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November 29, 2000

Lleyton Hewitt


MODERATOR: Questions for Lleyton.

Q. Could we have a health update to start with? How were you today?

LLEYTON HEWITT: The same every day. Nothing much changes overnight. You know, I think it's going to be a process where I've just got to guts out the next week and a half and then as soon as I get home, I've got to see some people that I have a lot of faith in. It's probably going to take a couple of weeks, I'd say. I've had this since Toronto, which is probably 18, 19, maybe 20 weeks since then, and it hasn't shown any signs of improving. It's very hard to expect that one morning I'm going to wake up and it's going to be all fine. It's something that I've got to play through. I understand that. I've got a big week and a half ahead of me. I wasn't really expecting a lot going into this week just because, you know, I have had two weeks off and I haven't been able to put in the hard yards, hit a lot of balls on the practice court. It's nice to be able to have at least three good matches here, maybe four action maybe five, then go into the big one next week.

Q. How significant is tomorrow's match, given next week, as well?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I don't think it plays a real big part. For starters, the surface is an obvious difference. Playing on clay next week, we've never played on clay before. The other thing, it's in his home crowd, which is going to be a huge advantage for him. You know, I don't think you can really read into it too much. It's also Davis Cup. I think we've seen so many surprises in Davis Cup tennis. It brings out the best in some people, and some people fold under the pressure. I feel like you probably can't have a good look into it. I've had two good wins over Alex already this year. I don't think that counts for much come next Sunday.

Q. Is it possible for you to sort of weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of spending a week playing the world's best players and a week practicing on clay? Is it possible for you?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Going into the Davis Cup?

Q. Yes.

LLEYTON HEWITT: Obviously, the advantages are I'm getting at least three good matches against the world's best players. I don't like to say it to Paul Kilderry, but here I am playing against Pete Sampras and some of the great players. If I was hitting over there, it would be with Peter Tremachie and Paul and those guys. That's definitely one advantage, that I'm getting great match practice. The big disadvantage is I'm only going to have 4-5 days practicing on clay which normally takes a while to get a groove, to make that transition. Some people do it a lot quicker. I think I'm probably one of the guys who can change surfaces a lot quicker than the guys like Rafter and those kinds of guys. It's still going to be a big ask, but I'm prepared to do that. I think this is the right call for me.

Q. I just asked Marat if he and you could form a rivalry over the next five, six, seven years, similar to the one between Sampras and Agassi. He said he hopes so, but it was a longshot. What do you think?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I hope so, as well (smiling). Obviously, I think there's a definite chance there. We're both -- I'm No. 6 in the world, he's No. 1 at the moment. You know, I think at the age of 19 and 20, there's a very good chance that we hopefully haven't peaked yet, as well, so we're still improving our games. But there's still a lot of young guys coming up, as well. I think there's probably going to be a lot more guys than just Agassi-Sampras. I think there are going to be more rivalries, whether it be Federer, Vinciguerra, these kinds of guys, Ferrero. I think there's a lot of 19 -, 20-year-olds coming up. It's good for tennis.

Q. What gives you the most joy in playing the game?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Just competing, you know, being out there. Doesn't matter whether I'm kicking the footy or playing backyard cricket back home, I want to win. This is a sport I love competing in. I love getting out there and hitting tennis balls. I'm able to do that at an elite level, which a lot of people aren't as fortunate as me to be out here at the moment. It gives me a lot of joy just going out there, seeing guys that I've idolized growing up, actually being out there sort of the center of attention playing against these guys.

Q. In the last year, how have you really changed your serve? Anything you've done differently on it technically?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Not technically.

Q. You're tossing the ball pretty far in front of you now.

LLEYTON HEWITT: Not so much. Just probably monitoring my ball toss a lot. I used to throw in sort of the old slack ball toss and still hit it. Now I try to concentrate a lot more on my ball toss. Really just sort -- probably the ball toss a little bit higher, as well. That's pretty much it. To sort of make sure I fall into the court as well instead of pulling back. Sometimes on the second serve, you have a tendency to pull back, you're worried about the guy hitting a good return, whereas you have to really follow through. I think that's sort of come out the last four, five, six months, just I'm not serving as many double-faults as I used to, as well.

Q. When you go home, when you get away from the tennis, are you still a down-to-earth kid? Do you still have the same mates as before? Do you think it's changed a bit and you can't relate to your mates as you once did?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I can relate to my mates exactly the same. Obviously, everything around me I think has changed just being in the public eye all the time. You know, you go home, you're in the papers. There's TV cameras everywhere, you're on the news. I think it changes a lot of other people's opinions. Not so much opinions, but stature about yourself, sort of, whereas I haven't changed at all, I don't think. I still have exactly the same mates I hung around with at school. I still go out to Darren's Night Club occasionally with those boys. I go to the movies with some of the mates I played junior tennis with. It's pretty much the same group of guys that I hung around with then.

Q. Obviously this is a pretty special week to be top eight. Is there something on a lighter note that struck you about life in the big-time that you can get used to in the future?

LLEYTON HEWITT: You get your own driver for the week. I've never been able to have that before. I'm sure a lot of the other guys in the eight this week have probably had it at smaller tournaments. I haven't been that fortunate to get my own driver. That's been pretty cool.

Q. Have you got him to take you anywhere special?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Just dinners. He's great. His name is Pedro. He's a good bloke.

Q. Although the season is far from over for you, what has been so far the greatest moment of the year and the most difficult moment for you?

LLEYTON HEWITT: It's hard to say. Obviously this has been one of the best moments, making it to here. Over 52 weeks, to actually say you're in the top eight of tennis players in the whole world, at the age of 19, has been fantastic. I really -- I was hoping to get into the Top 10 sometime this year to. Actually consolidate my spot in the Top 10 at the moment, and hopefully I've got another thing to tell you next Saturday, Sunday night, fortnight, hopefully we'll win the Davis Cup. That would probably go down as the biggest thing. Probably the biggest disappointment, I suppose, was probably going out first round of Wimbledon I'd say just because I was hitting the ball so well going into there. I felt like I came up against a guy, he was too good on the day. I don't think I played a really bad match at all, but I had to take my hat off to Jan-Michael on that day. I still felt I could have done a bit of damage on the draw if I got the right path through.

Q. What is the best match you've played this year?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Pretty hard to top beating Pete in the final of Queen's. I think I nearly played a perfect match. I didn't make any errors. It was the best I've ever returned. I think I actually served more aces than Pete that day, as well, which on grass is a big thing for me. I think I just played a perfect match then.

Q. Could you speak a little bit about today's match? How tough was it to play Safin today?

LLEYTON HEWITT: He's a great player. He hits the ball very heavy off the ground. He didn't give me a lot of chances to sort of dominate many of the points. You know, he served well. I didn't really get too many chances. The only chances I got sort of close on his service games is when I was sort of a break down anyway. I was always playing catch-up tennis a little bit out there today. Still you look at it, I lost 4 and 4. In the first set, I was 4-All, 30-Love up on serve, looked like I was pretty much cruising. I played a couple of slack points, he comes up with a couple of good points, that's the set good-bye. I felt like against those top guys you only get sort of a point here and there where you've got to take it, you've got to take your opportunities. In the past I've pretty much been able to do that in the big matches. Occasionally you falter. I felt like I didn't come up with the big points out there today.

End of FastScripts….

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