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August 31, 2004

Lleyton Hewitt


THE MODERATOR: Before we pass it over to the US Open Series champions, Lleyton Hewitt and Lindsay Davenport, we just wanted to provide the background on the US Open Series. The goal was to try to present an opportunity for fans to better connect with some of the greatest athletes in the world, at least here in the United States, and provide better television for our sport. Through the collaborative efforts of the WTA, the ATP and the USTA, our friends at ESPN, NBC and CBS, we were able to launch the US Open Series this summer with 10 tournaments. We're pleased to have two great players, Lleyton Hewitt and Lindsay Davenport, both US Open champions, as the inaugural champions of the US Open Series. The USTA has awarded up to an additional $1.3 million in bonus prize money based on the top three finishers in the series, Lleyton besting Andy Roddick and Andre Agassi; and Lindsay besting Amelie Mauresmo and Elena Likhovtseva over the course of the summer. Both have had outstanding summers. Both Lindsay and Lleyton will compete for up to $1.5 million in potential prize money here at The Open. A million dollars is up for grabs in the main singles draw for men and women. By virtue of Lindsay and Lleyton's success in the course of the summer in the US Open Series, they will compete for $1.5 million. Without further ado, I'd like to throw it over for questions for Lleyton and Lindsay.

Q. You probably have more close friends in the States, Lindsay.

LINDSAY DAVENPORT: Maybe not (laughter).

Q. They may have been watching a lot of television over the summer where you were not, of course, able to watch. Have you gotten any feedback from friends about the US Open Series, the amount of TV it was on, the ability to sort of relate everything to the US Open?

LINDSAY DAVENPORT: Yeah. I mean, I heard a lot of positive things, that it was very easy to follow. They kind of figured out after the first week what time matches were going to be on. And, you know, even for myself, I mean, I'm a fan of men's tennis. You always kind of knew on my weeks off what time it was going to be on, and be able to watch. You know, ESPN did say their ratings were up, which is a fantastic sign for the sport in our country. You know, unfortunately, sometimes the tennis fan in the United States doesn't know that we play tournaments 45 weeks out of our year. I think this really helped them kind of prepare for the US Open and get ready for all the tennis that's to come and to get to know some of the other players.

Q. Lleyton, can you add anything to that?

LLEYTON HEWITT: No, I don't have as many friends (laughter). You know, it's obviously I think the biggest question mark at the start, the way it could help tennis as a sport, was to get more TV time in America. I think that's a huge demand for tennis in America, to try and get in such a big country, and it helps when you got guys like Agassi and Andy Roddick up there in the Series as well. But to try to get that publicity out there, get more air time, for some of the smaller tournaments, not like the US Open is going to need it. You know, Long Island, tournaments like that, get the semis and finals on TV, I think it's a real positive.

THE MODERATOR: Television ratings on ESPN were up over 60% over the course of the summer. A good story in year one of the Series.

Q. Lleyton, did you find yourself paying attention to the Series as the weeks progressed? Were you following where you stood, all that?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I wasn't really, but all the media were. You know, it was like after every match, I was obviously trying to prepare for the US Open as well as possible over the last four or five weeks. For me staying in America and not going to Athens, playing in Washington and Long Island, obviously helped my cause in the US Open Series. You know, obviously it was a good draw card I guess for Long Island to have me there playing as well, knowing if I won the tournament, I'd finish No. 1 in the Series. So, you know, I think it was good in the first year of the US Open Series to have that kind of finish anyway that the media could really build it on.

Q. Lleyton, at a time when more and more players in both the women's and men's side are getting concerned about injuries and fresh legs going into a Grand Slam, we're seeing fewer top players play the week before a Slam. You chose to play Long Island. Why?

LLEYTON HEWITT: For me it was more about how I was feeling going into the US Open. Obviously, I didn't enter purely because if I had a good stint through Toronto, Cincinnati and Washington, if I played -- especially in Washington, if I played a lot of long, tough matches in the heat there, then maybe I wouldn't have been able to physically go that whole stretch. At the end of Washington, I really only had one tougher match where it went three sets. Apart from that, every match was just over an hour. I felt comfortable. I felt like I was starting to hit the ball well and just wanted to try and keep that roll going into the US Open.

Q. When Patrick Rafter won this tournament the first time, he played virtually every week leading up to The Open. You and Patrick are good buddies. Was there any influence there at all?

LLEYTON HEWITT: No, not in my decision to go to Long Island. I obviously heard from the past, I know Pat's played it quite a few times. I know from, you know, what he said in the past that it's a nice, relaxed tournament out there. You know, obviously getting away from that mental pressure of thinking about a US Open coming up the next week, to get some tough matches. That's what I felt like I wanted to continue after Cincinnati and Washington. For me it was good preparation.

Q. Lleyton, does it matter any more to you about winning an extra 500 grand? You won a lot of money, got a lot of sponsorship deals. Is that something that you think, "I know what I can do with that 500 grand"?

LLEYTON HEWITT: No, I don't really think about it like that. You know, for me, this tournament, you know, it's all about trying to win that trophy at the end of the two weeks. You know, I've been fortunate enough, like Lindsay, to have won here before. You know, at the end of the day, the money means very little, if you can hold that trophy up in two weeks' time. That's why we're playing the US Open, is to try to win another major. Yeah, it's a great incentive and it's a great thing I think for the public out there, as well, just to build it up even more, the whole US Open Series.

Q. Lleyton, what do you like about competing in North America? Your record here is pretty strong, where some others who are not from the United States have suffered when they come to the US. What do you love about competing in North America?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I don't know if it's just one thing. I think there have been quite a few good Australians over the years, obviously Rafter and Philippoussis had a lot of success here in America. For me personally I like the court surface. I think it suits my game well. It's the kind of court I grew up on. I feel very at home over here. The conditions, if it gets hot, that doesn't worry my game too much. There's a lot of emotion playing in America. It's an electric atmosphere most weeks. I played a lot of night matches over the last few weeks. I enjoy playing in those situations when you're there under the lights. You know, it's really enjoyable I think for the way I play the game.

Q. Can you describe your favorite vacation that you've taken.

LINDSAY DAVENPORT: You know, we take lots of great ones. I'd probably have to say my honeymoon.

Q. What did you do?

LINDSAY DAVENPORT: We got married in Hawaii and stayed there an extra 10 days.

Q. Lindsay, you are probably on as hot a streak as you have been on in your career. When you think about whether or not you can win this tournament, it's not whether or not you can hit the ball well enough, but is that knee going to hold up. Can you enlighten us on the status of the knee right now? In your mind, can you get through seven matches?

LINDSAY DAVENPORT: Well, I mean, it has a lot more to do with that. It has to do with how everyone else is playing, you know, the level of tennis that I bring to the court on that certain day. But physically I felt great for most of the year. You know, my knee is something I'll always have to take care of. But it has been no hindrance to me at all in the last few weeks. The whole summer I've played a lot of matches and a lot of days in a row. You know, I feel good. I think it's more about, you know, being able to play a hundred percent of your best tennis at a Grand Slam through the whole two weeks, and it's something I haven't been able to do in a number of years. I feel confident, though, with where my game's at this summer that this is as good a time as any.

Q. Is there anything now that the initial run of the US Open Series is done that you can see can improve it for next year?

LINDSAY DAVENPORT: I don't know how it exactly worked on the men's tour. There were a few tournaments on the women's tour that didn't count. I personally was a little unclear of what tournaments were counting and what wasn't. But, you know, I'm sure they'll work on that for next year. Other than that, I thought it was great for its first year. I'm sure that they'll make the improvements for next year for our tour.

Q. Lleyton?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I pretty much I guess knew the tournaments on the men's side. You know, I can't really think of too many problems that came along with the US Open Series in the last few weeks anyway. As I said earlier, as long as the TV ratings, as they said, went up, we're able to get those finals and semis and stuff on live TV in the bigger networks, I think it's a good start.

Q. Do you think anything would add to it instead of your playing for the extra money, you guys would play for that money but it would be donated to a charity of your choice? Would that add a different type of dimension or interest?


Q. In other words, instead of you guys actually collecting whatever extra money, whatever money you make you get to choose a charity that would get it.


LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah. Well, you know, it all sort of came out of the blue I guess for us anyway, when the whole US Open Series came out. You know, at the start I wasn't really too aware of it. I was over in Europe at the time. The US Open and thinking about the whole hard court season seemed like a long way away still. You could add that dimension to it with charities and that. It's always going to work in a positive way like that, as well. You know, whether that's the best thing or not for the tennis, I'm not sure, or for the public.

Q. I think most reasonable people would say that last year you did not hit the form that you had in 2000, 2001. Right now you've won 15 of your last 16 matches. The only loss is to a pretty good player. Are you playing at a level now that is close to or equal to the level you were playing at when you won the US Open?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, I think over the last three or four weeks, there's definitely been days where I've played as well, if not better. But, you know, there's still days where, you know, you don't strike the ball quite as well as you'd like to. You know, I went through a good run in Cincinnati where, you know, I had to beat three top-class players three days in a row: Henman, Safin and Kuerten there. You know, in those three matches, I played pretty faultless tennis, I felt. But you've got to be able to do that for seven matches here, to be able to put it together. I feel like the year I won here, I got better and better as the tournament went on. You know, if you are struggling in any of these matches in the US Open, you've just got to find a way to win, try to get through to the next day.

Q. Todd Martin just announced his retirement. He was asked of all the shots he's faced in his 14-year career which was the toughest. You might think he would say the Sampras serve or Agassi return. He said the toughest shot that he's ever faced was your backhand pass. Could you comment on that, what that means to you that he would say that? Would you agree?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I don't know. I haven't faced it (smiling). Yeah, well, Todd's played a hell of a lot of opponents in his time. So, you know, there's some awesome shots out there. I don't know whether mine's any better than a lot of other guys' out there. You know, Todd's obviously had a great career. As I've said, he's played a lot of opponents. Maybe it's the style of game that he plays that made my backhand pass, you know, a little bit better. But, yeah, as you said, Pete's serve, it's hard to beat that. A lot of Andy's serve out there. Different areas. Federer's forehand, stuff like that. Probably depends on the day and the surface as well.

Q. Richard Williams singled you out as the biggest threat to Venus and Serena. How do you feel about that? Do you see them as your biggest threat?

LINDSAY DAVENPORT: You know, I see a lot of girls up there as threats. I mean, obviously Venus and Serena have had such a great career in the last five years, winning a lot of the Slams. They've obviously struggled a little bit since they've been back from injury. But I never discount them. Obviously Justine is a great competitor. You know, Amelie has been very close. She hasn't quite broken through yet to win a big tournament. But I think her time's probably coming. And Myskina is a great player. There's a lot of girls out there that are threats.

Q. Is he right that you're their biggest threat?

LINDSAY DAVENPORT: I don't think so. I think there are a lot of us out there that can play well. Kind of depends who's playing well for these next two weeks.

End of FastScripts….

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