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March 26, 2000

Lleyton Hewitt


MIKI SINGH: Questions for Lleyton.

Q. Would you take a moment and ruminate, with a record of 23-2, with the competition on this tour, to get off on that kind of start?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Obviously, I haven't really looked back on the statistics or the sort of results of my matches. I've just been going out there and taking it one match at a time. After I won Adelaide and Sydney, I was 10-0. I got to a winning streak of 13 during the Australian Open, then it started again at the Davis Cup and through Scottsdale. I feel like I've got a lot of self-confidence on the moment. I feel out on the court I could match up with basically anyone out there. Today was possibly the best ball-striking day I've ever had. Right from the word go, ready to sort of pounce on any short ball today. As well as I've hit the ball, I think.

Q. After the intensity of the pressure there was in Australia, expectations continued to grow, having come away from that, are you perhaps a little relaxed out of the Australian spotlight, can you relax and play your game?

LLEYTON HEWITT: A little bit in one way. Still I think a lot of people, even the people overseas now, whenever they talk about it, it's always this winning streak I was on and all this. I think a lot more people, the public and the media, expect me just to go out there and beat these guys very comfortably, as well, which I'm starting to get used to. I'm going in being the favorite in a lot of these matches these days, including some of the Masters Series tournaments as well. Normally every time I stepped into these tournaments, I was sort of the underdog coming through. Me personally, I love playing in Australia. Whether there is that added pressure, I don't really feel it in Australia at all.

Q. You took everything in stride while you were mounting this run of results. Did you surprise yourself that you were able to cope so well with what was a quite unrelenting pressure on you?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I think so. Obviously going into Adelaide, my main goal for the Australian summer was hitting the ball well enough going into the Australian Open. I had done well in Adelaide and Sydney, won Adelaide, quarters in Sydney, beaten good guys. Normally I had played Challengers leading into Adelaide, had some matches under my belt, when the Europeans didn't. This year I came in fresh, came away with ten good wins there. Obviously, I didn't expect to win Adelaide and Sydney, that's for sure. But, you know, if you look back at it, it was two great weeks. I was (inaudible) in the way I did handle the hype and media for those two weeks.

Q. Do you sense that crowds have a natural tendency to get behind you because you're not as big as Mark Philippoussis or Greg Rusedski, even Tim Henman, Pete Sampras? You're a relatively smaller guy, in the Michael Chang sense, you're going to have to fight for every point. Do you feel the crowd behind you?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Sometimes. I think it does help. Obviously some of the fans like to see sort of that person sort of fighting like Michael Chang, running balls down, sort of David versus Goliath, I suppose. Some of the crowds particularly like that. Others like seeing Mark Philippoussis being breakpoint down or Greg Rusedski serve an ace. But I've had a lot of support wherever I've gone in my short career.

Q. Your game seems to still be evolving. I sense maybe it's part of the Rafter influence, you're coming to the net more often, looking for faster points sometimes. Is Pat working with you to become a little more aggressive inside the service line?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Pat hasn't really worked on my game at all. It's more Darren and Peter Smith back home, Newc and Rochey. They're the guys who have been helping me. Most of all is Darren, for sure. Ever since I started working with Darren, he wanted me -- didn't matter whether I won or lost matches, it was to develop my game so that two or three years down the track, I was going to be a contender for Grand Slams. That's what we're still working on basically. Obviously I've had some great results with the game that I had at the time, but we're trying to develop that. I've still got areas of my game that I've got to work on. One of those is trying to become a more all-court player. It's definitely starting. It's on the right track.

Q. Might not be a fair question. You've already had this tremendous run, the best of entrants by a teen on the tour in years. In your private moments, can you envision yourself as the elite player, the player on the top of the tour? Is that something you can envision at this point in your life?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Not really. I don't think I'll be able to say that until I'm world No. 1. At the moment, I really haven't done a lot in Grand Slams yet. Even in the old Super 9's or the Masters Series now, I haven't had a lot of success in those. That's my goal at the moment. I've got a great record at the moment. Obviously for a person of my age, it's an outstanding start to the year. You don't want to sort of take that away from yourself. I don't look at myself as the best player in the world at the moment at all.

Q. Which of the Slams do you think you have the best chance in?

LLEYTON HEWITT: You know, it's hard to say. Obviously I haven't had a lot of experience on European clay and grass sort of growing up. Probably the two more favored ones would be the Australian Open and the US Open at this stage. I can't see why I can't win matches and beat a lot of top guys at the French Open and Wimbledon as well.

Q. Just paraphrasing Sampras a little while ago, he suggested you and Philippoussis as two players that he feels could go through and win big titles in the future, as players to watch out for. Does that sort of thing make any difference to you or do you just flip it off?

LLEYTON HEWITT: It's always nice to hear comments like that from, you know, a guy like Pete Sampras, who is in my eyes probably the greatest player ever to pick up a racquet. You know, to hear him say things like that is obviously -- he obviously thinks a little bit about my game and a little bit about my future. Still I've got to go out there and do it. It's nice to hear things like that, but I don't get too overwhelmed about it. I don't go over the top about it at all.

Q. A bit of a turnaround from a couple years ago when he didn't seem to think had you a big weapon.

LLEYTON HEWITT: Obviously I'm a totally different player from then to now.

Q. Do you have a court history with either Meligeni or Kafelnikov?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Court history?

Q. Have you played them?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I played Kafelnikov twice, I'm two-nil up. Played Melingeni once, and one-nil up.

Q. Who would you rather be facing, the grinder or the big guy?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I don't mind. Whichever. That's out of my control.

Q. What if it goes 3 hours and 10 minutes?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I think Kafelnikov is very fit, as well. He plays as many matches as anyone on the tour.

Q. Would you like to play your best friend on court: Kafelnikov?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I don't mind playing Yevgeny. He's been fine ever since he said a few things at the Davis Cup in Australia and that. Sort of all got blown up pretty big at the time. It's all settled down since then. He's been fine around the locker rooms and the tournaments.

Q. Has Yevgeny said anything to you since then?

LLEYTON HEWITT: We say hello now and then. We're definitely not best mates.

Q. Your game sometimes has been compared to Michael's because of your speed, sometimes to Andre's. Who have you seen as you've developed your game that you admired?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Probably a little bit of both of those guys in different ways. I'd throw probably Mats Wilander in there, as well. Growing up, Mats was sort of always one of those players I liked watching. When he got to No. 1, when he won the Australian Open at Melbourne Park, I was there to see that. I play a pretty similar game to his, as well.

Q. How long ago was it when you last ball boyed?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I never ball boyed.

Q. Do you think you will play the Davis Cup singles against Germany?

LLEYTON HEWITT: It's hard to say. We've got so many options at the moment. We've got three great singles players at the moment: myself, Rafter and Philippoussis. Probably a lot of it depends on how Pat's shoulder is feeling really. At the end of the day, I've got full confidence whoever Newc and Roche pick is going to be playing the best at the time, giving our country the best chance of going through to the semifinals.

Q. Want to lay a bet that you do or don't play Davis Cup for Australia in the next tie?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I'm not a betting man. Sorry.

Q. In a few hours the Academy Awards for the movies are going to be coming on. I presume they showed them in Australia. Any recollections of watching them when you were a kid?

LLEYTON HEWITT: A little bit. I've never been that big on watching the Academy Awards. Obviously, it's a big night, particularly in America I'd say. Obviously, you just see all the superstars and everyone sort of walking on that red carpet, all the photographers and everyone taking photos is probably the main scene of the night.

Q. This match today, you were just on fire out there, nothing he could do was going to stem the tide today?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Right from the word go, I was on my toes, ready to play today. The best feeling I think I've had on court just hitting the ball. I was seeing the ball like a football again out there today. Even though I had those wins in Australia and that, I didn't do as much damage as I did out there today. I went out there and I put the pressure on him right from the word go. I didn't sit back and counter-punch and wait for him to make the errors. I went out there and dictated the points. That's what I'm most pleased about. I went out there and attacked today, and I'll get a lot more confidence from that match as well.

Q. A little surprised after the long match?

LLEYTON HEWITT: A little bit. It was very, very heavy conditions the first round. That night was unbelievable heavy conditions. The balls were so heavy, they were fluffing up huge out there on grandstand court. It really wasn't a great atmosphere out there playing at 12:00 at night. I was thankful that I got through that one.

Q. If you could have any wish in the sport of tennis, play a player from the past, change a rule, have a victory, what would that wish be?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Tough question. Probably to win the Davis Cup again. So far in my career, it was always my dream growing up. That was an unbelievable feeling winning the Davis Cup and being a part of that team.

Q. Would it be particularly sweet to win against the United States being led by McEnroe in Australia?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, it definitely would be a huge tie if Australia played the US in Melbourne. A win is a win. I'll take it however I can get it, as long as I'm holding that trophy come December time.

Q. Where did you put the replica?

LLEYTON HEWITT: It's in my bedroom.

Q. In America we have a tough time to get the general public taking Davis Cup seriously. It's so important in Australia. Any advice you can give us?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I just think it's the greatest competition we've got. You don't get to come around as a team that often. Everybody gives a hundred percent for their country. Quite often the best matches you'll ever see are sort of the Davis Cup matches. It's a shame if the people don't come out and support their guys, particularly the United States team at the moment. Pretty awesome team.

Q. Australia did play in Zimbabwe?

LLEYTON HEWITT: First round last year.

Q. Were you there?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I was the fifth player.

Q. What did you think of the atmosphere there?

LLEYTON HEWITT: It was very loud, obviously. Other than that, the Zimbabwe crowd, they had drums going. It was a good tie to be at.

Q. Are you thinking at all of a stateside second home?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Living in the states?

Q. Just as a second place.

LLEYTON HEWITT: It's gone through my mind obviously a few times, but not at the moment. I've got no plans to do it.

End of FastScripts….

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