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September 12, 2004

Lleyton Hewitt


THE MODERATOR: First question, please.

Q. Can you talk about Roger's ability to go out and do three in one year. Can you just talk about his ability.

LLEYTON HEWITT: He's playing incredible tennis, on all surfaces as well. You know, he had an incredible run, you know, leading up to Wimbledon and then straight after Wimbledon through to Toronto, then a little bit of a lapse which probably helped him here. But, you know, when he's, you know, playing like he did in especially the first set there today, there's very little you can do out there. He returned extremely well. It was hard to get any cheap points off him as well.

Q. Are you proud of your tournament?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I'm happy. It's obviously disappointing, you know. Any time -- this is my first loss in a Grand Slam final. Any final is hard to lose. But, you know, I'm happy with the way I'm playing. You know, when I look back on the last, you know, five weeks probably especially, it's been great tennis for me the whole time. You know, when you put yourself in a position to play in Grand Slam finals, you know, that's what you play tennis for. So, you know, it's been a good two weeks.

Q. When you were up 6-5 in the second, did you sense that that could have been the turning point right there? Obviously a little shaky on his serve. Wasn't getting first serves in. Did you think to yourself, "This could be one-set-all"?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, you know, it was only tough because the wind started picking up a little bit and he was playing with the breeze at that end, at 6-5. Then he started with the breeze in the tiebreak. It was hard to dictate play at the start of the tiebreak. He served extremely well. He made nearly all his first serves, especially at the start, when you're serving with the breeze there. I sort of just got behind the eight ball there in the tiebreak. I had to really try and get that first point, especially on my serve, then try and dictate play. He didn't give me too many free points out there. He had a little lapse there, you know, halfway through the second set, right till it was 6-5. Every game, I was nearly having breakpoints. You know, I was hustling and scrambling a lot of balls back. He came up with some big aces and stuff on the breakpoints there. But, you know, 6-Love, 2-Love, he was playing incredible tennis.

Q. Can you just describe what it was like to be dominated like that in that first set? I know you had two double-faults, but what was it like to have that happen?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, he -- you know, I felt like there was games in there where I had 15-30 on his serve once, I had 30-15 on my serves, 30-Alls, I just didn't take advantage of those. He's the kind of guy, played extremely well when I played him in Hamburg this year on clay for the first set. Played incredible tennis, very similar to today. When he's on fire with his forehand, it's very hard to get it to his backhand too often as well. He was obviously serving extremely well.

Q. He has so much going for him, dominant No. 1, great on really all surfaces, no real weaknesses. You're such a tremendous student of the game right now. Can you talk in terms of him with the other great players of the Open era. Does he have a chance, really, of becoming the best of all time?

LLEYTON HEWITT: He's definitely got a chance, there's no doubt about it. Especially the way that he's had this year as well, and, you know, he's, you know, always going to have a chance going into every major, even the French Open. You know, he lost in the third round this year to Guga, but it's going to take a guy like Guga or someone like that to beat him at every Slam. So, you know, you like your chances of him trying to pick up at least one out of the four every year for a few years.

Q. Slow hard court, who would you pick, Pete or Roger?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Oh, mate, it's hard to say. You know, we're fortunate that Roger could take, you know, after Pete's left, then Roger comes in. You know, that could help tennis in the big picture. You know, there's still a lot of guys. Obviously, Andy is going to be pushing. You know, a lot depends on the day as well. Pete had an awesome serve, you know. It's very hard for anyone to break his serve. Whether Roger could do that at the best, it's hard to say.

Q. Do you feel like anyone today, with him playing like that, could have done much better than you did?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, I don't think anyone in the -- anyone in the actual tournament (laughter). I don't know. Maybe. Maybe Pete Sampras, you know. As I said, it's very hard to, you know, obviously with their serve and whatever... But, you know, I just couldn't get enough cheap points off my service games to be able to put pressure on his. If I was able to hold my service games a little bit easier, then I would have been able to take a few more chances on his service games. So when he's up a break, especially, and he's a great frontrunner, he really gets confident.

Q. What's it going to take to get to his level? Can you get to his level?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Keep working. You know, that's why tennis is so tough. I think every year it gets tougher and tougher. Yeah, it's something, you know, you've got to work on your weaknesses, small areas of your game that can make that small difference. Could be just one match, like a Grand Slam final here. So, you know, that's why you stay motivated to try and keep improving, keep up with the best players in the world.

Q. Do you think it's a fair reflection now that you're just behind Andy and Roger in the rankings, back to 3?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I'm playing well enough, I think, to definitely be in the Top 5. You know, I've had a pretty consistent year this year. The guys that I've lost to, I've lost to Roger in three out of the four majors. You know, who knows? If I could have met him a little bit later in the Aussie and at Wimbledon, then I could have maybe gone a little bit higher in the rankings. He's obviously the stand-out this year.

Q. What's next for you? Home? Marriage?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Is that a good question (laughter)? I've got a Davis Cup tie.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about that. Morocco going to be quite dangerous, aren't they?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, really depends who they field in their team. I assume Arazi is coming. I don't know if El Aynaoui is, after he had to withdraw here. I haven't really been thinking about it too much the last couple of weeks, but obviously on grass in Perth, it's an awkward few days because, you know, you know you can't win the Davis Cup this year but you've got to go out there and put everything on the line just to make sure you don't get relegated.

Q. Any contact, wouldn't have been, but do you know much about whether Mark will be fully fit?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I'm not sure. I really don't know. As I said, I haven't really been worrying about the Davis Cup tie until now.

Q. Obviously some sort of speculation, he's had such an average year, would you give him your backing to continue playing this year?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, if he's fully fit, you know. Mark Philippoussis is dangerous any time. He's obviously had to pull out here, so there's something wrong, whether he had a small tear or whatever, I'm not sure. There's obviously something wrong there. You know, if he's not 100 percent fit, then there's no point putting yourself through a whole week and a half of practice leading up to a Davis Cup tie.

Q. Do you think Roger can or will eventually win more than 14 Grand Slams?

LLEYTON HEWITT: As I say, he's got a chance. Three in one year is always going to -- he's got a chance, especially the way his style is as well. He can play on all surfaces.

Q. Does he have a weakness?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Today he didn't have too many, but, you know, there's obviously, you know, a couple of games there where I had a window of opportunity where he started missing a little bit. If I could have held my serve easier at the start of the match, and, as I said, put some pressure on his service games, it could have been a little bit different. But that's why he's such a good player. He can come out and play a real flashy game on your service games, then free hitting on his so...

Q. If you were trying to describe to someone what it's like to face his forehand when he's hitting it the way he was at times today, how would you describe it?

LLEYTON HEWITT: It's hard to predict, you know, where he's going on it. He moves into the forehand so well. He can -- there's not too many players who can actually hit the ball on the rise like he does. He takes it so early and hits it so clean. You know, he can hit with -- you know, there's a breakpoint in there where he came up with a short forehand crosscourt angle. It held up in the breeze and I couldn't get to it. Shots like that, you know, he makes them look a lot easier. They're not that easy to hit.

Q. When you had breakpoints against him, he seems to be so calm and comes up really with great shots.

LLEYTON HEWITT: He's got a great serve to back him up as well. It's not a huge first serve but he hits the corners very well. I think in a lot of these matches in tight situations, his serve gets him out of a lot of trouble.

Q. The way Andy is playing, the way Roger is playing, do you still see a Grand Slam title in the future for yourself?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I think so. I played extremely well the last couple of weeks. You know, obviously, for me, you know, the French Open's probably the least highest chance, I guess, of winning it. But, you know, I'll keep working towards that and try to get better and better on clay. But the other three majors, you know, I give myself a chance every time I step on the court in those. You know, at Wimbledon I think there's only probably a handful of guys that are capable of winning that tournament. You know, the Australian Open and US Open, there's probably a few more. But, you know, then again, you get someone -- Andre went very close to beating Roger here. The draw opens up, matchups open up, you know. It just depends who you play in different matches and how the draws open up.

Q. What did you say to Roger when you shook hands?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I said, "Right on, mate. Incredible year."

Q. Up until the beginning of this year, you pretty much had his number. Now he's beaten you four straight times. Is his progress this year basically due to mental toughness, or is it just mental toughness and then the shots just happen to go along with it?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I think his confidence, especially with his style of game, if he didn't have the confidence with his style of game, such -- he goes for so many shots out there, you know, then you'd miss a lot more than he's missing. He's just so confident this whole year. He believes in his ability - and so he should, you know. But that's what's probably making it even tougher, I think, now, because he actually believes -- probably after Wimbledon, he won Wimbledon the first time last year. And then, you know, dominated the Masters Cup at the end of the year. I think since then he's just sort of picked it up another notch.

Q. Is the mental toughness the aspect that changed most about his game?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I think so. Probably. Yeah, he just doesn't give you too many easy points. I think in the past he probably gave you a few more cheaper points. Probably especially on your service games. Where today, the first set, he gave me nothing.

Q. Down a set and 2-Love, were you thinking, "This guy has to cool off at some point," or were you just trying to hold on for dear life a little bit?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I was just trying to hang in there more than anything. If I could -- at least in the second set I was just trying to keep within at least one service break and keep trying to put pressure on his serve. I felt there's going to be an opportunity where I'll get a breakpoint or two and I've got to try to take them. In the end I had quite a few breakpoints, three or four games in a row on his service games. I was only able to take that one at 5-4. But, you know, I was just really trying to hang in there, keep pressuring him, make him at least serve out the set.

Q. What do you make of the fact that Roger is doing all this without a coach?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, I don't know (smiling). You know, maybe he doesn't need one. I know he's got a close mate with him, he comes to all the major tournaments with him.

Q. Who is that?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I don't know who the guy is. I think it's a Swiss guy. But he's a pretty quiet guy, I think, hits up with him. Obviously knows Roger extremely well. You know, I think as a tennis player, you need people around you that you get along with extremely well, so...

Q. He has so much going for him, the way he constructs points, his creativity is incredible, the confidence and mental toughness. What aspect do you think is his very strongest? What impresses you, what one quality impresses you the most?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Probably his shot-making I think. You know, his shot-making is second to none at the moment especially. He can, wherever he is on the court, he moves extremely well for a bigger guy as well. So, you know, he comes up with, you know -- it's hard to get him out of position.

Q. Can you think of any other player that you've ever played who even approaches that shot-making ability?

LLEYTON HEWITT: You know Andre is obviously a great shot-maker as well. They're a different kind of shot-maker. Roger plays with probably a little bit more flair than Andre. He can come to the net, has a little bit more of an all-court game and uses his serve, bigger serve, more than Andre. Apart from that, there's no one that's probably close to Roger, I don't think.

Q. You came onto the scene at a young age and you were successful at a young age. Is it tough to -- I can't imagine that you've been double bageled before. Is it difficult to swallow?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, I'm -- not really, it's obviously disappointing just to lose the match. You know, at the end of the day I go out there, give 100 percent, and, you know, there's not a lot I could do out there. Especially in the first set, I didn't even have that many real opportunities to get my teeth into the match.

Q. Can you separate the result today from the way you played, can you take away any sense of satisfaction from the way you played today?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, it's hard. He didn't give me a lot of opportunities to dictate play out there today and get on the front foot. But, you know, in my other matches, I think I've played well over the last couple of weeks and the last two months or so. So, obviously take that away. But then again if you want to, you know, beat the best players in the world, you got to go out there and be able to do it against the best players in the world. You know, so that's something I look forward to, you know, trying out in the next major in Australia.

Q. You think people are being a bit premature in canonizing him at this point, comparing him to the best of all-time? The guy had a great year. He's solid. But a lot more goes into it in the long-term, doesn't it?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I don't know. I think he's definitely going to be one of the greats, I think. Especially, you know, he's still only 23 years old. You know, to go out there and, as I said, win three out of the four majors in one year, you know, as I said, it's impressive. He's definitely got to be up there with a chance of -- you know, what's he won, four majors now? Anyone who can win four majors is a great player. He's only 23 and he's obviously got a lot of tennis left in him.

Q. Having played seven matches here, would you put Roger in a different league? Does it feel like that when you play against him?

LLEYTON HEWITT: When he plays like he did today, yeah. He's in a different league to all the other players that I played this week - these two weeks.

Q. Having him out in front like that, perhaps a little bit ahead of the rest of you guys, Andy and so on, does that inspire you or does that kind of raise the bar for men's tennis, do you think?

LLEYTON HEWITT: It definitely raises the bar. He's taken it to another level. That's what motivates all the guys, to try and stick out with the best players in the world and compete over five sets in the biggest tournaments against the best players in the world. You know, Roger's such a big-time player as well. He plays some of his best tennis in the big matches. That's what, you know, guys like Andy, myself, Ferrero, these kind of guys really have to strive and improve to get to that level.

Q. Every so often in a sport a player comes along, like Tiger in golf, and changes the work ethic of his competitors, forces people to reevaluate the level at which they train and so forth. Is Roger one of those players?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I don't know about training, you know, if you train harder or not. I think, you know, I know for myself and a lot of guys out there, I'm sure Andy trains extremely hard regardless. Working on different areas, small areas, your weakness, where you know that you've got to improve, then, yeah, sure. Everyone's going to try to keep improving little areas - Andy, myself, whoever. But training hard, I think we all train pretty hard regardless.

End of FastScripts….

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