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March 23, 2002

Lleyton Hewitt


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Lleyton Hewitt, please.

Q. Lleyton, when the whole package isn't there on a day like this, what's your mindset? Just, "Wait it out," you think it's going to get there, just be patient? Or do you start to change things? If you do, at what point?

LLEYTON HEWITT: You try and go back to your basics, I think - you know, the part of your game that you can rely on the whole time. That's what I felt like I had to do today. I just didn't feel confident in hitting the ball and, you know, I just went back to what I, you know, gutsing it out and trying to get through it and being happy with getting a win on the board.

Q. A couple years ago people were saying the game is definitely going to, you know, to the big guys: Safin, Guga, even Pete a little bit. Clearly, you've turned that entire thing on its ear with your performance last year. Were you yourself surprised at all by that?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Not really. A lot of people say that, and, you know, the whole time I sort of look at, you know, the way probably especially Andre has been able to, you know, stand up and compete. You know, he hasn't, you know, dominated, but him and Pete have dominated. So together, you know, they're two totally different kind of players. I think that's one of the main reasons why they've had such a good rivalry over the years. But, you know, so I draw confidence from looking at a guy like Andre. He can beat any player on any given day on any surface. So, yeah, even to look at grass, for example, he can beat anyone on grass in my opinion - I think everyone's opinion, on any day. He doesn't serve-volley. He really doesn't come to the net that often. Yet he's still, you know, he's able to dominate some of the bigger, powerful guys out there. That's where I've got to look at -- obviously I had to work on other areas of my game growing up, because I knew I wasn't going to be the biggest, strongest guy out there. You look at Andre, Michael Chang in the past, their returns, quickness, those are areas I feel like I can have an edge.

Q. Did you ever fear you might not be able to cut it?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Not really. It definitely, you know, didn't go through my mind that I have to go pound weights for the next five years to be able to compete with these guys. I felt like, you know, I've got to work on areas of my game to have a slight edge, whether that's mental, which I think I can have an edge over guys mentally. I think I'm one of the toughest - mentally - guys out there on the tour. I think I'm one of the quickest guys. You know, passing shots, returns, I think I'm up there with, you know, the best of them. I have other areas of my game that I feel like I can be on top of other guys.

Q. Lleyton, very possibly the biggest weapon you have are your legs. When there are no sand dunes around to run, what's your program between tournaments?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, they didn't feel as fresh as normal actually today. I think that's just got to do with playing a lot of matches and, you know, some days you go out there and you just don't feel like you're 100 percent there. And, you know, today was one of those but I was able to, you know, put that aside and just, you know, try and get up for it and, you know, jumping around a bit out there. Between tournaments such as the last two or three weeks, it's pretty tough. Because you don't want to go out there and do 400s all day. You know, you can, you know, occasionally do some court sprints. But what I'd more like to do is drills on the court, you know, the practice court, and get my footwork out there rather than go to an oval and do a lot of sprints when you only have five or six days to recover.

Q. What about when there's a week off?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, that's pushing it, I think, as well. I'd, like, maybe ride the bike, do some running on the treadmill in the gym. On a week off like I've nearly had here or between San Jose and Indian Wells, I still would prefer to normally, after a big week like San Jose, I'd take a day or two off. After that I'd like to do more on-court work rather than run laps.

Q. Mostly a maintenance program rather than trying to get your legs better?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I'm just trying to keep them at the same level basically during a period. If I start getting a couple weeks off where I feel like I can, you know, build it up a bit and try and get a bit of pace ready for the next upcoming tournaments or the long stretch of clay court events and then grass court events, then I'll maybe do a different program. But on a week off, it's pretty tough to go out there and set a program to try and improve.

Q. All things being equal, you put a guy on the court, a Mark Philippoussis, a Lleyton Hewitt, how does that match up? Can you characterize that psychologically? Who's got the pressure, the guy that has all the power because he's supposed to win?

LLEYTON HEWITT: It's hard to say. You know, obviously he's got, you know, bigger strengths. (Inaudible). If I can get away with holding my serve, I feel like, you know, I've got maybe a better chance of breaking most guys' serves than they have of breaking me. Then again, I've still got to go out there, I don't have the biggest serve around, I've got to get a high percentage of first serves, work the point from the baseline, not give away any cheap points on my service game. A guy like Mark or Safin, they can go out there and play a little bit more freer, I think, on their service games and go for it a bit more. They have that cannon to rely on a couple of break points down maybe.

Q. One of the toughest things for a lot of players to do is get into a rally where your opponent gets into a pace of the ball and you fall into the same pace. But you have this ability to absorb his power and redirect the ball at your pace. How do you learn that? How long does it take?

LLEYTON HEWITT: You know, it's something -- I grew up playing with, you know, I was always playing out of my age group in Juniors. I was always playing bigger, stronger guys from the word "go." I think that's one of the main reasons. I had to learn, growing up, I had to learn other ways to beat guys and, you know, directing the ball around. So I was always used to a lot harder hitting than, you know, than my, you know, probably age should have been. And, you know, that's one of the main reasons. I think if you go out there and practice with the older guys, better players, then you're going to become better as well. I had to do that in the junior squads back home in Adelaide.

Q. Do you empathize with Michael Chang? He's going through a rough patch right now. It seems to be getting tough for him?

LLEYTON HEWITT: It's tough to watch, I think, Michael at the moment. I practiced with him before we knew the draw and that we could have been playing. We actually practiced together. He hits the ball great in practice still. He sort of just doesn't quite have that same confidence that, you know, that confidence, that self-belief, I think, when he's out there. The other day I watched the third-set tiebreaker after I finished my doubles, and it was like he'd sort of forgotten how to win a little bit, I thought. That's a tough thing for a guy like Michael to go through. Everyone knows he's been one of the greatest players ever to play. For him to have that and, you know, whether he's going to, you know, get out of it, you know, who knows whether he's going to have to go back to challengers and find a way to win again. I don't know. But for him, whether he was getting tired the other night, it was strange, 5-4 up, a mini break, third-set breaker, he serve-volleys. It's strange to see Michael do that kind of thing where so many times he's grinded the guy into the ground.

Q. You had to pump your serve in the second set today. Did you do something differently, take something off of it?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Of my serve?

Q. Yeah.

LLEYTON HEWITT: No, I tried to get a high percentage in. Paradorn is a strong player, especially on the second serve. He can start dictating play as well. I just tried to get as high percentage in as possible. I tried using the angles a little bit, mixing it up, not giving him one certain pace out there.

Q. You were under 50 percent first serves in that first set. The wind was a little tricky?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, it was. The wind's different out there, you know. It was windy in Indian Wells last week, but it was more sort of a down breeze I think last week. You could sort of pick where the wind was going. Out there today I had no idea. So, you know, it was tough playing in those conditions because occasionally, I felt like I was hitting with the breeze. Next time I felt like I was against it. Then I felt it was coming from the side. I really had no idea. And, you know, you throw a ball up, there was one time I threw up a lob and it just drifted out and I thought the wind was going the other way. It's something that I'll get better and better the more matches that I play here again.

Q. Why do you find him that difficult? You really had to pull out all stops.

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I didn't play my best tennis today. You know, I found a way to win in the end. You know, I was happy to get through. You know, he's a flashy player, he doesn't give you a lot of rhythm, he's a little bit hit-and-miss. In most of these matches that I've seen him, he comes out with all guns firing right from the word "go." And, you know, you get down an early break, you're behind the eight ball because he does have a lot of power, he's got a pretty good first serve when it goes in. But as I said, he's so flashy, he doesn't give you a lot of rhythm out there.

Q. Continuing on from what Peter was asking about earlier, the big guy, small guy, who do you prefer to play - someone who's explosive like a Philippoussis, or someone else?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Doesn't really worry me. It's like whether you like playing a guy, Pat Rafter, Tim Henman, Sampras, or a clay court player, it hasn't really worried me in the past too much. Especially on different surfaces, it may be different. You probably prefer to play a clay court player rather than Rafter on grass. But on hardcourt, these hardcourts are fairly slow. The balls are heavy. You know, the clay court players I think are getting better and better and, you know, the results are showing that with Chela beating Roddick yesterday, for example. You know, Gaudio's doing well here, he did well here last year as well. I think the clay court players are, you know, it's a lot easier for them to do better on these hardcourt tournaments now that the conditions and everything are a little bit slower.

Q. Can you honestly say that some of the players you played this year, because you're No. 1, have come out with a sort of different attitude toward you, the attitude that, "I want to beat this little sucker today"? "This is my shot"?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I think everyone wants to beat the top dog out there. You know, it's the same in any sport. It's, you know, if I was playing Australian footy, and I was on a team that was coming in eighth and we had the opportunity to play the No. 1 team, then I'd go out there and want to beat them as well and try and prove something. I think everyone sort of takes that into tennis as well. It's something -- I feel fine with that. I'm going to -- you have your off days but I think that's where, you know, guys -- I've been able to step up in some of my off days recently when I haven't played my best tennis. I've been able to find a way to win. That's why guys like Andre and Pete have been so good over the last ten years.

Q. You describe yourself as a "top dog." What kind of dog would you be? What breed would you be?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Got no idea. Don't know. Something pretty quick, I think.

Q. Pitbull?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Thanks, mate. That's nice.

Q. Has there been one match this year, one player where you really felt the intensity?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Not really. You know, I feel like everyone, you know, goes out there and everyone's, you know, competed hard that I've played so far this year or since I've been No. 1 anyway. I felt that, you know, the same last year, even though I was No. 2 or 3 after the US Open. You know, you won a Grand Slam and everyone sort of wants to beat the person who's just, you know, done well. And, you know, probably like Johansson is starting to feel those pressures a little bit more now as well.

Q. Lleyton, which names would you say have a better chance for the Race this year?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Which players?

Q. Yeah.

LLEYTON HEWITT: There's -- whoa, there's probably 15 to 20 guys I think, because we're not like the women, we don't have 16 players that can be tough for everyone to squeeze in. It's going to be tough. I really can't pick it. You know, obviously there's going to be some clay courters, whether Guga can make up for - I don't know how much tennis he's going to miss on the clay. Obviously, that's where he's done the best in the past. Whether he can make up for that and play like he did winning Cincinnati and stuff like that, I don't know. Agassi, Sampras are in the mix, Safin's up there already after the Australian Open final, Johansson's pretty much guaranteed in. Probably only seven spots left. A lot depends on who wins the Grand Slams as well.

Q. As a good friend of Guga, would you like to send him a message?


Q. Yeah. He'll be watching.

LLEYTON HEWITT: I think the whole tour misses him. You know, he's a great personality, and he brings a lot of people in to watch tennis as well. With not only the way that he plays the game, but also, you know, the way that he's off court as well and he's, you know, such a nice guy.

Q. You've had a couple wins over Jan-Michael this year. If it is him in the next round, is that more meaningful, to try to get a win over him here at this tournament?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Oh, no. You know, I go out there and I'll play hard again and hopefully I can get three-in-three tournaments for me against him if I do have to play him. He's a tough player. He's got a big game. I have to be, you know, extremely consistent and work the ball well. If I'm not playing 100 percent, then he's a guy who can definitely knock you off.

Q. Does he match up with you well because of his fire power from the baseline as well as his serve?

LLEYTON HEWITT: You know, it's hard to say. He's sort of had the wood on me a little bit before the last couple meetings. We've always had close matches. Tight matches. And, you know, the last couple weeks I've felt like I've got the better of him. I've just been able to get those early breaks up early and sort of consolidate on my serve.

End of FastScripts….

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