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March 10, 2003

Lleyton Hewitt


MODERATOR: We have Lleyton Hewitt, our defending champion, coming off a win in Scottsdale. He has improved his record to 9-1 on the season. Lleyton didn't drop a set throughout the week in Scottsdale. Questions.

Q. You must be feeling pretty well, pretty good after all that?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, it was a good week. Obviously, I didn't go in there with the highest of expectations. More than anything I just wanted to get a few matches under my belt before coming here. Yeah, it worked out perfect. I didn't play my best tennis the first couple of matches. I got better and better as the week went on. And I had to, as well, against the guys who I was playing against come quarters, semis and finals. To go through tournaments these days without dropping a set, I'm pretty happy with that.

Q. Pretty big effort in the doubles, too, you and Mark to get out there again.

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, it turned into a long day yesterday - very.

Q. How do you feel at the end of it all?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I feel fine. I've played enough back-to-back tournaments when I've won one tournament and then come out. You know, sometimes I like feeling like you're on a bit of a roll, as well. For me, it's a lot better going out there and playing, being match tough, getting that match hardness under your belt more than just going out there and practicing. Hopefully it's going to put me in good stead for this week. We'll have to wait and see.

Q. You said at the end of last year you would play less tournaments. Is it the reason why you didn't play since Davis Cup, just to slow down?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I was never going to play. I never play straight after Davis Cup ties. I feel like Davis Cup ties take so much out of you, more mentally than physically. So, yeah, it was never a plan to play straight after Davis Cup, and it never will be.

Q. On the point of Davis Cup, apart from teaming up with Mark in doubles, was that also good for Davis Cup?

LLEYTON HEWITT: It gives us another option. I think we came through pretty good. We played some great matches. I think in the end we just got a little bit tired in the final. But, you know, throughout the week, we played really well, especially in the quarterfinals against Johnson-Palmer, we played some of our best tennis. If we had to play together in Davis Cup, it wouldn't be that big a problem now. I feel comfortable enough playing with Mark, and I'm sure he feels the same way.

Q. How many more tournaments do you think you'll play together?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I'm not sure. We may play Miami. See what happens.

Q. What's the feeling of coming back here after the win last year?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Winning last year?

Q. Yes.

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, it's always a nice place to come back to, you know, somewhere that you've played well in the past. You know, I made the semis before winning it last year. You know, the court surface, the conditions, everything, I think suits my game pretty well. Yeah, it's one of my favorite tournaments of the year. It's a nice place to come regardless, I think, even if you're a defending champion or not.

Q. After your win, do you feel you're match tough now?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, I'm five more matches tough, I guess. Yeah, I feel good about the way my game's been progressing over the last four or five days. You know, but now you've got to step it up again. There's a lot tougher matches here. You've got the best guys in the world playing this week. If you're going to go through another six matches in seven days, you've got to -- I start tomorrow, so six matches in six days, I've got to really go out there with all guns firing right from the start.

Q. First match against Younes. Any comment about this match?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, there's no easy draws in this tournament. You know, it's going to be a tough match, no doubt about that. You know, I've got to go out there and play my game, you know, take my chances when I get them I think more than anything.

Q. Can you reflect back on your match against him in Australia and just talk about what you thought happened there.

LLEYTON HEWITT: He played too well. I really had very little opportunities to break serve. It's one of the few matches I didn't break serve in the whole match. Four tight sets of tennis, I only lost serve once. But I felt like I had some chances, though, to even. I was up 4-2 in the third set breaker. I think that was a huge turning point. If I could have won that third set, gone two sets to one up after three breakers, it would have been a huge psychological difference than being two sets to one down. Yeah, it's going to be interesting, I guess, not playing in a Grand Slam, playing best-of-three sets, as well. Yeah, it's an extremely tough first round.

Q. Does his style bother you at all or did he happen to zone on you that match?

LLEYTON HEWITT: He's a tough player, no doubt. He's tough for anyone, I think. But, you know, he played probably as well as he could play I think that day.

Q. Surely you can't expect a big server like that to serve at 80% match after match.

LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, you hope not. You hope not (smiling). Yeah, you know, he served huge, but then I still had a few opportunities and I just wasn't able to take them. In this game today, you know, tennis, you've got to really take your opportunities when you get them. You may only get one or two chances. If you don't take them, you end up losing the match. I can't expect him to go out there and serve 40% or 50% first serves either. Every time I've played him, he's been able to get a high percentage of first serves in.

Q. Imagine you were in Pete Sampras' shoes, would you retire? What do you think he's going to do?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, I got no idea what Pete's going to do. I got no idea, mate. I don't know what my goals would be after winning 14 Slams and basically winning everything you could win. I really don't know. It's up to him. I don't know if there's any more motivation to keep playing. I'm not sure what he could really look forward to. If he did want to come back for one more Wimbledon, I'm not sure. It's a little bit of a fairytale ending if he was to retire after the US Open, I think, beating his biggest rival in tennis, Andre Agassi, in the final of his national Grand Slam. Yeah, it doesn't get much bigger than that.

Q. All the players have been saying that the courts here are playing slowly and the balls are playing slowly. Does that suit you?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, sometimes. You know, I think it matches up against different players. You know, last week I felt was, you know, through the air it was playing very quickly, but the court surface and balls were playing very slowly last week in Scottsdale, as well. I haven't hit here yet. I'll find out this afternoon what conditions are like. You know, I don't think it's going to be a huge change. I couldn't see a huge change from last year anyway.

Q. From what you saw last year, was this a surface which is basically fair to most players?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I think so, what I can remember. I can't remember it being too quick or too slow. I think the balls fluff up a fair bit, but I think that's just The Masters Series balls. They just get chopped up after two or three games. But the court surface I can't remember being a huge problem for anyone.

Q. Safin was saying yesterday that he doesn't have any problems getting motivated to play the big-name players. When he's playing guys lower ranked, he has motivation problems. You don't seem to have that. How do you manage to keep the intensity week in, week out, match in, match out?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I love competing. I love going out there and just getting on the court and having that one-on-one battle. You know, it's obviously a lot easier to get motivated for Grand Slams and the bigger tournaments and Davis Cup, et cetera. You know, sure, I'm trying to peak for the big tournaments, but then again, I don't want to go out there and not give a hundred percent in the smaller tournaments, as well. You know, obviously your goals and priorities have changed over the years since I first came on the tour when I was 16. It was like every tournament was a Grand Slam final. You know, now obviously after you win a couple of Grand Slams and Davis Cup and those ties, your goals and priorities change a lot. Obviously, I love going out there and just, you know, trying to I guess put it all on the line every time. But I definitely know in the back of my mind what are the more important matches, as well.

Q. You've been so good the last year and a half. Do you feel yourself gradually improving, say, half percent, one percent, week to week, or is it too tough for you to tell that?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Oh, sometimes. I feel like there's days or tournaments when I start getting on a bit of a roll, there's areas of my game that I feel like are coming along. Then I think like anyone, you have some off days as well you feel like you drop back a couple of pegs. There's still areas of my game that I feel like I can get better at and help me out, not only, you know, on hard court and grass, but maybe on clay, as well, more so. You know, I still feel like there's a percentage of my game that I can improve on, become a more well-rounded player, I think.

End of FastScripts….

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