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March 15, 2004

Lleyton Hewitt


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Lleyton.

Q. I saw you go 3-Love up, decided to watch something else, came back, saw you win the second set, saw your breakpoints in the first game. I couldn't understand the final score.

LLEYTON HEWITT: It was a bit like that, wasn't it (smiling)? Yeah, there was a lot of momentum changes out there. I felt like I hit the ball well early on. You know, I came out very aggressive right from the start. Had a chance to go 4-Love up. You know, didn't feel like I played too bad a game. I felt like he didn't miss a lot of balls out there today. It's extremely heavy with the balls out there, you know, to play a guy like that. You know, it's a big change from when you get new balls, and then probably a game or so, you know, even after you change balls because, you know, they're very heavy, it's hard to hit winners, especially against a guy like that. He's standing a couple of meters behind the baseline and running everything down.

Q. He was finding corners very well, wasn't he?

LLEYTON HEWITT: He played well. He didn't make too many mistakes. He definitely didn't make any easy mistakes anyway. He chased a lot of balls down. Yeah, even when I felt like I had him on a stretch a couple of times, he came up with good defensive shots, I guess the kind of shots you learn to play when you grow up on clay.

Q. Are you feeling a little bit shell-shocked by it?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Not really shell-shocked, I don't think. Yeah, I'd seen him play tough matches in the past. You know, he's beaten Roddick. He's had a couple of tough matches with Roddick since then, as well. Yeah, I've seen him play. He's always had reasonable results on a hard court. And this kind of hard court I'd say suits him the best. With, you know, the balls fluffing up a lot out there, making it slower out there for him, as well.

Q. You're usually so quick about court. Today it didn't seem it was quite you sometimes. You didn't seem to be moving quite as rapidly or off the mark as you usually do. Any reason for that?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I felt a little bit heavy out there today, just running around. I don't know if it was my first match out in the heat for a while. You know, obviously I played a night match the other night. Haven't played outdoors for a while. Whether that's got something to do with it. You know, it's hot conditions out there today. Yeah, I did feel, yeah, a little bit heavy out there, yeah.

Q. How much slower is the court from last year?

LLEYTON HEWITT: A fair bit slow. You know, I don't know if it's all the court, though. I think it's got a lot to do with the balls. The balls, they're getting worse and worse by the week.

Q. Physically there's nothing wrong?

LLEYTON HEWITT: No, no. I'm fine.

Q. In what way are the balls causing more problem? Is it the fact they are getting so heavy?

LLEYTON HEWITT: They're massive. They're ridiculous. After like one game against a guy like that, you know -- I've never played with balls that are getting that big. It's as simple as that. I thought the balls in Rotterdam were quite heavy till I came here. You know, the court's definitely, you know, it's a little bit rough out there. That's always going to chop the balls up a little bit more than a smoother court, such as a US Open hard court. But, you know, there's no reason why the ball should get, you know, that heavy. I know a lot of players complained early on when I got here first couple of days that were hitting them. You know, it was a joke. They complained. They said they got other boxes. I haven't noticed a huge change.

Q. That wasn't the case in Perth or the Australian Open, was it?

LLEYTON HEWITT: With the balls?

Q. Yes.

LLEYTON HEWITT: It was a different brand of ball they used for the Australian summer compared to what I used the last couple weeks.

Q. What did they use there?


Q. If you don't feel shell-shocked, how are you feeling? What are you feeling?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I'm actually happy with how I hit the ball. I felt like I hit the ball well out there today. I felt like I timed the ball well, I just didn't take my chances when I had them. Obviously, if you're 3-Love up, you have a chance to go 4-Love up, you'd like to think you're going to get that set. You know, if you're getting that, I had Love-40 in the first game of the third set, Love-30, Love-30, next two games. Even 5-1, I had Love-30, 15-40. Had a lot of chances, wasn't able to capitalize on it. Against these guys, you have to be able to capitalize on them.

Q. The balls, is this something you think the tournament made a conscious decision about the kind of ball and court they wanted? At some level is it kind of luck that nobody did their homework and the balls are fluffing up more than they thought?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I don't think the tournament would have planned it or thought about it at all. I'd say it's more -- whether it's the ball manufacturer, you know, who knows why they're so different to last year's ball. We used the Penn ball here last year, for most of the year last year, and they definitely weren't as big as they are now. Even though they say they've changed nothing in their thing, you know, the balls are coming out different from their company. Yeah, you can't blame the tournament. They're sticking with the same ball that they thought it was going to be the same ball they had the whole time I've been playing these Masters Series tournaments.

Q. Kind of a crapshoot from week to week? You find out what it is when you get there?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, a little bit. Obviously, a little bit's got to do with the court as well, how much it's chopping the ball up. But I think the majority definitely has got to do with, you know, the ball and how it's made.

Q. How big of a disappointment is this for you, going out in the early round?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, it's disappointing, you know. But, you know, I'd like to think there's lot bigger matches, you know, around the corner for me. As I said, you know, I felt like I was actually hitting the ball well. In practice, I've been hitting the ball well. In all my matches this year, I've played pretty good. So, you know, it's disappointing to go out. But, you know, he had to play one of his best matches I think to beat me out there today.

Q. You said the balls are coming out differently. My understanding is that balls are made from a mold with certain felt and rubber. What do you think could be the explanation?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I got no idea, mate. I haven't walked through their company. I wouldn't have a clue how they make them.

End of FastScripts….

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