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May 9, 2001

Lleyton Hewitt

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Quite content with that performance today, Lleyton?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, it was good. Still feel like I could raise my game, you know, a bit more. It's always tough after having a few weeks off as well to come out and play great tennis straightaway, particularly on a surface like clay. You know, I think it takes a while just to, you know, get the -- get the miles on the legs and, you know, really grind it out out there. But today was a lot better than yesterday, that's for sure.

Q. If you could give us an update on your general health, Lleyton, we know you had some tests and everything and were waiting for the results. You took a bit of a break. What's the situation now?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, it's hard to say. No one still has been able to pinpoint what it actually is. People have guessed that it could be like an allergy reaction causing, you know -- just depending on the places that I'm playing in, you know. And Rome's a pretty bad place for allergies, I've heard over the last few days. So, you know, I'm still struggling with it a little bit. I have to try to keep playing through it as much as possible. Obviously, the last few weeks has helped, having off. But, you know, there's been times where in Brazil I didn't really find it a problem at all. I haven't been able to sort of mark it down to one particular thing, whether it was next to the ocean or, you know, I can't pinpoint what it actually was that, you know, didn't make it so bad in that time.

Q. There was a theory that it might possibly be related to long-haul air travel.

LLEYTON HEWITT: Not really, no. It -- no one's said that at all. But, you know, as I said, it could be a lot of things mixed together, you know. The people I've seen really haven't been able to pinpoint it down to one particular thing.

Q. Is this something now you've just got to come to terms with and live with, or is it something you're still trying to look at, perhaps keeping a check to see if you get the same reaction when you go back to places where it happened the last time you were there?

LLEYTON HEWITT: It's definitely something that I'm going to try and play through as much as possible, especially this time of year, with two Grand Slams, you know, looming very closely now. You know, I've only got a few weeks to the French Open and Wimbledon comes straight after that. So it's not the time of the year to be worrying about it too much. But obviously, you know, when I do get some weeks off and stuff, you know, if it start -- it's always going to be in the back of my mind if I start feeling a lot better when I go back to Australia or something, I've got to try to pinpoint the reasons why that is, somehow. But it's gonna be -- you know, it's gonna take a while, I think.

Q. You did mention a lot of allergies in Rome, and of course you're going to be playing Alex Corretja next. There's been a few allergies between you in the past in your matches; bad things have been said. That didn't seem to bother you in the past, did it? Does it bother you now as well?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Not really. I'm going in, you know, I've said nothing bad about Alex at all the whole time. You know, obviously he's made comments, you know, in the past, and, you know, actually it's really something that I really couldn't care less about. I go out there, I play my tennis, and I, you know, I think I've behaved on the court, you know, fine in those times where, you know, I think he's gone over the top in what he's said. But, you know, that doesn't fuss me at all. I'm going out there tomorrow, you know, just the same as if I'm playing, you know, Pat Rafter. It really doesn't matter. You know, I'm going out there, I've had to do it in the past and, you know, this is -- he's a great player on clay. It's a good lead-up for me to play such a good player and a guy who's made the French Open final a couple weeks before going into the French Open.

Q. Now that you're one of the few top seeds left in the tournament, how do you feel about your chances? Do you feel they've improved?


Q. Do you see your chances as improved, now that you're one of the few top seeds left in the tournament?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Not really. You look at my section of the draw, all my seeds are still there. I've got Alex tomorrow, who's going to be no pushover, that's for sure. Then if I get past that, I've got Gustavo, who's, you know, a fantastic player. No doubt he's the best player on clay in the world. It doesn't really open up my section of the draw too much.

Q. Two questions. Why in Rome would this be more problems and dangerous for the allergic theme?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, the trainers told me that there's a lot of allergies with pollen and stuff this time of the year, and also there's a bit of pollution as well. So it's sort of a mixture of both of them.

Q. I was just thinking about Wimbledon. The reason that -- I never won Wimbledon because I began to sneeze in the first round all the time. So Rome, Rome is not so bad. (Laughter.)


Q. Second question is more technical. You have been the only one in the last year to beat Guga Kuerten on clay. Why do you think that happened, and do you think it should happen again, and how difficult is it going to be?

LLEYTON HEWITT: You know, that was an extremely tough match. We played in extremely tough conditions in Brazil, and, you know, there's no doubt that that's the best match of my life so far. You know, the way that I stayed mentally tough throughout that tie. And to be able to come out and play three great days of tennis like that and on the last day beat the guy, you know, who's easily, in my opinion, the best guy on clay the last couple of years, that's for sure, and to do it in straight sets in his hometown is a fantastic effort. But to be able to, you know, do it all the time, that's still going to be another question. He plays fantastic week in and week out. For me, I'm still learning a lot of things about playing on clay. I'm getting better and better each time I play on clay. But to be able to do it and play the level that I did against him, week in and week out, is still going to take a little bit extra I think.

Q. May I ask if the crowd was milder in Florianopolis or in Barcelona? And which sort of clay did you have in Florianopolis? Can you compare it to our clay here and in Paris.

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, it's hard to say. The clay there was, you know, it was quite soft the first few days that we got there. It was breaking up a lot, but it did get a lot harder as the week came to, you know, the time on Friday, Saturday, Sunday when we had to play. It quickened up. You know, the weather that we had the first few days before the tie started was, you know, a little bit of a drizzle and stuff, so it was quite heavy at the start. When the sun came out, it was quite quick, quickened up a lot faster than I thought it would be. Totally different than the Barcelona clay, because that was indoors as well, so it was a totally different kind of clay. I'd definitely say Barcelona was quicker than Brazil. The crowd in Brazil, they're out partying, it's like a carnival scene. They're loud, no doubt about that. But, you know, I think the Barcelona crowd was much more, you know, disturbing during points and, you know, they went over the top a bit more. Brazil really, you know, they enjoyed their tennis and they liked it I think, even though, you know, the result they would have liked to change.

Q. What was the thinking behind the partnership with Andre here? Was that your idea, his, or how did that come about?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, was just a little bit of mine, a little bit of Darren's. You know, we wanted to play a bit of doubles -- I wanted to play a bit of doubles anyway, just to get some matches on the clay and that, and I'm not playing doubles in Hamburg or the French. So I wanted to just get some matches in case I maybe bombed out early here in the singles. You know, Darren and Brad are good mates and I practice all the time with Andre. You know, we just, you know, asked Darren to ring Brad and asked if Andre would like to have a game, and he said yes. We'll see what happens.

Q. Looking forward to it?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, to be out there on the court, he's given me a lot of time in practice. I practice with him nearly every tournament now. He's a great guy just to be around because he's got so much class. So, yeah, I'm gonna learn a lot.

Q. What do you know about the state of Pat's health? Is he going to be all right for the French and Wimbledon?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I spoke to him - might have been last week. You know, he's just taking it easy and enjoying a bit of time off I think. Yeah, he should be fine, I think. You know, I definitely rate him up there as, you know, definitely one of the main favorites of Wimbledon, that's for sure. Obviously, only having one week's preparation in Dusseldorf and the World Team Cup, it's going to be tough for him to try and do extremely well at the French. But, you know, he's capable of it. I think we saw that before he started hurting in Brazil that, you know, I think that he had a good chance of maybe winning in straight sets against Guga. So he can match it against the best guys on clay, but I definitely have him up there in the top one or two, maybe three for Wimbledon.

Q. Do you know if he's going to play Queen's or Halle?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I don't know. I have no idea.

Q. What happened to the ponytail? Long story, is it?

LLEYTON HEWITT: No, not really. Just went into the hairdresser's and wasn't planning on doing it, then started -- she -- the hairdresser asked, maybe can I do what I want. I said, "Yeah, why not?" That's how it happened basically.

Q. How many years has it been since you've had it like that?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, I had it sort of like this, I don't know, at least three years ago I think. But when I first won Adelaide, I had it a little bit longer, then I sort of grew into the ponytail and stuck with that.

Q. A hairdresser back home?

LLEYTON HEWITT: No, in Belgium. I don't know if they spoke English well. (Laughter.)

End of FastScripts....

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