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August 27, 2002

Lleyton Hewitt


THE MODERATOR: First question for Lleyton, please.

Q. Is it a different feeling coming out there as defending champion this year?

LLEYTON HEWITT: In some ways, I guess. I think you can -- it's always nice, I've always found, to come back to a place that you've played well in the past, whether it's a small tournament or a big tournament. Obviously, as I said before, the tournament, this place changed my life for so many reasons, this time last year. This is where I got my big breakthrough. It's an extra special feeling to come back here. Yeah, I think as soon as I walked on the court and sucked in a bit of the atmosphere, a few of the memories came back of the final against Pete last year. I think, for me, that's a plus, you know. A lot of people may get, you know, a little bit negative, I guess, about it or feel the pressure, but, you know, I enjoy coming back here and, you know, defending my title and see how I go this year.

Q. Does it make you any more or less hungry?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, I don't know. You're always hungry for the Slams, I guess. I've won a couple of them now. You know, it's a nice feeling to get more now, I guess.

Q. How's that cold? Are you able to take any medication for it?

LLEYTON HEWITT: No. You know, obviously you can tell I'm not quite 100 percent. But, you know, I've had it since I lost in Indianapolis, so I started feeling it coming here. Actually hung around for a long time. Probably got worse half way through last week and, you know, I look back and it's nice it happened last week rather than this week. At least if I feel like I can get through the first few matches, I'm only going to get better.

Q. From time to time, you have conversations with Patrick Rafter. He's the last person to win this tournament twice in a row. I wonder whether he imparted whether or not there's any particular thing that's important to know when you're trying to repeat as champion here?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I haven't brought it up with Pat. You know, I think he's too worried about trying to be a father at the moment. I haven't even brought up, you know, trying to defend the title and be the next -- try and be the next person to try and do exactly what Pat did. My mind, it's an extremely tough task, I guess, to come back to a place, you know, and have the pressure on you again and try and come through seven tough matches. But, then again, I think it sort of suits the way I play in the big matches as well. You know, I think I play the big matches as well as anyone these days.

Q. Was it hard to get into a rhythm against him?


Q. He seems to be...

LLEYTON HEWITT: I've never seen him play. I only heard a little bit from a few of the other guys in the locker room. Yeah, you know, certainly surprised me a couple of times. Obviously, the first game said it all, he was 30-love up. Next thing, he sprayed four back fences basically and gave me the break. But he's a good player. He's a typical French player, I guess, extremely talented, got every shot in the book and very flashy. And if they're on, they're very tough to beat. That was pretty much -- I knew that sort of going into it. It's tough playing a guy you've actually never seen hit a ball before as well.

Q. How did you handle the long wait?

LLEYTON HEWITT: It was -- obviously, I was sitting in the locker room watching everyone cramp, I guess. I didn't do a hell of a lot. It's obviously -- it's tough for players not knowing when they're going to go on. At least I pretty much knew Venus was going to go pretty quickly (smiling). But then again, I got told that I may be moving courts, as well, for the night session. So, you know, I'm all of a sudden looking around at what's happening on Armstrong, Grandstand, in case they did move me and I had to prepare a bit quicker. It's tough, but that's tennis. Unless you're first match on, you never have a deadline when you're actually going to be out there. That's the ups and downs of tennis.

Q. When you're looking around at the other matches, did you see what happened to Mark?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I saw a little bit. I was having lunch at the time. I only saw the replay. I didn't see it actually happen. But it was a strange fall. I think, you know, looked very similar, I guess, to what happened in Wimbledon a few years ago. I got no idea how bad it is. You know, I saw him icing his knee afterwards, then he left pretty much after that. I guess he's going to see, you know, if there's, you know, some serious damage done or not. Until then, I don't think anyone's got an idea how bad it is. I'm sure he probably, obviously, feared the worst, but then again it wasn't probably quite as bad as what happened Wimbledon three or four years ago because he kept playing a few more games. Could pull up, you know, I guess.

Q. As the No. 1 player in the world, do you get a tremendous amount of attention? Some say that you have some responsibilities. My question really relates to us as the media. What's your view, your philosophy on the media? Do you see us as a pain in the neck, as adversaries, as responsible, in part, for your fame? What's your approach?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I see it, you know, as a way to connect with the fans I think, is probably the biggest. Obviously, I guess responsible for, you know, if you're in the papers, then a lot of the publicity is going to be out there and you're going to be thrown in the spotlight a lot more than if you're not noticed I guess and not written about. In that way, obviously, I've been thrown in the spotlight, I guess, at a very young age. I've had to deal with, you know, being in the spotlight since 15 or 16 really. But it's part of being a professional athlete. Yeah, I think, you know, the biggest thing is trying to connect to the fans I guess because the fans don't see that much of you off the court as, you know, they only basically see you play your matches and that. The media's probably the biggest way for people to find out about the person.

Q. Do you think you were treated unfairly with the whole brouhaha and fine relating to the ESPN interview? Do you think that was an unfair treatment of you?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I think a lot of people lied. I think that's a known fact. I've got no doubt that I'm going to win, there won't be a fine at all. I spoke to a few journalists from Australia. Everyone thinks I don't talk to them, but I do. For me, that was a way to get my side of the story. It was all one-sided coming out. It was just absolute lies coming out. So that was probably the most disappointing thing about it. You know, I really didn't want to come out and make a big deal of it. It sort of blew off. I felt like I was, you know, coping the brunt of it. I felt the ATP was sort of just riding the wave and, you know, as I said before, there were so many guys just making stories up in there, just to throw it in, I guess to save their job.

Q. Who was lying?

LLEYTON HEWITT: The ATP people were lying. A lot of times there was -- always ATP spokesperson, no one ever wanted to put their name to it.

Q. They have a way of changing the stadium court every year, different speed.


Q. Anything different this year? Faster? Slower? About the same? If it has changed, does it suit your game better than it did last year?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I think it's probably, you know, a tad slower, I guess. I was listening to the commentary last night, I don't know if this is true, they said they put three layers instead of four or something on the court, I heard someone say. I think McEnroe said it. If that's the case, I don't know why they do it. You know, I don't know if it benefits me or makes that big a difference. It's probably going to quicken up, the more play it has on it over the two weeks. I don't find it to be that big a difference, you know. I've spoken to a few guys. They've actually said some of the outside courts are playing pretty quick. I think the thing that tournaments have to do is put all the courts the same pace. You know, I think that's the biggest thing. I'm not that concerned about how the pace of the courts are playing, whether it's Australian Open or US Open, obviously the clay and grass is pretty much the same, I guess. But hardcourts, as long as there are 24 courts or whatever, are the same pace, I've got no problem.

Q. Don't the Slams try to accommodate their own players though? You go to Paris, maybe the speed of the clay courts there are conducive to their players?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I don't know. I haven't put any requests in for the Australian Open yet. Would be a good idea. Haven't thought about it. I'm -- I don't know. Maybe Pete and Andre have spoken, Roddick, I don't know, here. To me, it's not a huge difference on last year. I don't think it favors one particular style of play too much.

Q. What CDs are you listening to these days to get yourself psyched for the matches?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Believe it or not, I still listen to Jimmy Barns (phonetic), went and saw his Raw tour end of last year, he gave me tickets. I got to meet him and, you know, that's probably my number one. Saw him live as well.

Q. Some newspaper writers have suggested that you're the only serious contender for this title. Do you think that's right?

LLEYTON HEWITT: No, that's rubbish.

Q. Who do you think your main challenge is?

LLEYTON HEWITT: There's a lot of challengers. Most people know who they are. Obviously, Agassi, Safin are probably the two biggest. Roddick's up there, for sure. He plays -- obviously, I think we all saw how well he played here last year. Haas, Henman, Rusedski, Ferrero. There's a lot of guys. I think it's getting more and more open, considering so many of the good, typical clay court players are able to do well and win -- Moya was another one. I'm forgetting guys; I know I am. But there's a lot of typical clay court players who are doing better and better on hardcourts these days and getting more confident. They see a guy like Carlos come out and win Cincinnati, and they spear each other on and say we can beat the big hitters and big servers. I think it's an extremely tough field this year.

Q. There were a lot of injuries today.

LLEYTON HEWITT: I don't know.

Q. There's been seven today, which is a record.

LLEYTON HEWITT: What was it?

Q. Seven have gone out in the first round, a record.


Q. Yeah.

LLEYTON HEWITT: I got no idea. Obviously, you know, I've said in the past with the tournaments, I think there's too many. But whether that's why seven people went out today, I got no -- well, first round, I got no idea.

Q. Just to finish up on the previous questions, I mean, to say that the ATP was lying, obviously, is a strong comment. Could you tell me what their lies were?

LLEYTON HEWITT: It was basically about the timing of the whole situation, when they notified me, the whole little details they put into it, which tries to make their story a lot stronger. Where, in the end, it's basically just crap.

Q. You weren't notified?

LLEYTON HEWITT: No. When I notified them that I was going to do it, just to get it all out of the way, the time was, I think they said 15, 20 minutes, it was an hour. That's an hour before the match we went serving to try and find the ESPN cameras. No one came back to us. Jason could not find one person from the ATP to ask. Then it got to five minutes before, Jason eventually found someone, they said, "No, it's too late now. You're going to get fined." What could I do about it?

Q. Who's Jason?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Jason Stoltenberg, my coach.

Q. Did they not tell your management company on the Wednesday before that you were required to do this? And again on Sunday?

LLEYTON HEWITT: If you want to get the written scripts out, it was they -- my management company had spoken to Mark Miles and the ESPN producer and I was going to do the interview after the first round. That's how it was left. Mark Miles was happy with that, then the ESPN producer was happy with that. There was one person under Mark Miles who wasn't. So, you know, the rest of you can get my quotes later.

Q. You mentioned Andre before. He has a lot of weapons. Some people feel his strongest role is that of a strategist. Can you talk about that a little bit, what it's like to go up against him? Is he really one of the toughest strategists out there?

LLEYTON HEWITT: He is. He knows everything about the game. He's been around it for so long. He knows how to, I think we all saw last time, when he plays those young guys who are a little bit raw, I guess at the moment, he's able to just knock them out routinely, every time. You know, he's -- he hits the ball so well from the baseline. He never, you know, shanks a shot. Everything's in the middle of the racquet. He obviously returns extremely well. He works on his serve, which gets him a lot more cheap points. I think he's worked on his whole game plan a lot better, I guess, over the last few years, which has made him be able to stay at the top of the game, considering he's 31, 32 years old now.

Q. Have you adapted any of his approach yourself? There's a lot of comparisons to your games as far as being strong returners. Is he somebody you've looked at over the years?

LLEYTON HEWITT: When I was growing up, for sure. Because I'm not the biggest guy around, I never was gonna be. I look to a guy like him because in so many ways, obviously, my returns are, you know, not bad as well. The biggest thing was he was able to win on all four surfaces. That gave me a lot of confidence going into the grass court season. That's one of the main reasons I believe I was able to win Wimbledon and that I had it in me. You know, I draw a lot of confidence from him. I've hit a lot with him in the past. You know, when you're growing up and hitting with a guy like that, just how professional he is on and off the court, the practice sessions are just, it's 100 percent right from the word "go." That really helped me out when I was younger. Didn't quite, you know, know what to do on the tour, I looked up, this guy's won so many big matches and Grand Slams, I'd seen him on TV. I thought that's the way I sort of want to focus my energy on sort of being like this guy.

Q. Michael Chang was talking about your speed the other day. He said your anticipation, your explosiveness, your quickness, also, just your determination, your fierceness to get to the shot was important. Could you talk about that as a component of your speed element.

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah. I'm pretty hungry out there. You know, I don't go out there and, you know, go easy on any points, I guess. But it's not something that I've deliberately told myself to do. It's just in me, I guess. I don't know why I do it. I try and hustle every ball down and, you know, it really doesn't matter if I'm diving over the hard court or whatever, I'm going to try and get that ball back and make him play one extra shot. Sure, it helps to win a lot of matches. But, you know, that's just part of my game, I guess.

Q. You've impressed hundreds of thousands of fans. Have you ever impressed yourself with a get?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Probably a couple, but... Can't remember them (smiling).

Q. Very important question: Wayne Carey.

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, it's gonna be good. Yeah. Focal point up forward. We're gonna win the flag this year anyway, so... Go back-to-back next year.

Q. You got to beat Port first.

LLEYTON HEWITT: We might see them in the prelim.

Q. You've had, in the past, with your viral infection, some breathing problems. You've got through matches. How does the cold -- is this in any way, by the way, related to that virus? Have the doctors told you it could be? Secondly, how is the breathing different in this situation as it has been in the past when you had the viral infections?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I just -- no, I don't think it's connected in any way. I just think it's, you know, sort of like the flu, basically. Sort of felt it coming on, and, you know, I sort of hit my worst probably midway through the end of last week. I feel like, you know, within myself, I feel a lot better. Obviously, I don't sound great. I just feel a little bit congested at the moment. You know, breathing-wise, I don't feel too bad, really.

Q. Energy level?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I feel pretty good. As I said, within myself, I actually felt worse towards the end of last week. I felt there was a couple of days there when I was struggling, able to get over that hurdle. Now within myself, I don't say I'm probably the best. But energy-wise and that, I feel pretty good. I think every day I'm getting better.

End of FastScripts….

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