September 11, 2004
NEW YORK CITY
THE MODERATOR: First question, please.
Q. Were you surprised a little bit at how you were able to get yourself so pumped up?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I've had to play against other Aussie guys in the past. It's something that, you know, you just got to really put your competitive hat on out there and just worry about trying to get the job done and not worrying about who's on the other side of the net.
Q. Were you actually more comfortable playing him?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Not necessarily. It's awkward. Obviously, I know his game, but he knows mine as well. It's awkward on, you know, knowing someone that you've practiced with a lot and going out there and actually have to play him. That's his biggest match and one of my biggest matches as well, in a semi of a Grand Slam. So it's a little bit awkward.
Q. Have you seen your sister yet?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Not yet, no. No.
Q. Were you worried about her feelings of being torn at all?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, she was going to be happy for someone and disappointed for someone no matter what. It's an awkward situation, but I'm sure in the years to come we'll probably have it a lot more than just this first time today.
Q. One of the things that Joachim said the other day was he had dinner with your mom and dad, Jaslyn. At some point were you thinking, "We might hook up at some point"?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Not really, I wasn't, you know, looking much past the guys that I had to play and just taking it one match at a time. You know, obviously once I got through my match and he had to play Roddick, then there was always going to be a chance in a two-horse race. But until then I wasn't really worrying about it too much.
Q. Were you feeling physically fresher out there than when you went to the Wimbledon finals?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, probably. I feel good at the moment. I haven't spent a lot of energy out there. I feel confident where my game's at at the moment as well.
Q. What are you taking from the fact that you haven't dropped a set this year? Is that a big confidence booster?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Not a lot. Whether I went through in five sets or whatever, just to get through to the final more than anything. So I won't be focusing on, you know, the fact that I haven't dropped a set going into tomorrow's match at all.
Q. Has something this summer changed for you, that you picked up and are really at the top again? Can you pinpoint something in your game or mentally that has turned things around for you so dramatically?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Not really. I feel like I've played pretty well this whole year. You know, in most tournaments, obviously clay is not my strongest surface, but I feel like I had a good clay court season. Grass court, I felt like I played well. The two guys I lost to is Roddick and Federer in my two grass court tournaments. But I feel like, you know, this whole year I've played pretty consistently. I enjoy playing on the American hard courts here, and, you know, obviously, picking up confidence, you know, winning some matches as well, that's always going to help.
Q. At Wimbledon there was a lot of talk about a so-called Roddick-Federer rivalry. How did that make you feel, that people had forgotten you?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Not really. Those two guys were making -- obviously Roddick won one here and Federer had won a fair few Grand Slams. They're playing No. 1 and 2 in the world. Didn't really worry me too much. You've got to get the runs on the board and go out there and make semis and finals of Grand Slams and really challenge the best guys out there.
Q. Did you feel it would be just a matter of time before you would be back in a Slam final or did you know you had to step up your level a bit to get here?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Felt like this whole year I've been playing pretty well. The guys that I lost to in the Slams, I lost to both Roger in the Aussie and Wimbledon. Those two matches I felt like I played extremely well. Was probably a little unlucky that I drew him in the earlier rounds, Round of 16 and a quarter. I knew I was not far off the mark. As I said, I like playing in the US Open. I think the conditions, the atmosphere here really suits. I think the court surface suits my game. I felt confident, obviously, coming in, winning a lot of matches.
Q. Still, as your ranking fell a little bit and you had some losses, did you ever have any, within yourself, within your own mind, you might have doubts coming back to the very top, elite level to these Slam finals?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Not when you beat Ferrero and Federer in two Davis Cup matches at the end of last year. So, you know, they were the No. 1 and 2 players in the world at the time. Didn't really enter my mind too much.
Q. You've spoken a lot over the last couple of weeks --
LLEYTON HEWITT: Who's that, sorry?
Q. I know you've spoken in the last couple of weeks about where your game is compared to 2001. Do you think things started to click for you, this turnaround, from last year's US Open?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I think so. I think this time last year I played extremely well at the US Open here. There was no shame in losing to Juan Carlos Ferrero in the quarters. It was an extremely tough match that could have gone either way. Then he went on to beat Andre in four sets and lose to Roddick in the final. Since then, I've played extremely well. Obviously had a big break between the Federer Davis Cup match and the Ferrero one. But I was able to do a lot of fitness work and I guess just freshen up as well for the whole 2004 season. I think that's been one huge positive going through this whole year.
Q. Were you surprised by how well Johansson played in this tournament, reaching the semifinals?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, little bit surprised but not overly surprised. He's got a great game and he's got a lot of talent. He's obviously a little bit raw at the moment, you know. He just hasn't been in this position of playing in big matches. But, yeah, with this week he's going to go well and truly into the Top 20 in the rankings. That's where he deserves to be with his game.
Q. You won here 2001, just two days before 9/11. Today is 9/11. What does that mean for you?
LLEYTON HEWITT: It's a weird feeling. Obviously, I was on a flight straight after I had just won my first major when it happened. I didn't know until I touched down in Sydney anything about it. So it's -- it was a real weird feeling back then purely because we'd just been in New York and, you know, nothing had happened. Then you hop on a plane and, you know, the whole world's changed in a lot of ways. All the memories of that, I guess. That was two days after I won my first major, obviously, as well.
Q. Would you relish the opportunity to play Roger Federer in the final here, big stage?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I look forward to playing a final against anyone in a major. Obviously, playing Roger, No. 1 player in the world, I'm going to have to play some great tennis to get on top of him. But I feel like I'm playing well at the moment and I give myself a good chance.
Q. Couple of people have asked you to compare your form to 2001. Does that make you want to prove a point at all, or does it annoy you?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Not really. I feel like I'm wasting my breath, but that's about it.
Q. To get back to 9/11, the police and firemen were honored between the second and third sets of your match today. As much as you try to not think about anything but tennis, how hard is that today, to turn on the TV, you're seeing all kinds of tributes?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, it's an awkward day, but, you know, we can't do much about it either. You got to play a semi of a Grand Slam on the same day. It's obviously awkward, TV in the locker room and everything are going through tributes at Ground Zero, stuff like that. Makes you think a lot about tennis as a sport and there's a lot more to life than just winning a couple of tennis matches as well.
Q. If it's Federer, is there an advantage, since you've won here and he has not?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Not really. You know, Roger's such a good player and, yeah, if I've got to play him, he's obviously come through and beaten Agassi and Henman and won big matches here in the past. So I don't, you know, I don't think that's a huge advantage.
Q. What weaknesses in his game do you think you can exploit if you do play him?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I don't know. There's not a lot of them (smiling).
Q. If you have a good day tomorrow and end up lifting the trophy, what would that mean to you?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Oh, it would be great, you know, obviously, to win another Grand Slam. And, you know, that's where my priorities are - the four majors and Davis Cup. The last major of the year. Yeah, it's a great opportunity for me to go out there and actually play for the title here again.
Q. How do you manage to maintain the same hunger level year after year?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I'm not sure. I'm obviously very competitive and love getting out there and, you know, trying to improve my game as well. I think Roger has obviously tried to take the game to another level. You've got to keep working and work on your weaknesses and try and improve those to stay with the best guys and stay at the top of the game.
Q. Can you talk about the possibility of playing Henman.
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, you know, I've obviously got a good record against Tim. We've had a lot of tight matches in the past. He's going to mix his game up a lot. He serve-volleys, he stays back, he chip charges. You know, he does a lot of different stuff against me out there. It would be a tough match. It would be Tim's first Grand Slam final. You know, who would have thought it would be the US Open before Wimbledon. But, you know, it's still not as much pressure on him here, I guess, as there is at Wimbledon.
Q. More confident playing him than Federer?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, with records maybe, but they're both class players. I mean, in a big situation, I don't think records are going to account for a lot out there tomorrow. You've got one match and you've got to go out there and compete and handle the pressure and the expectation. And, you know, obviously Roger has been able to do that extremely well in Grand Slam finals.
Q. In terms of relishing the idea, not so much Roger, but the idea that you've got yourself on the stage, is this what you build it all for, is to play the No. 1 guy in one of the biggest stages in the game?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, but, you know, final's a final. If it's Tim, it's still going to be a massive day for me tomorrow. You know, obviously playing Roger, with the way his ranking is, his form at the moment, going for his third Slam of the year, it makes it into a huge match. But playing Tim as well, in a Grand Slam final just to try to win the US Open, Tim will be going for his first major. Obviously, he's pretty hungry to get that one under his belt as well. So for me it's just a matter of trying to block out all the outside pressures and influences, I guess, and just concentrating on my game tomorrow no matter who I'm up against.
Q. During your two Slam runs and your years at No. 1, you were playing the big points great. Is it fair to say in your two losses to Roger at the Slams, he was playing the big points better than you?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, there's no doubt there were only a couple points here and there. I could have been up a set and a break at Melbourne. Wimbledon, I was broken the end of the fourth set and wasn't able to consolidate that break and take it to a fifth set. That's what you have to do against the best guys in the world - whether it's Roger, Andre, Andy, whoever. You've got to be able to do that. There's only a couple points within a match. Whether that's going to be the same case tomorrow, whether it's only two or three points to change the outcome of the a match, but you've got to be able to step on those points and play the points well.
Q. You've probably played more than anyone going into the Open. Is that something you've learned from last season, you have to have a lot of matches under your belt to play well?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Not necessarily. I just felt like this year I just want to continue my run. I felt like I was starting to hit some pretty good form coming in. I enjoy playing on the hard court season. I just didn't feel like, you know, Cincinnati and Washington had taken a real heap out of me physically. That's why I wanted to keep going in Long Island. Yeah, I think this year it definitely paid off, though, coming into the US Open.
Q. Is the way you played the last two matches enough to win the title irrespective of who you face, or do you have to lift it another notch or is it a case of gauging it as the match goes on?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I think the way that I've played last couple of days, I'm definitely in with a shot; there's no doubt about that. But, you know, I think I can still improve on some areas. If I can do that, then obviously I'm going to have a better chance. But, you know, a lot depends on what your opponent does as well. There's only two guys out there. You know, playing Tommy Haas and also Johansson is a little bit different to maybe Roger Federer who's been out there and won Grand Slams. So, you really -- sometimes you can only do as much as your opponent lets you do as well.
Q. Johansson mentioned he is going to Australia. Will you be practicing together?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Probably at some stage. I'll probably practice my golf against him (laughter).
Q. Will you remind him of this day a lot?
LLEYTON HEWITT: No. He's already -- he'll probably -- he's already made a few comments to me in the locker room. He's not gonna get me a Christmas present. He reckons that was mine today, so anyway (smiling)...
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