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March 23, 2001

Lleyton Hewitt


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. You must be pleased with the way you got off to a good start like that.

LLEYTON HEWTT: Yeah, it's always tough when you have a bye and you come out and the guy's obviously played a good match to get, you know, into the second round of the tournament. It's tough conditions here in Miami as well. You know, quite often it's quite swirly out there with the breeze, especially in a big stadium court like the Stadium out here. I found the balls very heavy out there the last couple of weeks as well. I don't know if the ATP's changed balls or not, but I think it's a pretty average ball at the moment. I'm happy to be through to the third round in the tournament.

Q. How do you find the speed of this court? Does it suit you?

LLEYTON HEWTT: I think the court speed does. Yeah. Just as I said, though, these balls are -- these new Masters Series balls are a totally different ball to what we're used to playing with. Especially at this time last year. I think the ball got heavier as the year went on. It's definitely fluffing up as much as ever right at the moment.

Q. And how do you feel you're playing at the moment? You're hitting the ball quite well. Are you happy with the way you're playing?

LLEYTON HEWTT: Not too bad. Still room for improvement, which is a good thing. You know, two semifinals the last two weeks, lost to Agassi last week 6-4 in the third then he went on to the win the Masters Series in Indian Wells. It wasn't a bad week result-wise but I felt there were areas of my game that I could improve on. That's what I'm trying to get out of this week and also going into the Davis Cup in Brazil.

Q. Does it feel different not having Darren here with you?

LLEYTON HEWTT: Oh, it's a little bit different I suppose. Obviously, Darren and I have had a fantastic relationship over the last few years, what with being, you know, on Tour traveling together week in and week out. You know, it's fantastic that he's had a kid as well. So it's a whole new stage of his life now.

Q. Is this the first time that he's been away for this long?

LLEYTON HEWTT: Yeah, since we sort of set out, starting -- I think we started in the Perth challenger in the end of '98, December '98 we started, was our first trip. Since then every tournament I've played he's been there. So it's a little bit different.

Q. Are you conscious of the fact at the moment that you haven't won a Tennis Masters Series event? Is that something you'd like to correct?

LLEYTON HEWTT: You know, I haven't held up a trophy, but I feel like I've been pretty damn close. Obviously I made the semis here last year and lost to Sampras in three. Made the semis in Rome, made the final in Stuttgart, lost in five sets to Ferreira. You know, if it wasn't for my breathing problem back then, you know, I feel like I should have won. I was playing possibly the best tennis I've ever played during that tournament and I just ran out of gas due to the breathing problems that I had. Made the semifinals in Indian Wells last week. It's not a matter of -- I definitely know I'm up there and capable of, I believe, winning one. Until that time comes when I get the opportunity to hold up the trophy, then I'm definitely getting hungrier and hungrier to win.

Q. I guess the fact that you picked up the semifinal spot last week has taken the pressure off you for here, having to repeat what you did last year?

LLEYTON HEWTT: Yeah, little bit. I didn't think about that going into it at all. But if you look at it that way, I've got basically nothing to, you know -- I think I lost second round in Indian Wells last year and made the semis here. If you want to look at the points and try and keep up as well as you're doing, stay in the Top 10, semifinals in Indian Wells last week was huge. Anything this week's a bonus.

Q. You've had about a year playing quality Top 10 tennis. Have you had a chance to think, "Okay, I've reached this point. What do I have to do to be No. 1? Do I have to add something to my game? Do I have to get stronger? Does my forehand have to get a little bit better?"

LLEYTON HEWTT: I don't know about looking at it being No. 1, but definitely to improve my ranking, there's definitely areas of my game. The main area's getting some cheap points off my first serve. No question. The big matches that I've played well in I've done that well, and, you know, that's the US Open semifinal, I think that's the best I've ever served, that tournament. I served more aces than Sampras in the semifinal. So I think that's the main area. I've just got to get more consistent. And, you know, in all the matches I play I have to get those cheap points. Maybe a little bit of an all-court game as well.

Q. Michael Chang reached a point in his career where he figured he had to muscle up. Five years ago he did, he went to the bigger racquet, did an awful lot of weight lifting, got his serve up to 115, 120, that area. He hit more double-faults, too. But is that sort of on your agenda now?

LLEYTON HEWTT: Not really. I think my off-court work you know, for me -- everyone's different. For me personally it's a lot of running I think. I've got to get a lot of miles in my legs. I've got to be capable of, with the game that I play, I've got to be capable of staying out there and lasting, you know, all day, four and a half hours, best-of-five set matches. You know, I've been doing that the last couple of years anyway. So for me, right at this point I don't think I have to make a huge change. (Inaudible.)

Q. According to the latest stats, you're actually in the Top 10 of effective servers at the moment. Were you aware of that, and how do you feel about it?

LLEYTON HEWTT: Must not have been the last couple of weeks. I feel that I wasn't great in the last few weeks. I think around the Australian Open and Sydney I was serving pretty good. Definitely towards the end of last year I was serving very well. Last couple of weeks I haven't served great. That's one area I've been concentrating on in practice.

Q. How are the breathing problems by the way?

LLEYTON HEWTT: Up and down, good days, bad days.

Q. Sometimes you still feel it, the way you did last year?

LLEYTON HEWTT: Yeah, for sure. You know, it's something that I try and block out as much as possible.

Q. Are you any closer to finding out exactly what it is?

LLEYTON HEWTT: No, not really. No. You know, I try and block that out as much as possible, as well. I'm sick of seeing hospitals and doctors and stuff like that. So, yeah, just positive thinking, I think, at the moment and just, you know, I've played so many matches now and a lot of five-set matches and long matches that I know that I'm capable of lasting. That's the main thing.

Q. So you're not looking into it any further?

LLEYTON HEWTT: I've looked into it -- unless I feel that I've got to take a couple of months off and whether it will be some kind of surgery or whatever, until that day comes I'm not going to -- until it starts affecting my tennis, then I'm not going to take it.

Q. As someone who has Patrick Rafter's ear, have you informed him that the world's going to stop spinning on its axis if he retires from tennis at the end of this year?

LLEYTON HEWTT: There's plenty of other people to watch. Maybe the women won't like it as much. But obviously --.

Q. A lot of us might not like it.

LLEYTON HEWITT: All the Australians definitely don't want him to retire, because we've seen the kind of tennis that he's still performing. You know, last week he played great matches I thought. He, in my opinion, he probably should have beaten Sampras in that match. He would have been very tough if he did get past that match. Semifinals of the Australian Open speak for themselves. You know, he's -- I believe he's still got, you know, a few Grand Slams left in him for sure. No doubt about that. And he's that kind of player, and I think, you know, Wimbledon this year, he and Sampras are going to be, you know, the one and two favorites.

Q. What are you going to do to force him to come back in 2002?

LLEYTON HEWTT: I don't think anyone can force him to come back. You know, at the end of the day, he's the person that's been traveling, you know, day in and day out for the last, I don't know, since he was playing the satellites and everything back in Queensland and wherever. So at the end of the day, he's got to want to play. No one can tell him to pick the racquet up and go out there and keep playing. If the will's not there, then there's no point.

Q. The fact that you're playing doubles with Pat, is that with an eye on the Davis Cup?

LLEYTON HEWITT: It gives us another option, I think. We definitely could have had a chance of playing in Spain as well but as it turns out, there was really no chance. I played for, you know, over four hours in my match. I was physically pretty tired. Pat, you know, was on the drip the night before the doubles after his match. So as it turned out, we really didn't have too many options going into the doubles. We like to keep our eye open going into a Davis Cup tie, especially this one coming up in Brazil. Gives Fitzy and Wally options.

Q. Do you discuss the options?

LLEYTON HEWTT: Not really, no. Fitzy and Wally pick the squad and no one's really spoken about it yet. Pat came up to me a few weeks ago and said, "Maybe we should have a bash in Indian Wells and Miami." I said, "Fantastic." I learn a lot from playing with a guy like Pat as well. It's going to help me in my singles game as well as hopefully that Davis Cup tie. There's no talk at the moment about who's going to play doubles.

Q. Given you've won a Grand Slam with Max, is it sort of a difficult decision as to who to play doubles with?

LLEYTON HEWTT: Yeah, well, I didn't play in Australia due to, you know, it was such a long year last year. I just wanted to, after the year before, I made doubles finals in Adelaide and Sydney as well as winning the singles, it made an extremely long January for me. I haven't played any doubles until last week. It took me a couple matches to really, you know, get into it as well. Once you're not in there playing week in and week out, you actually start to forget about playing it. You try to play singles on a doubles court. Obviously, I'd love to play with Max some time down the future. But when it comes to Davis Cup and preparing with Pat, then, you know, that takes first preference.

Q. Do you look at Pat as big brother, good friend, guru, what exactly?

LLEYTON HEWTT: Gee, I don't know. I try not to praise him too much. But, you know, a little bit big brother, for sure. Yeah, and I, you know, I look at it, I suppose, as I'm sort of the next generation of Australian tennis coming up as well. He was up there and, you know, he's won Grand Slams and been the world No. 1 and helped us in the Davis Cup and everything. I just feel that, you know, there's -- I'm not sure how many years between us, maybe eight years or something between us. I'm sort of coming up and he's going to retire and I'm going to try to slip into his shoes, I feel, and try and take over the responsibility of holding up Australian tennis like he's done for so many years now. You know, but he definitely, you know, he really did take me under his wing when I was a junior playing at French Open Juniors or whatever, and, you know, he was asking us to go and practice with him before his semifinal match of the French Open. For a guy to go out of his way to do that when he's got so many things on his mind, he's just a great guy.

Q. In one of his more reflective moments over a year, has he ever imparted to you a piece of advice about tennis or life in general that will always stay with you?

LLEYTON HEWTT: Not that I can think of off the top of my head. Maybe I don't want to say it publicly either, so...

End of FastScripts....

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