March 16, 2002
INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA
MODERATOR: Lleyton advances to his second career Tennis Masters Series final, his first since Stuttgart 2000, and he's 3-0 up against Henman and 2-1 against Martin. Questions for Lleyton.
Q. It seems like you're getting better every single match now.
LLEYTON HEWITT: It was tough playing out there today. You know, you can't really rate yourself too much on today's performance. It's sort of a little bit of a one-off. You've got to go out there and, you know, change your game a little bit, just play the percentages. You know, I had a windy day a couple days ago, and I think that helped. Obviously, Pete played in a lot of wind last night, as well. But tough conditions out there. There was like gold stuff going across the court into our eyes the whole time. It was weird.
Q. He called you the best wind player in the game.
LLEYTON HEWITT: Hopefully we have a hurricane tomorrow then (laughter).
Q. Are you pretty comfortable playing in the wind?
LLEYTON HEWITT: You know, I just try and play the percentages a little bit more. I still believe that I can, you know, play sort of my style of game without changing too much. But, you know, I think you can't go out there, you can't go for the big shots as much, you can't panic out, you've got to wait for the right balls. You can't go out there and serve big serves the whole time. You've got to get, you know, more placement percentage, stuff like that. I was willing to do that. You know, there's a couple of times that I played in my hometown of Adelaide, it's been extremely windy during that tournament a couple times. Maybe that's helped me in the past, playing at the time big matches for me in windy conditions.
Q. He actually said you were the best wind player in the history of the tour.
LLEYTON HEWITT: It gets better and better, doesn't it (laughter)?
Q. You get heavy winds in Adelaide most of the time?
LLEYTON HEWITT: A little bit. Not a lot, actually. Yeah, not like that today. Actually, the two worst conditions I've played - the three now - have been here in America. I don't know where I really learned it from.
Q. Pete was saying that when you played him at The Open, it was pretty windy.
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, it was. Yeah, it was a lot windier than people saw I think through the TV or also, you know, in the stadium. Down there on the court, it was, you know, sort of dug in, that center court at Flushing Meadows. It was swirling a lot that day. I think we both struggled, both lost our serves first couple of games there in the final. It took us - especially me - probably the end of the first set for me actually to get my rhythm going and start returning really well and passing well. I definitely thought about that match going into today's match. Just when the wind -- I knew when I warmed up this morning, it was going to be blustery out there, tough conditions. I tried to draw strength from those matches that I played at The Open.
Q. Did you feel you were in control all the way today?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I felt pretty comfortable. It obviously helps when you get up an early break in the first set against a guy like Pete. When you get to the end of a set, he's done it so many times where it looks close at the end of the set, he just goes up that extra gear. He's got the kind of game that can do that. It was nice to get up an early break. In the second set, I think I had chances, could easily have been up 4- or 5-Love. I had some breakpoint chances on most of his service games, yet he was still getting -- he was finding a way to get out of those games, you know, try and keep that pressure on me.
Q. How bizarre was it when the sign blew down?
LLEYTON HEWITT: It was weird. Yeah, I haven't had that happen to me too often.
Q. Why didn't you stop right when it happened?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, you can't. We played this game too long. You can't just stop the ball. You've got to wait till the umpire says something. If he doesn't call let or play to, you can't stop the ball, otherwise you'll lose the point. You know, it was a tough situation. I spoke to the umpire after. He came up to me after the match. I apologized because he had to turn the mic off because Pete complained earlier because it was making the noises out there while it was on with the wind. It was sort of too tough for him I think to get it on in time. Then he looks and we're sort of still hitting. I'm looking over at the umpire. He's looking back at the thing that was blowing over. It was a big debacle I think for one point. But there's no point it should be called play to in that situation. It made a huge bang. It was a weird one.
Q. He said when he got up this morning he looked out the window, I assume the palm trees were waving, and he didn't like what he saw because he doesn't consider himself a good wind player. Did you look out the window and what were your thoughts?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I wasn't complaining. You know, I looked out and I saw the palm trees, you know, waving around a bit. It didn't worry me. It was a lot windier than I probably hoped for, though, because it's not probably enjoyable to watch, I don't think, it's not too enjoyable playing when you've got crap blowing in your eyes every second point. It's a tough situation. We just had to try and play through it as best as we could.
Q. Was it ever sandy enough on the court that it jeopardized footing at all?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Not really, no. Not too bad. It was more, you could see right from the word go, when I was in the warm-up, like gold stuff, specks coming across the court with the wind the whole time. That's a tough thing to play through, especially when you're down the far end, the wind is coming, you get it in your eyes, as well.
Q. You returned his serve about as well as anyone ever has. What's your approach?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Oh, I just, you know, same as returning anyone's serve. I go in there and, yeah, obviously with Pete, he's got such a big serve, you've got to take short swings. I try and attack it as much as possible. I don't like getting too far behind the baseline returning it, otherwise it gives him that extra chance to get closer to the net as well when he's serve-volleying.
Q. Are you guessing where he's going to go with the first serve or do you have a pretty good idea or reacting?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Just reacting. You know, it's definitely not guessing. If I was guessing, I'd get a few more on there.
Q. There's some guys that serve so hard that you almost have to guess. With you, it seems like you're willing to wait till the ball comes over.
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, it's pretty much just reaction at the end of the day.
Q. It's obvious that Pete's not getting any younger as the months go on. Could you assess how his game has changed now compared to the US Open?
LLEYTON HEWITT: It's a tough day to assess Pete Sampras on today's performance because, you know, he said that he's not a big fan of the wind and the conditions we had to play in today. I still feel, as everyone saw at the US Open, he's capable of beating the big guys back to back in a big tournament like the US Open. I don't think anyone can write him off or count him out, that's for sure. And I'd be the last person to do that. You know, I've got so much respect for Pete, the way that he played those big matches against Andre, Pat, Safin, everyone at the US Open. You know, he was a real credit to himself I think because I think a lot of people had written him off.
Q. How do you feel about getting to the final? Is it a case of trying to keep the lid on it because there's still another match to go?
LLEYTON HEWITT: You know, it is just another match today. I won't be going home and cracking open the champagne, that's for sure. It's great. You know, it's been pretty frustrating. I made a lot of semifinals in the Masters Series, haven't been quite able to make the finals. It's a good feeling to make one. It's been a long time, since sort of Stuttgart when I had had a chance to beat Ferreira in the final there. I was still pretty young at the time. I lost in a tight five-setter. I feel like I'm a lot better player now than I was then.
Q. Isolate Henman and Martin, look ahead to either one.
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, both are going to be extremely tough. Tim, he mixes in the serve-volley with staying back. He's more patient than he used to be as well. He moves extremely well. He's got an all-court game. Todd's got an all-court game, as well. He's got a probably bigger, more direct serve, probably more powerful than Tim. He mixes up serve-volleying, staying up as well. Todd's got great returns for a big guy.
Q. Is it pretty fair to say that the work you put in the last six weeks, everything is coming together, there aren't too many parts of your game you're concerned about?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I still feel like I can get better in little areas of my game. But it's nice to see that. Obviously, it's been a fair bit of time working on the serve, trying to get a high percentage in, serving to spots, to targets. I've been able to do that pretty well over the last couple of weeks that I've come back. You know, that's a pleasing thing I think. You spend a lot of time out there grinding on the practice court before you come into the tournament, you haven't got that match fitness under your belt, you know, it's a nice thing to know that you can do something in practice and then take it out into the match court.
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