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June 20, 2005

Lleyton Hewitt


THE MODERATOR: Lleyton Hewitt.

Q. A dumb question here. Is the grass fast or slow? We keep hearing different things from different people.

LLEYTON HEWITT: All grass is different. But today it was pretty slow, very slow. It felt very soft out there today. I've got no doubt, though, it's going to quicken up over the next two weeks, you know, the more play it gets on it, I think because the show courts just don't have any play at all. So, you know, today they're very green out there. Both of us playing from the back of the court, where both of us were serving, we were leaving imprints into the court it was that soft. You know, I've never seen that before.

Q. Did you play one serve-and-volley point?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I tried to, but it was part of my 19 aces, I think (smiling).

Q. Did you feel more and more comfortable as the game went on?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, for sure. First round of any Grand Slam's tough. It's a match you just really want to get under your belt, go out there and get through it as quickly as possible. You know, today was no different. I had some good rallies out there. I felt like, you know, footing-wise, moving my feet, I got better as the match went on. It was a good hit out without wasting a lot of energy either.

Q. Coming from cracked ribs, did you think the serve would be as much as anything you'd gauge your recovery by, you must be delighted given your service game?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Apart from a couple of doubles here and there today, I thought I served extremely well. My first serve felt on song. You know, it's not a matter of always hitting as hard as possible; it's finding the angles and the lines and court position and setting myself up for the point. I felt like I did that well at Queen's. It's just a played a guy that out-served me. You know, I didn't -- that was probably one of my best serving matches I had against Karlovic at Queen's. At that point, it really hasn't -- the ribs haven't affected my serve too much.

Q. Physically, where do you feel you're at?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, you know, I'm happy with where I'm at at the moment. But every match you're going to have to get better. There's no doubt that I'm going to play a lot better opponents throughout the tournament. I've got to take my game to another level. But I was happy with the matches that I got at Queen's and the way I've been practicing all last week. I've been hitting the ball sweetly. If I can just take that into this tournament, hopefully I'll have a good showing.

Q. On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you describe your preparation or focus for this tournament?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, preparation-wise I've done, you know, everything I guess that was in my control. You know, when you're injured, you only play one tournament beforehand, then that's out of my control. There's not a whole heap I can do with that. But at Queen's I felt like I got three tough matches. I played totally different style of games, big servers, Xavier Malisse who plays from the back of the court. Last week I practiced as hard as I ever had, hit a lot of balls in a lot of practice sets. Physically I feel like I'm in pretty good shape and mentally I'd say as well.

Q. Are you relaxed into this tournament?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah. I guess everyone's a little anxious to get the tournament underway when you've been practicing here for just over a week. You sort of want to get it started. I think in some ways the first round's a bit of a steppingstone.

Q. You unfortunately missed quite a lot of tennis this year because of your injuries. Is there any sort of pent-up frustration or aggression inside you?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Not a whole heap. Obviously, missing the French Open was disappointing. But as I say, it was out of my control. You know, once it's out of your control, then there's no point worrying on it or dwelling on it. It was something I had to get out of my mind as quickly as possible. I was practicing back in Australia on clay, the one clay court that we have there. I was trying to work on my game, training extremely hard getting ready for that. But, yeah, I had to make that decision that I wasn't able to play, which basically was from the doctors, then it was pretty much just have to focus on the grass and getting ready for that.

Q. How disappointed were you to be demoted to 3 in the seedings when your ranking is 2?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I'm not going to talk about it right here. There's seven matches to win the tournament. You know, there's no point dwelling on it.

Q. Is it one you've got tucked away?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Mate, I'm not going to talk about it.

Q. The allergies you used to have, are they under control now? Is it place by place?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Place by place a little bit. I still sneeze now and then, get a bit of hayfever and stuff. Yeah, it's pretty good. I can control it.

Q. Is this one of the places where it's pretty good, under control here usually?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Depends on the weather here in London. I found over the years, some days are worse than others. The hot weather sometimes brings it out a little bit more. But, yeah, it doesn't worry me when I get on the court, though.

Q. Your thoughts on possibly playing James Blake next round?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, it's another step up, at least a step up from today's match, if not a few. You know, James has got a lot of firepower out there, and you've really got to try and exploit that, you know, put him on the back foot as much as possible. In a lot of ways, I've got to play the consistent game out there, make him play a lot of extra shots. But he's a talented player that can play an all-court game. In that respect it's not going to be easy because you've got to mix it up. But it's a good test to have early in the tournament, that's for sure.

Q. Has the layoff been a bit of a blessing, you can come in here fresh and ready to go?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Who knows. Yeah, I feel ready to play. I think when I made my run at the Australian Open and at the US Open last year, I played a lot of matches going into both those slaps. So in some way it's different preparation, but it doesn't bother me either way. I feel fresh at the moment, I feel physically in good shape. If you can get the first week under your belt, get into the second week, I don't think it's going to play a big part in the tournament for me.

Q. Men from Australia and the US have dominated this tournament. Now you see countries like Spain, France and Germany have more players than the US, like Belgium have more players than Australia. Do you see a power shift going on geographically in the sport, something cyclical?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Definitely something's changed or gone wrong for Australia and the US, I guess. But on Australia's part, we don't have enough players. What have we got? We've got four guys in the main draw, the men's. One is a wildcard, one is a protected ranking who is going to retire soon, then we've got Wayne and myself. It's really not good enough for our country. We've got to try and find a way of producing, you know, young kids to come up. This tournament is a huge tournament back in Australia. The tradition of talking about Wimbledon, even people that don't understand tennis, they know what Wimbledon is about. That's why I think it's held such a rich tradition in Australia and the top Australian players over the last 10, 20 years, or longer, because we've had so many great champions here.

Q. Have you spoken at all, a new development with a new guy being appointed in Australia, have you spoken to him at all or are you aware of his background?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I haven't spoken to him. I don't know what he looks like to tell you the truth. I think he's South African. Yeah, I'd be interested to talk to him. But now is not the right time. Obviously, you know, maybe around Davis Cup time when I get back home, I'd definitely like to sit down and talk to him. I think we've got to try and use a lot more of the top guys that have just come off the tour, there's no doubt about that, as coaching around Australia and to help the younger guys. We've got so many guys that are capable, Jason Stoltenberg is the perfect example of that, someone that can be based in Australia and work with the top Juniors. Whenever Todd Woodbridge stops, they're the first people that should pick up on him.

Q. You're still young yourself, but after your career...

LLEYTON HEWITT: No, I haven't even thought about me at that stage. I'm just worrying about hopefully getting -- hopefully I'll be playing long enough to play with some of these next-tier guys that come through. At the moment it's more looking at the guys that can help and change that.

Q. Have you spoken to the cricketers?

LLEYTON HEWITT: No, I had a message from Gilchrist.

Q. What have you been thinking watching them over the last week?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I'm thinking that England, we'll come back to bite 'em. That's what I'm thinking.

Q. How do you rate the Ashes chances?

LLEYTON HEWITT: England talk themselves up every time. I don't know. Obviously they've got a bit better unit this year. Our side, it's proven. We've had some better wins I think over the last couple years than England have.

Q. You mentioned the US. What do you think of the factors to their blip?

LLEYTON HEWITT: The US is definitely ahead of Australia at the moment. They've got a group of guys that came up just behind Andy Roddick: Dent, Fish, Ginepri, Morrison, these kind of guys, right now they're not the world beaters, not the Top 5, Top 10 in the world, but they're playing tournaments week in and week out on the tour. Australia doesn't even have that at the moment. Obviously you need someone like a Roddick to carry the flag for America, especially the power of the United States, tennis needs, the sport needs a top player from that country, there's no doubt about it. Hopefully Roddick is going to stay up there for a while. I don't know what their program is like, but they've been able to produce -- they've been very fortunate to have guys like Sampras, Courier, Agassi, Chang, these guys coming up all the time. You get a little bit spoiled I think.

Q. There's only one American ranked in the top 16 for the first time this 37 years. What do you attribute that to?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I don't know. Wouldn't have a clue. What is Agassi ranked?

Q. That are playing here now.

LLEYTON HEWITT: Thanks (smiling).

Q. Are you in any discomfort at all from the ribs now?

LLEYTON HEWITT: No, it's pretty good at the moment. I felt a couple of little twinges around maybe early Queen's when I was practicing, that was about it. Since then I haven't felt a thing. It's been great. I've been able to get in the gym and do pretty much as I normally would, which is good.

Q. What was the nature of the injury? Did you fall somehow?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I slipped down -- I was going to practice, and I slipped down some stairs in my house in Sydney. I just fell on my back and cracked two of my ribs in my back. It was pretty painful at the time.

Q. Slippery stairs?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I was wearing socks. Had my shoes at the bottom of the stairs. I was carrying my change of clothes.

Q. How would you rate your serve now compared to three years ago when you won the title?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Week in and week out I think it's better now. I've got more variety now. The only thing -- those two weeks I served extremely well when I needed to, when I went on to win the tournament here. It's hard to sort of rate it because it was one tournament and I served as well as I've ever served for those two weeks.

Q. Do you see that as a key to your progress?

LLEYTON HEWITT: For sure, for sure. I think that's definitely helped me over the last 18 months or so. It's an area we've been working on. I'm a good enough returner that I'm going to get opportunities to break if I can clean up my service games.

End of FastScripts….

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