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March 13, 2004

Lleyton Hewitt


THE MODERATOR: Lleyton. He's won 13 consecutive matches here. He's 15-1 on the year. Open it up for questions.

Q. You didn't have such a great start here last year, but you've got to be pleased with today's performance.

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, it's different than last year in the fact that I was coming off winning Scottsdale the week before last year. You know, I didn't get a hit on center court before the tournament started here. You know, this year I've had pretty good practice, I guess. But in a lot of ways that can make the first round a little bit tougher. To go out there, you haven't played for a couple of weeks in match conditions. You know, in this kind of setup, the higher seeds get byes here, Johansson played a match yesterday, and got through in the conditions we're going to be playing in. You can't take it lightly at all.

Q. Surprised how easy it went?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, it didn't feel that easy out there. You look at the score line, and you think it's pretty convincing. But I think there were a lot of tough games out there, some pretty good rallies out there. Yeah, Thomas is a tough player. Out of all the non-seeded players, he'd have to be one of the toughest, I think. For me to come through in that way, we had a tough match in Rotterdam a couple of weeks ago, as well, so that probably helped me in good stead a little bit. I played better I think today than I did in Rotterdam a couple weeks ago against him.

Q. What was working for you today?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Felt like I moved really well. I was pretty consistent. It was heavy conditions out there. I didn't make a lot of cheap errors. I felt like I hit my groundstrokes pretty well from side to side. I had him moving a lot. I mixed up the pace very well out there tonight. Yeah, and my serve, I served well in patches, I think, apart from the last service game.

Q. Do you feel your game has totally come together? You're 15-1 this year, lost to Ferrero.

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I was playing pretty well this time last year, as well. You know, I came here, obviously won Scottsdale and Indian Wells here, then I got sick the night before I played in Miami, lost first round there. You know, won a Davis Cup tie, took a bit of a break I guess, there before the French Open, Wimbledon. Yeah, I feel like I'm playing well at the moment, yeah. As I said, though, after you take a couple weeks off, you've won a title, you've got to try to get back into it. It's always going to take you a match or two to get back into it. These kind of tournaments, you can't really get off to slow starts. Best-of-three sets against the best players in the world right from the word "go." These are tough tournaments to win.

Q. Talk about the reemergence of Safin, what it does to the mix of people in the tournament.

LLEYTON HEWITT: Safin fully fit is obviously one of the toughest guys out there. He's got an all-around game. He's got a lot of power out there. He can play on all surfaces. We've all seen him at his best. I think the Australian Open this year, he was pretty close to his best, I'd say, a couple of those matches towards the end of the tournament. He's going to be tough, there's no doubt about it.

Q. As a guy for whom consistency and consistent approach is obviously a virtue of your game, do you have a hard time identifying with a player like Safin, whose motivation seems to come in and out, up and down? Do you say, "How can someone possibly not care all the time"?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Not really. Everyone's personality is different, I guess. That's what makes the game so interesting I guess in a lot of ways. Yeah, you're always going to have those kind of characters out there, I guess. You know, different personalities. You know, you look at McEnroe and Borg, totally different situations, playing styles, strengths and weaknesses, I guess. Obviously, Marat, one of his biggest strengths is how hard he can hit the ball, his power, his all court game. Sometimes the mental side of it lets him down sometimes. If you got the whole package, then you'd be winning week in and week out, I guess. It would be boring for everyone.

Q. What do you think was the turning point in tonight's match?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I was 2-1 down in the first set, saved a couple of breakpoints, and then ended up getting on a bit of a roll after that game. I was able to break a couple times and win the first set. He started pretty well in the second set. I just had to hang in there. I felt like I was getting enough chances, enough 30-All games on his service games. I felt like it was just a matter of time before that opportunity would come. And against the best players in the world, you may only get one, two, three of those opportunities, you got to be able to take them straightaway.

Q. I know you need to adapt your game to everyone, but do you find a finesse player, like Federer, how do you compare the problems he presents to you with a big-hitter?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, you know, a lot depends I guess on the surface, the court style, how the conditions are a lot more, as well. Obviously, a grass court with Federer's kind of style of game, you'd have to say that suits him probably the best because he's a natural. He's got an all-court game. He's the best volleyer out there, in my opinion, at the moment. He has an all-court game which suits grass. On other surfaces, though, there's obviously tougher players I think on clay, guys that have grown up on it. A lot of the Spanish and Argentinian guys are pretty tough on it. I think match-ups depend a lot on surfaces.

Q. Does a finesse player of that caliber on grass, is that more problematic than even like a big server, like Goran?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, he's not so much a finesse, I don't think. He's got a great serve, I think. He's got a huge forehand - as big a forehand that's out there, Federer. Sure, he's got great hands, you know, finesse as well. He's got a great package deal, I guess. But he's got a very powerful game out there, as well.

Q. You haven't played Roddick since that 2001 match at The Open. Obviously his game has probably changed a little since then. Are you sort of looking forward to maybe seeing how you would measure up now against someone like Roddick, the challenge, because it's been a while since you've played?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, you know, I'll look forward to it if I've got to play him. I'm not too worried about him at the moment until -- I think he's in the other side of the draw this week.

Q. Just in general, though.

LLEYTON HEWITT: You know, there's a lot of tough players out there. There's no doubt I'm sure that I'm going have to play him whether it's this year or next year, I'm sure, and probably in a big tournament at some stage. And there's no doubt that his game's changed. But, you know, I still feel like I'd match up well against him. You know, he's obviously got, you know, big strengths. You got to try and exploit any weaknesses that he does have, as well.

Q. Kim was quite disappointed she had to pull out. Are you disappointed there's no chance of a double repeat like last year?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, it's disappointing anytime one of us has to pull out of a tournament, I think - especially the situation. She really obviously enjoys playing here and plays extremely well here. I don't think it's an easy decision to do because, you know, you can obviously aggravate the injury a lot more and be out for a serious period of time. I know there's a lot of players who have had a similar injury in the last few years, and they've been out for a while.

Q. Are you surprised how well she's handling it? She's pretty upbeat about it.

LLEYTON HEWITT: You know, I haven't really spoken to her about it too much. I've been back at the hotel all day. I know she went and had MRIs and stuff all done today. Yeah, it's a weird kind of injury, I think. You know, it happened, you know, she told me, last night that she felt pain and she could only slice backhand at the end of the second set last night. You know, I guess it was something that was just waiting to happen. It's an awkward situation. One minute you're a hundred percent, and the next minute you can't play with your left hand.

Q. How do you get an injury like that? It wasn't from a fall or anything. Is it just wear and tear?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I think it's wear and tear. I'm pretty sure Safin and Nalbandian, they're the two players that come to mind, that have had similar injuries, both with their left hands, as well. Double-hand backhand obviously has got something to do with it. Yeah, it's tough. There's no pinpoint. I think it's just wear and tear over the years. Obviously, all us young guys have been playing since we were six or seven years old, as well.

Q. Do you think she could get through another round if she used the slice backhand?


Q. After you've taken a couple of weeks off, how many matches does it take you before you're feeling totally comfortable, the way you're playing as you come back?

LLEYTON HEWITT: About six (laughter). It's hard to say. I think it depends on the surface, the conditions, and how long you've been there in those conditions practicing for. I've obviously, you know, got here pretty early, last Sunday. I had a good, what is it, five days or so practicing on these courts, and in this situation, I guess. Yeah, I'd like to think that now I feel pretty comfortable out there. Obviously, my next match most likely will be probably in the day, now that I've played a night match. It's going to be different conditions again. But that's what I've been practicing in, you know, the whole five days, the last week, so.

Q. With two of these titles under your belt, going for a third in a row, do you feel any different? I mean, is there an element of pressure or this not being a Grand Slam, but still a big tournament, or it doesn't quite come into the thinking?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Not really. No, I'm not putting any added pressure. You know, this is only the first Masters Series of the year. If I don't win here, I've got a lot more chances anyway. But for me, you know, obviously I'd love to win here again. And I feel very comfortable playing here. In my opinion, you know, it's my favorite Masters Series of the year. I really enjoy coming back here. You always like coming back to places that you play well at. It's a nice stadium, very relaxed out there. You know, hopefully I can win a few more matches and put myself in a position to be here next weekend.

Q. The frustrations and problems of last year, how have they influenced or affected you this year?

LLEYTON HEWITT: What frustrations?

Q. Falling off your game a little bit, not having the results you had previously.

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I felt like -- you know, obviously my ranking dropped because I didn't play as many tournaments. Definitely I'd like to think I was a better player than whatever I dropped to, 17 or 14 in the world, whatever. The ranking really meant very little to me at the end of last year. As I said a couple days ago, all I was worried about at the end of the -- the last two and a half months of last year was winning the Davis Cup. You know, I won't have as many points to defend this next October, November.

End of FastScripts….

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