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December 2, 1999

Todd Woodbridge


ITF: Can we have a first question, please.

Q. Have you ever been to a longer ceremony (laughter)?

CAPTAIN NEWCOMBE: Have you (laughter)?

Q. Do you have any preference to who plays first, the first player to begin first?

CAPTAIN NEWCOMBE: No, not at all. We weren't particularly worried either way.

Q. John, how much does a final like this come down to the character of the first round players rather than the surface or their ability and nothing else?

CAPTAIN NEWCOMBE: I think it comes down to, in my experience, the players, first of all. After that, it's very important for the player with the spirit that's with the team because, especially when you're playing away from home, there's going to be a time when you're going to need all the courage that you've got, and if you can draw on your teammates and feel that it's a real, real spirit coming out towards you, it can help you get through some very difficult occasions. We've been showing that this year. We'll try to double that effort for the final.

Q. Would you say you're at the point in your preparation where you wanted to be on the eve of the match?

CAPTAIN NEWCOMBE: Yeah, we were there two days ago, I think, especially with Mark and Lleyton, and I think yet the Woodies became at their peak. We're more than happy. We expect to be at our maximum playing ability on the day.

Q. Lleyton, this is your first year in Davis Cup. How different is the feeling being in the final and can you tell about how excited, how motivated you are?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, it's an unbelievable feeling for me. A lot of the players go through their careers without playing in a Davis Cup final. For me, at the age of 18 to have this opportunity, in my third tie, when at the start of the year it looked like I was going to be struggling for a spot, you know, this is definitely the biggest moment in my career so far.

Q. You've played Pioline a few times. You've lost to him and you beat him easily at the Australian Open. What could be the key here on this clay?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, I think you can't take a lot out of those matches really. It's a totally different surface and it's in the Davis Cup, as well. You're not just playing for yourself out there. I think it's going to be whoever handles the pressure better, I think, on the day. I'm sure he's hitting the ball well. He was hitting the ball well in the Paris Indoors where he did just beat me there. I feel like I'm hitting the ball well, as well. I think it's going to come down to being mentally tough on the day.

Q. Do you feel a stronger pressure being in the final or do you take it as a normal tie, you and the players, John?

CAPTAIN NEWCOMBE: I think you have to ask the players that question. For me, yeah, you can't just say it's treated as another match because it is a final. But quite honestly, for me, the last two days I've had a very calm feeling because I feel we can't do anything more. We're prepared for the fight as best we can; now it's just a matter of coming to the action.

Q. From some players, as well.

LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, for me, I've been going into every one of my ties as a do-or-die match. It doesn't feel like, you know, even though it is a final and, you know, it's winner-take-all in this one again, I've been going in there with that attitude anyway, just taking it one match at a time, so.

MARK PHILIPPOUSSIS: I agree with Lleyton on that one (laughter).

Q. Mark, you've had a US Open final on your own. This is a different kind of final. What's your state of mind? How different does it feel to you, this event, than heading into a final in a Slam?

MARK PHILIPPOUSSIS: Well, I mean, I felt the pressure differently in the US Open final against Patrick. I would hope to think that, you know, I know it's a different kind of pressure, but I'd like to think that I learned a little bit from a big match like that. Like I said, it's totally different. You know, I feel like I've been very relaxed all week. You know, I've been hitting the ball well. I feel I'm very prepared for this.

Q. Todd and Mark, all the huge finals that you've played in, where does this one come and how important is it to you, particularly the end of a year when you haven't had quite as much joint success as you've had in the past?

MARK WOODFORDE: Well, I guess we'd like -- I'll answer for my behalf. I mean, I'd like to erase the memory of losing in '93. I think a little bit of inexperience, even though we'd won quite a few finals leading up to the '93 final. I think experience went against us in that match and we lost to a pair who, you know, don't quite play as often as what Todd and I had. It would be nice -- it would be exceptionally nice after a disappointing year, by our standards. We haven't won a tournament since the early part of the year. It would be nice to certainly cap the year off knowing that we're starting to play a whole lot better and got our confidence. It would be nice to be a part of a victorious team here and certainly one trophy that we haven't been able to garnish together.

TODD WOODBRIDGE: I'm a believer that hard work pays off. I know that Mark and I have worked extremely hard the past three months to get our form and consistency back to a high level. If you can keep putting in the hard work and keep knocking on the door, which we have, we've been in semis, finals, played good matches against all the top pairs, the door will open. This is the perfect opportunity for us to finish off a year that perhaps hasn't been our best, but in consistency terms it's still been ranked high. It's a way that we could make '99 still an exceptional year and one that we'll remember.

Q. Mark, two questions. The first would be, in tennis, the seasons are getting longer, harder on bodies. You haven't played a lot the last part of the year. Do you feel fresher this year than you normally do? Do you think that could help you?

MARK PHILIPPOUSSIS: Definitely. Last couple of years I felt like towards Paris Indoors, I was getting very flat. You know, two years ago I didn't play Paris Indoors. I was mentally and physically gone, which it looks like I really am now (laughter). Yeah, I've been feeling great. Unfortunately had that injury, but, you know, came back strong from that. I felt like I've dealt with it pretty good, beings it's my first injury. Like you said, I haven't played a lot of tennis. But the positive side to that is I'm very fresh at the moment, so.

Q. The second question, old topic. I'm curious. After what happened last year with some of the miscommunication and difficulties, do you feel at this point being in the final like a man on a mission in any way to sort of atone for any of that or make things right with the Australian public a bit more, in a sense?

MARK PHILIPPOUSSIS: Well, I don't like to think that, you know, I've got something to prove. I'm just here, you know, like any one of the players, just doing what they have to do, you know, being part of a team. You know, I felt like anything that's happened in the past, I've forgotten about it. I'm sure everyone else has. Going out to dinners, it's been a lot of fun. I really do feel part of a team. Nothing has been different or anything like that. So all I've got to do is just play the best tennis I can and give it 100% on the court and just have no regrets about, you know, not giving it everything I have. That's all I'm worried about. You know, I'm sure that everyone else would appreciate that.

Q. Which is the difference between this court and these balls and Dusseldorf?

MARK PHILIPPOUSSIS: Well, in Dusseldorf, the ball seemed to bounce pretty high. You know, to my surprise, to be quite honest, the talk that I was hearing at Paris Indoors, it sounded like this court was going to be extremely slow. You know, the first time I got out there, it wasn't that slow at all. In some respects, it's a little quick. You know, I think the balls are bouncing nice and high. I think it's a great-pace court. Some balls, I think the Dusseldorf, the balls get a bit heavy after a few games. These ones tend to lose their fur, maybe get a little bit quicker. I think it's a nice court.

Q. Do you expect this to be very closely-fought tie, coming right down to the last match?

CAPTAIN NEWCOMBE: I've said from the beginning, I think it's 50/50. But having said that, and having observed our players closely with what Tony has been able to do with them over the last ten days, I know that any of you that have watched can see they're playing at their peak. I add to what I said in the beginning, that sometimes can you feel a spirit inside a team, and then you start to believe it's your destiny to win. I have to tell you, when I woke up this morning, I sometimes get those feelings. I honestly believe that it's our destiny to win. That's the feeling inside my gut.

Q. Could you analyze for us the strength and weaknesses of the French team and the strength of your team?

CAPTAIN NEWCOMBE: Well, I think our team, if you look at the Woodies, you know, the strength is there, that they've got the results on the board, maybe not on clay at the French Open so far, but in all the other tournaments. This is probably the most extensive that they've prepared on clay. With Mark, his results speak for themselves. So far, on clay, he's played some great matches. Not yet at the French Open. I think he's going to surprise some people here and they're going to be looking at him closely for the French Open next year. And with Lleyton, he's only got a short record. A lot of people in France, they haven't seen him performing at his best, and they're going to see that this weekend. I think he's going to make them a believer also. For the French team, I think the big plus with Cedric is that he's been here before in a final. That's a big plus for him. But there's a lot of pressure on him because he's the most experienced player for Davis Cup. It's almost imperative for him that he wins on the first day against Lleyton. Because if he loses, I think it's a big wound in the team of the French. But having said that, you know, he's very experienced. Grosjean I don't know so well. Your doubles pairs, we expect it to be a very tough doubles match, very entertaining. They have good returns and they play well. Also they beat the Woodies a couple of times. All that's really done is really pissed the Woodies off.

End of FastScripts….

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