March 12, 2003
INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA
Q. Congratulations on the award announced last night in Australia about you being named Australian Athlete of the Year.
LLEYTON HEWITT: Thank you.
Q. What do those sort of things mean to you?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, it's obviously, you know, something that I hold very special. These things don't come around that often, especially from a country like Australia. You know, we have so many great athletes, everyone knows that. You know, I look up to a lot of those guys, as well. You know, Ian Thorpe, Matthew Hayden, Steve Waugh. These guys I grew up idolizing. For me to be put in their caliber is fantastic. I'm sure those guys -- I know Ian has won it before, I'm pretty sure. You know, I think those kind of awards are something that, you know, you really can't do much about, but it shows that the Australian public I guess are really into tennis and the way I played last year.
Q. You got down a little early today, then jumped on him and stayed on him the whole match.
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, he played a lot better today than he has in some of the previous matches I played with him. He didn't make a lot of mistakes out there and he made me work for a lot of points. I had to sort of hang with him I knew early and try to get him out of puff a little bit toward the end of the first set, start of the second.
Q. Did you feel your level today was better than yesterday?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yes. I went up a little bit today. Still in the tournament, so I'm pretty happy.
Q. Today you played pretty well against a guy who has won two Grand Slam tournaments, and yesterday you had an epic with a guy who hasn't done as well as Kafelnikov. What is the stylistic difference between those two and the problems they create for you?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Kafelnikov is not quite the player he was at the moment, even the last year or so, when he won the French Open and also won the Australian Open and runner-up at the Australian Open. It showed in his results last year. It's the first time in, I'm not sure, seven or eight years, that he didn't make the Masters Cup at the end of the year. So he's not quite as confident as I think he's been in the past. El Aynaoui, his ranking is probably as high as it has been ever. They're two totally different on the scales right at the moment.
Q. What about the playing styles?
LLEYTON HEWITT: El Aynaoui has a better serve and forehand, but Yevgeny's got a lot better backhand. Yeah, they're totally different players, very different.
Q. We get the impression with Kafelnikov, he's a guy who can turn it on when he's in the right mood. Does that make him difficult?
LLEYTON HEWITT: He is. He's a player you don't want to play too early I guess in tournaments. He's a rough draw because, you know, he can play big matches very well. You know, he's had Kuerten a couple times at the French Open two sets to one, maybe a break. Ended up losing the match, and Kuerten has gone on to win the tournament. He's a very dangerous player. He's a very classy player. He's a guy, he's been around for a long time, he's been in the Top 10 for a long time, and he's won majors. He knows what to do on big occasions. Big occasions don't worry him too much.
Q. You must have been pretty pleased with some of those forehands you hit down the line.
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah. I started hitting the ball a lot better. I started getting my rhythm out there. I hit the ball heavier today, which I was happy with. My backhand felt pretty consistent out there, as well. Yeah, I just felt like my serve in patches was not too bad, but still room for improvement, which is good.
Q. There's been a lot of talk the last week about Wayne Ferreira's proposed breakaway. You're the No. 1 guy. Where do you stand?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I can't speak on behalf of all the players, but my experiences with the ATP, I think I've got to look at it in a very positive way. I think, you know, any way that things can be helped, I think, you know, it's great for everyone. You know, I know a fair bit about it. I'd still like to know a lot more about it, as well. I think anything that's going to help the players... At the end of the day, I know with my dealings with the ATP, I know there's a lot of room for improvement.
Q. Do you think there's room for improvement then in the way the players are represented?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I think a lot of room for improvement.
Q. What do you think can be done about it?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I'm not sure. I think it's a huge issue. And I think all the players have got to come together and talk about it. But I think the players' interests are probably the biggest key.
Q. I was talking to Todd Woodbridge yesterday who went to the meeting that you couldn't attend on Monday night. He said he felt pretty secure that 16 of the Top 20 guys are going to support the ATP and not go with Wayne's group.
LLEYTON HEWITT: I think it was a different meeting. I think that was a totally different meeting. That meeting was for the ITF. It was about prize money for Grand Slams. It had nothing to do with Wayne Ferreira's things.
Q. You still think it's possible a good amount of players, or at least yourself, might join Wayne's group?
LLEYTON HEWITT: That meeting, I know for a fact it had absolutely nothing to do with Wayne Ferreira's group at all. I don't think it was even mentioned in the whole meeting. I know that wasn't the issue in the meeting. The issue was going with the ATP, and they want to work as a group and get the Top 20 players to go more against the ITF so the ATP can go out there and try and get more money and a higher percentage for the Grand Slams. You know, I think we're getting maybe 9% of the profit I think from the US Open compared with on the PGA TOUR and stuff like that, they're getting 55%. I think that was the deal Monday night. It had nothing to do with Wayne Ferreira's group.
Q. But in Todd's opinion, he still thinks Wayne's group is dead in the water.
LLEYTON HEWITT: Somehow I doubt that. I really doubt it.
Q. So you're still open to possibly joining Wayne's group?
LLEYTON HEWITT: For sure.
Q. I understand to join that group, you have to sign a document. Would you be willing to do that?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I'd have to go through and look at everything. You know, I've spoken to players, as well. You know, whatever's going to be best for the game and the players' benefits, I guess. You know, I think at the moment there's a lot of room for improvement. If it's going to end up helping the players, I don't see why not.
Q. If you met with Wayne's group tonight, just theoretically, what would you say would be a great thing it could accomplish?
LLEYTON HEWITT: For the players?
Q. For whatever.
LLEYTON HEWITT: I think the biggest thing is getting the players' issues across better. I think that's the biggest thing out of all. I think there's not enough -- the ATP hasn't done enough for the players, as the players' voice I think more than anything. It's like a players' union in a lot of ways. I think that's the biggest issue.
Q. What are some of the players' issues?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Oh, I'm not sure. You know, I think -- you know, I haven't spoken to a lot of guys, but I think there's just little things behind the scenes that we feel like, you know, we say it to people but it doesn't get across to the right people. It sort of goes into the council meetings and nothing ever really happens about it. I know there's been a lot of issues over the last two or three years. It's been building for a long time.
Q. How much deeper does this go than bonus pool money?
LLEYTON HEWITT: It goes a lot deeper. There's a whole range of issues. You know, I'm not going to get into it right now, but it's a lot bigger than just that.
Q. Just to clarify, if you're going to deputize the tour to represent you going to the four Slams for a greater chunk, isn't it hard to then simultaneously form some sort of breakaway unit?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I actually haven't had anything to do with the ITF. I wasn't at the meeting the other night. I couldn't go. I haven't even had any information on it whatsoever. I know that Todd Woodbridge wants to sit down with me and have a chat and go through it, but at that stage I know nothing, nothing about it. What I've heard is secondhand. I haven't been given any paper or any sheet saying what the proposal is or what they want me to sign to go to the ITF, put that proposal to them. So, you know, at the moment, I'm very limited in what I know about the whole thing. I know more about the Ferreira thing than the ATP getting together and going against the ITF for more prize money.
Q. Isn't it a situation that the ITF, they're not really the ones that determine the prize money breakdown at the Grand Slams, and it's a case of the group needs to approach each Grand Slam independently because they are the ones that determine the breakdown, et cetera?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, as I said, I don't know enough about it at the moment. You know, I think it's a huge procedure anyway. You know, you've got to take a lot of things into account before you even go, you know, doing that to the four majors. You know, I don't play the Grand Slams for the money. Let's face it. I play it for the respect of the tournament, holding up the trophy at the end of the two weeks. The money just comes with it. I think more than anything, it's sort of seeing where the money's going, you know. The players I think as a whole feel like they're making a lot of this money by them coming and playing these tournaments, and just sort of seeing where the money's going, I think whether it's being wasted somewhere else, where it could be going more to the players.
Q. On an entirely different note, can you give some thoughts on Taylor Dent as a player. Can you talk about the strides he's made.
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I think he's playing a lot better now than he was playing at Wimbledon. He was very flashy at Wimbledon at that time. Obviously, the last couple weeks, he's taken some huge steps, as well. Winning Memphis, beating Roddick in the final. You know, I know he won Newport. But to beat a guy in the Top 10, Top 5 in the world, in a final of a tournament, that's another step up for him I think. He's handling the situation of playing week in and week out with expectation now a lot better. You know, I think he's improved his game a lot over the last year or so.
Q. What impresses you more in the improvement area?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I think he's found his game a little bit more at the moment. I think he's probably fitter than he's been in the past, as well. I think they're the biggest things.
Q. Can you talk about your match tomorrow.
LLEYTON HEWITT: Coria, I played him when I was in Juniors a long time ago in the 14s, I think, but I've never played him since. You know, he's a grinder. You know, he's not going to miss too many balls and he's going to make you work for everything. You know, I'm going to be out there and be patient but also play my game and take my chances when I get the short ball.
Q. You've had quite a lot of matches after a reasonably long break. How are you feeling physically?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Not too bad. I want to take it one day at a time. It has been a lot of matches, with doubles as well in there last week. A lot of late nights, then sort of coming here straightaway. I guess, you know, the more straight-set victories you can get, the better off you're going to be. Today was a nice start.
Q. You're happy being on a roll?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I think I play well when I get that momentum going, you know, get some wins under my belt and get that, you know, match hardness I guess there. So, yeah.
Q. When was it you played Coria?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I can hardly remember. I think it was under-14s, maybe. I got no idea.
Q. Do you remember how you did?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I think I won, but I can't remember too much.
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