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March 19, 2005

Lleyton Hewitt


THE MODERATOR: Ladies and Gentlemen, Lleyton Hewitt. Open the floor for questions.

Q. It comes down to the third set breaker, then halfway through you really kind of stepped it up and took it from him. Talk about that, and the match overall.

LLEYTON HEWITT: Any time you play a third-set tiebreaker, it's a lucky door prize a little bit. You have to go out there, try to get off to a pretty good start. We were both able to do that. I just felt like I dictated play, you know, when I needed to; I hustled when I needed to; I got those extra balls back when I needed to. You know, under the circumstances I played a pretty good tiebreak, I think. The match as it was, he served extremely well. Had a lot of opportunities to break out there tonight. I think the first four or five early in the third set, he hit aces on every one of them. He really didn't give me too many opportunities on second serves. I don't know what the stats were, but I felt like on most of his second serves, I was, you know, winning the majority of the points out there tonight. So, you know, I was waiting for my opportunities on the big points, and to his credit he came up with some big serves.

Q. He also talked about your general improvement over all, the last couple years. When you slipped a little bit, you went back and worked on your game. Your forehand, serve and volley are better. Do you feel that way, that you're an improved player from two years ago to now?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I think so. Yeah, I think I'm definitely playing a lot better. I think the game's probably changed. You know, it always changes. You know, I think especially Roger has taken it to a new level. That's the motivation to try to stay up in the top few guys in the world. You know, I felt like with Roger Rasheed and myself, we worked extremely hard, you know, especially probably the end of - what is it now - 2003, I think. Yeah, 2003. I've worked extremely hard to try to get back in 2004. I was able to do that. I had probably as consistent a year as I've ever had last year. You know, I'm happy with where my game's at right at the moment. Taking the best players to play their best tennis to beat me, I think, nearly every week now. That's all I can really put on the table.

Q. You played well in a lot of big events, reached the finals. How important is it for you to get over the top and get this title?

LLEYTON HEWITT: You know, it's always nice to win titles. But, yeah, I'd swap it for the Aussie Open (smiling). Yeah, it's big matches. The guys that I've lost to in the last few finals, obviously Roger has been in most of them, and Marat in the Aussie Open, you know, they've had to play some scary tennis to beat me. If I go out there and put myself on the line every time, then your chances are going to come. But, you know, I can go out there, in all those matches I've played good tennis. It's not like I've played poorly. It's taken a hell of a player to beat me every time.

Q. You're a great competitor, yet you lose a match like the Australian Open. Seems to be a heartbreaker. What was it like a couple days after that? Did you really feel dropped in a hole or did you keep rolling along, get back to practice?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I just had no adrenaline left in my body basically. I just felt like I'd hit a wall. Yeah, it happens after a lot of big tournaments for me, or Davis Cup ties, stuff like that, where it takes a lot out of me both mentally and physically. That was probably -- my body's probably never been through something like that, I don't think, those four weeks. It was more, you know, I didn't really want to see a tennis court for a few weeks, and I didn't need to, which was good. So, you know, I basically just had to wait until my body recovered. And also, you know, my mind, you know, I had that motivation or that hunger back to want to get out there and practice. It was good I had a Davis Cup tie as my first comeback match after the Australian Open, because it really gave me something to focus on, you know, playing for my nation.

Q. Did the match haunt you at all? Did you dwell on the match at all?

LLEYTON HEWITT: No, no. There wasn't a whole heap I could do. From 4-1 up in the third set, you know, I know Federer played extremely well all of last year, but Marat's played some scary tennis, he really did. The break at 4-2 to break me back to go to 4-3 was a really long game in the third set. Some of the backhands he hit, it was incredible. You know, I got no regrets, that it is for sure.

Q. Talk about Roger a little more. Last year, played him tough a few times. The last few times, he's gotten you pretty good. What type of tennis are you going to have to bring to the court? Are you going to have to switch up a little bit? Is he going to have to be down a little bit? I'm sure you talked about it with Roger Rasheed a number of times, how you're going to get over Roger Federer if he's playing at his top level.

LLEYTON HEWITT: He's always going to be a tough player to beat. His serve, he sets up the points so well for his game. He gets a high percentage of first serves in and sets it up so he can dictate play with his forehand. He's a great all-court player. He's moving exceptionally well the last year and a half, as well as anyone, I think. Yeah, you got to try to dictate play as much as possible. Obviously his backhand, you know, is his weaker wing. But then again, that's improved out of sight in the last two years, as well. I've got to go out there and play my game and try and make him play a lot of balls. But, you know, it's never going to be easy against Rog.

Q. Early in this tournament there was commotion about your off-court business. How does that impact your tennis, or does it?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Does it look like it does (smiling)?

Q. I don't know.

LLEYTON HEWITT: There you go.

Q. Does it?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, I'm in the final.

Q. I will be the village idiot. Did you talk to Kim at all? Did you say hi to Kim here?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I spoke to her.

Q. How was that? Okay?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, it was fine.

Q. Can you talk about the format, best-of-five, after playing best-of-three the whole way?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, it's a bit different. Yeah, it's a different from any time I've made the finals here in the past, it's always been best-of-three. I'm not sure why it's changed this year.

Q. Do you think that's right, that it should be changed?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I don't know. I'm not sure. I know in Miami they've always did it, always best-of-five. I assume it's still best-of-five there. You know, Cincinnati I think used to be, now it's changed back to best-of-three. You know, Montreal, Toronto last year was best-of-three as well. It's probably better to try to keep it all one thing I think for all, but then you have the Paris Indoors, that's best-of-five. Madrid, I don't know what that is. I guess best-of-five. Yeah, it would be nice I think to have the same thing for all of them. You know, it doesn't really worry me one way or the other too much.

Q. Concerned about how lively your legs will be tomorrow?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Not really. Hopefully they'll be fine. See what happens.

Q. There's consistency and there's consistency. Guys like Rogers and Andys of this world, sometime go for a bonehead shot. You never seem to make a bad decision on the tennis court.

LLEYTON HEWITT: I don't know about that (smiling). Oh, I make a few. Maybe they're just not quite as obvious as those guys'. But, yeah.

Q. Is that a function of concentration or discipline? Was that something drilled into you, or it's there innately and you follow it with your game?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I don't know. It's probably part of my game, I think, and just my mental outlook on not only tennis but sport, playing the percentages probably more than anything. It's something that I think I've always done, you know, no matter when I first picked up a racquet and now that I'm playing on the tour.

Q. Is it something you pride yourself on?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I don't know. I'd like to think that I'm -- probably, you know, mentally know the game as well as anyone going out there. You know, in big situations, tough situations, I think mentally I don't choose a wrong option that many times.

Q. Could you remember the last time you "beat yourself" out there?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I can't remember the last time. I'm sure there's a few, but...

Q. We can't either.

LLEYTON HEWITT: I'm sure there's a few.

Q. That's something you don't want to remember?

LLEYTON HEWITT: No, probably 'raced it straightaway.

Q. Can you talk about Roger's (Rasheed) impact? He seems to be able to think outside the box, has an athletic background.

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, he does -- he's been awesome not only with me on-court, but off-court thinking, as well, for me. Physically, you know, we come both from an Australian Rules football background. That's a lot more of the training we do rather than, you know, tennis training - or the typical tennis training, I guess, which I prefer a lot more. I think it suits me a lot more. But mindset-wise he's put a lot of hours into watching a lot of the game I think over the last year and a half. He knows it as well as anyone.

Q. What are some of the things that Australian Rules does that are a little different from tennis?

LLEYTON HEWITT: We just pound weights (smiling).

Q. You speak about erasing things in your mind.

LLEYTON HEWITT: I was joking.

Q. Is that one of the keys to your success; you hit a bad shot, you forget about it, don't remember it after the match?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, sometimes I guess. But, you know, there's always times when you're out there and you realize you've hit a bad shot, sometimes you want to keep it in your mind because next time you get that opportunity, you won't do it again. So it works both ways, I guess.

Q. How much difference does it make in your everyday life that you're back to where you were a couple years ago? Are you overall happier? Does it make life easier for you?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Not really. Not really. You know, tennis-wise it doesn't change a whole heap, I don't think, in my private life and off the court too much. Sure, you're happier when you win a few more matches than when you lose them. But, yeah, even when my ranking dropped to 17, a lot of people were writing about how bad I was playing. I only played probably half as many tournaments as anyone else, and still was able to beat Federer, Ferrero in Davis Cup matches at the end of the year. You know, I wasn't struggling that much.

Q. You were talking about playing the percentages, how you approach sport. When you play someone like Roger, do you have to change your thinking a little bit because the percentages, take a few more risks there?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, you probably do a little bit more than probably other guys, for sure, only because Roger's a stand-out player. Yeah, he takes his opportunities when he gets them. He can dictate play as well as anyone, but he can also defend as well as anyone out there, as well. You probably have to try and dictate play a little bit more against a guy like Rog.

Q. When you're on court playing him, are you pushing against your own psyche, saying you have to dictate more, you can't play a normal style?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Not necessarily. It's more the spur of the moment a little bit once you're out there, how the match is panning out, you know, the situation, playing the big points. A lot of is really the heat of the moment. If you get a breakpoint, do you sit back and play the percentages a bit more or do you stand up and go for it? You can only tell that once you're out there. It's very hard to say what you've got to do tomorrow in that situation.

Q. You played Pete Sampras here in some big matches. You prevailed. What are the similarities in the game between Pete and Roger that you see?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Oh, they're both awesome athletes, I think both of them. You know, both got great serves. Pete was probably a little bit bigger serve. But Roger's is more placement for his game. Different kind of forehands from the back of the court. Roger's has got a lot more spin, probably a lot heavier, whereas Pete's is a more flat kind of forehand. Slice backhand, match and match. Topspin backhand, I'd probably give the edge to Federer. But both great movers around the court. I think both of them didn't get enough credit for their movement.

Q. Andy thinks that he has improved even since Australia. You played him in the semis. Could you see that tonight? Were there obvious improvements he made?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I don't know, for three sets in Australia, he played pretty well. It was only in the fourth set that he sort of fell away a bit. Up till then, he served big. Couple of tiebreaks in the second and third set that, you know, he was going for ridiculous second serves. You know, I was just playing the percentages once again, waiting for it to fall off. Here tonight, yeah, he definitely served his first serve a lot better. But, then again, yeah, it's hard to say because his strength is still his serve and his big forehand. But then again, he didn't break my serve once. He broke it once for the whole match, for three long sets. Depends which area you're pinpointing.

Q. Are you baiting him to come in more or is he coming in more to net? Are you comfortable when he's charging the net?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I think he's definitely coming in more off his own terms, a lot more, what I've seen, probably in the last couple months.

Q. You're still not having that many problems passing if you get a good look at the ball?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Now and then. He's a big guy. He came up with some good volleys tonight. He's definitely not a Roger Federer or Pete Sampras or Pat Rafter coming in.

End of FastScripts….

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