you know, after the first set I actually felt like I was on top of him. It was just that one game late in the third set that gave him that set. I had to try to rebound strongly in the fourth. There's no doubt I played my best tennis in the fifth set. It was a huge positive to come out of today and hopefully that, you know, can take it another level or two in my next round.

Q. How would you assess your play today?

LLEYTON HEWITT: It was patchy out there today. Tough conditions again. It's the same for both players. But, you know, I probably pulled the trigger a little bit more than I normally do out there today. But Nieminen wanted to play, you know, the patient game and wait for his opportunities to attack. And, you know, it was just a matter of hanging in there really. And, you know, sometimes when I was aggressive and came to the net, he actually played some of his better tennis. So that sort of made it a little bit tougher out there because then I get a little bit negative and defensive and, you know, that's not the best way for me to play.

Q. So much has been made of your celebrations on court the last six months particularly. Does that weigh on your mind at all? Does that affect you, the way you conduct yourself out there?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Not really, no.

Q. Nothing?

LLEYTON HEWITT: No, it's been made my whole career since I was 15, 16, so it's not going to change now.

Q. How forward are you looking to another crack at Roger?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, well, you know, if he gets through tonight's match, which, you know, he's obviously the favorite, you know, doesn't get any easier. But, you know, then again, you keep putting yourself in the position and, you know, there's no doubt I've got to go out there and execute what I want to do and play extremely well to go with him. You know, it's a matter of hanging in there with him and trying to put as much pressure as possible. Yeah, there's been no secret formula. No one's been able to find the exact formula to topple him just yet.

Q. Is it hard not to use him as the measuring stick, "I've got to add this to my game," or "work on this," or whatever, to catch him? Do you resist doing that, consciously do that?

LLEYTON HEWITT: It's a tough one because you're obviously doing something extremely well to keep putting yourself in that position, but most of the time you know if you're going to win the majors, you're going to have to beat him somewhere along the line. Obviously probably later in the tournament. But, you know, it's a tough one. You don't want to go out there and try and work on areas of your game to try to upset Roger late in the tournament, you might fall in one of the first hurdles. That's the tough part about it. But the next day and a half my focus will be purely on Roger if he gets through tonight.

Q. If you look at the way he's played you, when he played you early, he seemed more temperamental, he'd go for it. If he wasn't hitting it, his confidence seemed to sag and you became stronger. The last times he's played you, he doesn't seem to make the errors he used to. How difficult is that to deal with?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, it's made it a lot more difficult for everyone to deal with. That's one of the huge reasons why he just doesn't give you the cheap points that he did four years ago probably. And that's the reason why he's, you know, improved so much and he's the standout No. 1 at the moment, because he doesn't give you cheap points. Probably more so on our service games when we're serving against him, he doesn't give you those cheap points where maybe he did, you'd get some easy service games and cruise through then try and put some pressure on his. That's the reason he's improved so much and, yeah, it makes it a lot tougher. But you still got to try to find a way to get in there. There's not too many weaknesses in his game. You've got to try to break down something.

Q. When you were playing those matches early on, did you think, "He's never going to get that together," or did you think, "Once this guy gets it together, it's going to be real trouble"?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, he's always been talented, there's no doubt about that. He's always had all the shots. It was a matter of him putting it together. I think a lot of people probably spoke about him a bit earlier than he was ready to stand up and be one of the greats and win Grand Slams. So it was more probably him coming to terms with that, I think, the pressures and expectations. Once he learnt to handle that, then, you know, his game just went to another level.

Q. But it wasn't a surprise to you?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Not really, no. He was always -- you know, Juniors and then coming up on the tour, he was one of the most dangerous guys. And I think, you know, when he beat Sampras at Wimbledon, you know, to stop Pete's run back then, even though he didn't make that next step straightaway to one of the best players, he was always very dangerous.

Q. Just curious, did you stay up to watch the match last night?


Q. This match against Federer, do you think you'll be able to make yourself sort of play those aggressive sort of net-approaching points on big points this time?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, you know, in the past when I've had breakpoint opportunities in big points, he's come up with -- he hasn't given me an opportunity to attack or put pressure on him. That's another area of his game that he's been able to work on. When he's down and in trouble, he pulls the trigger at the right times and comes up with the big shots. You know, hopefully I get into a position where I can, you know, can try and put some pressure on.

Q. You have the best winning percentage of any active guy in the draw here at the US Open. What is it about this place that makes you comfortable?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I'm not sure. I'm not really sure. The court surface, I think, you know, suits my game pretty well. I enjoy it. It's probably medium to fast hard court here. It's the kind of court that I grew up in Adelaide playing on. I'm very used to it. Moving, I feel comfortable. Atmosphere, a lot of things put together, I think. But, you know, for some reason it's all sort of clicked here, and this is where I won my -- my first major in doubles was here with Max Mirnyi. The following year I won my first singles Grand Slam here. It's a pretty special place to come back here.

Q. Federer uses a lot of slice, more than the other guys. Is his slice so different, or is it just so offputting because he changes speed so well? What seems to be so good about it?

LLEYTON HEWITT: He definitely changes speed so well and so easily, as well, on his backhand. His slice, it's one of the best out there. Whether it's better than Pete's or Rafter's or these guys at their best, it's match for match. But there's no doubt that he can change the pace very well in the middle of a rally.

Q. Is that something very few of the other guys do?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, now and then. He just does it a lot better than a lot of other guys when they try to do it.

Q. You said conditions were difficult. Are you referring to the wind?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, the wind.

Q. Can you speak specifically to Nieminen's game and how he played you today.

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, the wind was tough out there for both of us. Jarkko, he served in patches. He wasn't serving great at the start, I just wasn't able to capitalize on my opportunities early on. He tried to play the more steady role out there and wait for his opportunities to come in or to attack. He loves hitting that flat backhand and attacking it. His backhand is probably more his, you know, more consistent side, but he can hit winners off his forehand as well. Yeah, he's probably very similar on both sides.

Q. In the final set he wrong-footed you. You grabbed your left hip. No damage?

LLEYTON HEWITT: No, just twinged it a little bit. Bit awkward.

Q. If you were to play Nalbandian, you're back at that Davis Cup match. Have you sort of gone through or reviewed what didn't go right for you that day?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, little bit. Didn't try and follow it -- you know, think about it too much after it happened. It was obviously very disappointing at the time. If he was to get through, there's no doubt I'll have to have another crack at him and see if I can change the score line, you know. There was no doubt it wasn't my best match I played, and just didn't execute well at all.

Q. On Nalbandian, if he does get through, he's a guy that you've played quite a lot, even at junior level against. Are you more comfortable playing him against let's say somebody like Federer? But are you more comfortable against Nalbandian?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, it's hard to compare Nalbandian to Federer right at the moment. But, you know, Nalbandian is tough for -- out of any of the top guys. When he's on, he's very capable of beating anyone out there. Yeah, surprising he hasn't probably been more consistent in his results, I think, because I rate his game very highly.

Q. What do you think about it, about his game? What makes him stand out?

LLEYTON HEWITT: He moves extremely well. Very rarely -- his fitness, he's very good. He doesn't look like one of the fittest guys, but I've never seen him lose a match due to fitness. He's got a good all-around game. He's got a great backhand, one of the best backhands on tour.

Q. You've been down two sets to one a couple times. Is there a certain trick to playing when your back's against the wall?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Not really. There's no secrets. It's just a matter of hanging in there. Obviously, when you are two sets to one down, you want to try to get up an early break in the fourth, and I've been able to do that both times this week.

Q. The morning of the semifinal, how much of the Crows' game are you going to look at, the score, listen to the radio, call?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Don't know, mate. Not sure.

Q. You obviously lost in straight sets in the final last year, but can you take a little bit out of that second set where it was almost a match within itself? Can you take some confidence out of that in terms of how you played?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, it's a year ago. It's probably not a whole heap I can take out of it. Obviously, wouldn't mind that have been the first set rather than the second, though. Had to try to put a bit of pressure on him early on rather than give him a set start. But that's what he tries to do and that's what he's been so successful at against everyone.

Q. Will we see something different against Federer if you play him? Will you be pulling the trigger more?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Don't know. Don't know. We'll wait and see (smiling).

End of FastScripts….

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