May 18, 2001
ATP: Questions, please.
Q. It's your second event on clay. How do you feel your game is coming together compared to the way you were playing last week?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Oh, it is definitely a lot better. The more matches you get, the more confidence you get out there. Especially for me on this kind of surface it is something that I haven't grown up on, but I feel like every year that has gone by now, I feel like I am getting better and better and more confidence, I think it is showing a few of the victories that I have had on clay this year already. I felt I dominated most of the match out there. I felt pretty confident. That is definitely the best match I have played this week, that is for sure.
Q. Do you still consider it your least favorite surface even the way you are playing now?
LLEYTON HEWITT: It's hard to say. I wouldn't say "least favorite," no. It's definitely up there. After Brazil, it was my favorite. When I first came on the Tour Rebound Ace surface obviously was my favorite because that is where I got all my wins and that is where I got my first tournament victory. That is what I grew up on playing. Now that I have been on the Tour for a good two, three, nearly four years now, I feel more and more confident. I won a title on clay which I know it was green clay in America but still beat Grosjean and Malisse, guys like that, over there. I beat Sampras in Queens last year on grass. I am getting more and more confident on each surface.
Q. Just how dead were the conditions out there in the cold?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Dead?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, such a slow court, it's unbelievable. It's nothing like Roland Garros. It really is sometimes like playing in mud out there. It's hard to move. It is so hard to hit a winner out there. But that is the kind of court that I think a guy like Squillari likes. He plays well on the slow court because he has got such a big forehand so I consider that a pretty good job on my behalf out there today to beat a guy like that in those conditions. Also the balls are so heavy. I have never -- I don't know why we are using necessary the new ATP master Series ball, it's the heaviest ball I have ever seen; fluffs up so much after the first two games. It's a bit ridiculous.
Q. Was the match really that easy like the result tells?
LLEYTON HEWITT: No, no, tough match. He had a lot of chances to brake in the first set. So did I early in the first set. We both played some good points on the breakpoints down. Then I came up a bit lucky. He had a high forehand volley on the net when he gave me that break, but you got to take your chances when you get them. In the second set I felt like I could have had -- I had Love-30 in the first game, second set, I felt in control of it. I think it was 2-1. He a couple of breakpoints maybe at 2-1 on me. But apart from that, I sort of tried to get up a gear after that.
Q. You have very good footwork, very good baseline strokes, you are patient, you can play very good tactically, you have everything you need to be a very good clay court player. Do you consider yourself as the favorite for the French?
LLEYTON HEWITT: It's hard to say. I am definitely not the favorite, that is for sure. I haven't been there in the final of a Grand Slam yet, so I think there is no doubt that Guga is the No. 1 favorite. If the way Ferrero is playing, he has got to be up there as well, but you can't count out on the guys like Safin who has won a Grand Slam, Agassi who has come through so many times, even guys like Kafelnikov, Rafter, these kind of guys who have been there on the final weekend of a Grand Slam before. I give myself an outside chance for sure.
Q. You have very big conversation with your clans outside. Don't you feel that you lose concentration by that when you look over there after each point?
LLEYTON HEWITT: No, not really. I look around a fair bit. I look at other people in the crowd as well. But I just like looking around, I think.
Q. I saw you playing in Rome last week. Compared to that, are you feeling an improvement clay court by your performance?
LLEYTON HEWITT: For sure it is always hard coming off a break. I think it's even more hard coming off a break going straight onto clay because I really didn't hit a whole heap -- I wanted to put the rackets down; have a good break after Brazil. It was so not only Brazil was mentally draining, but the whole Australian summer, Barcelona, the Masters Cup at the end of last year, just went on and on, felt like I hadn't had a decent couple of weeks off and just put the rackets down and had a break. That is what I did and I really couldn't expect much going into Rome last week. I feel like I was lucky to get three good matches; ended up losing to Corretja, a top clay court player; that gave me confidence anyway, that I could match up with those guys even though I was not in my red hot form.
Q. Are you surprised that you left now in the Spanish Open here ---
LLEYTON HEWITT: (Laughs).
Q. -- with three Spanish playing in the semifinals and you?.
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah --
Q. So many top seeded left the tournament early.
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, it's strange. There is not too many Australian players here. Obviously, it's going to be tough to beat those three players, for sure. Two of them at least. I have got to go out there and the way that I am playing at the moment, I give myself good chances, that is for sure. I am just taking one match at a time. I am not even worrying about the final yet.
Q. What would you say makes the French Open such a special tournament?
LLEYTON HEWITT: It's one of the Slams. I think that it is so hard to win just because clay is such a grinding surface. To put 7 tough matches together in a row on clay, against so-called clay court specialist, you can come up against Moya, Rios, these guys are going to be unseeded. They are top clay court players, let alone Moya won it before. You come up against those guys in the first round, even once you start hitting the other seeded players, you have got to play Grosjeans and these days who are good players on clay. Then you start getting into the Ferreros, Agassis, Gugas, these guys. I feel that so many of -- just the highest players up there are very good on clay. I think to put together 7 tough matches against those that are top players, there is no easy rounds.
Q. Lleyton, what are you expecting from the game against Portas?
LLEYTON HEWITT: It's hard to say. Be a little bit like today, I think. Obviously I am pretty sure his forehand is his weapon so like Squillari I am going to have to try to work out a way to open up his backhand if I can, but I got to go out there with just the same confidence that I have been playing with and believe in my game; not worry about his game too much. The is the way that I have been getting better and better. With each match this week I feel if I am going to get over the line tomorrow I can play the way I did today; if not a little better.
Q. Think about the French Open, the way you have been playing here and also Brazil was a big thing for you as well, some people in Australia are going to be thinking that you could be the first Australian to win the French Open since Laver. Has that occurred to you at all? Have you thought about it in those terms at all?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Not really. Obviously it is a long way to go before I get that opportunity to be there in the final Sunday of the French Open, but as I said, I give myself an outside chance. I feel like I can go on the court with any player and I feel confident and that is all I can -- I give myself a chance in every match that I play. But as I said, to go out there and do it seven matches, it is going to be tough. I did it for three days in Brazil. Melangini, he was tough, but then I had to play doubles the next day. Then following day, I had to play Guga. I am going to have to do that two, three more times and do it for two weeks. That is going to be the tough part of it. I am getting better and better with each match. There is a slight chance I could be there on the weekend.
Q. With Philippoussis injured and Rafter underprepared, shall we say, what is the pressure like going into the French as the top Aussie?
LLEYTON HEWITT: There is no added pressure on that. I am going out there with the attitude, you know, I believe in my game and I believe that if the draw -- I think you need that kind of a little bit of luck in the draw as well in that kind of tournament. But, you know, I think Rafter, he has still got a chance definitely of being there in the semifinals. You have seen when he played great in Brazil, he could have very easily beaten Kuerten in straight sets there as well. Obviously the two of us are going to be the favorite Aussies, but then you still got Andrew Ilie and guys like that behind us as well who are capable of an upset here or there. I don't put anymore added pressure on myself just because I am the only player playing here and I am through to the semifinals on a clay court event. Rafter has been there before, everyone still expects a lot out of him.
Q. You said you believe in your game. What is it about your game that makes you think you will achieve success at Roland Garros?
LLEYTON HEWITT: It just feels I am getting more and more comfortable playing on clay. I went out there before and I was a little bit in the back of my mind, I wasn't still quite sure about the footing on clay and when to attack, when not to attack, when to defend, stuff like that, how to mix-up my serve, just little things, how to return. I have worked out a lot more how to play on clay just from being a part of these kind of tournaments over the last two or three years. And that has given me confidence and now I am taking what I have done in practice court, I have worked a helluva lot on my game, to play on clay, I am taking that into my matches now and it is paying off. It is just a (inaudible) thing from a 16 year old who has never played on clay to now a 20 year old who is Top-10 and won a clay court title and beat some good players on the clay.
Q. Could you give us a fitness bulletin. Your stamina seems to be fine at the moment. Obviously against Kuerten, that match was a long one. You know, your virus infection, whatever it was?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, no one can really put a finger on it. They tried to narrow it down to maybe allergies and stuff like that. I was struggling during Miami during Indian Wells, during Scottsdale. Went to Brazil and for some unknown reason didn't come up at all, so I don't know whether -- I was playing right next to the ocean there as well in Brazil whether that was a factor. In Rome I was definitely struggling a little bit last week but there is a lot of pollution. It was bad time for allergies with pollen and stuff at the moment as well. It's hard to say.
LLEYTON HEWITT: It's been better than Rome. I wouldn't say great. But something that I have just got to try and fight through. But, you know, when I get my opportunities to take a few weeks off I have really got to take that time to sort of recover and then that is why before I had to pull out of Monte Carlo and that because it was impossible after that whole American stint and the whole breathing thing just gone over the top; that is when I really started to struggle then. It is something that I have to pick my times when to take off and hopefully it doesn't cause too many upsets going into the Majors.
Q. "Take off," you mean to get surgery or --
LLEYTON HEWITT: No, just sort of recover. Just see doctors, get checkups, stuff like that.
Q. Is there some solution to it that --
LLEYTON HEWITT: No solution.
Q. -- that the doctors can tell you?
LLEYTON HEWITT: No, allergies you can't do much about.
Q. How do you feel when it is cold like here in Hamburg?
LLEYTON HEWITT: As I said, I didn't feel that bad this week. Sometimes when it's been moist in the air, I found in Miami humid, but moisture in the air, I struggled a little bit there, but I haven't felt too many problems this week which has been good.
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