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January 13, 2007

Lleyton Hewitt


THE MODERATOR: First question for Lleyton.

Q. How is your fitness and is a lack of match practice a concern for you?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, the calf is coming along well. Slowly, but (smiling)... It's getting there. I've had two good hit-outs the last two days. It's held up as well as I could have ever hoped.
Yeah, the match practice, definitely I would have liked to have had more. There's no doubt about that. It's a matter of trying to deal with that as much as possible, getting those hours that I need on the practice court before going into Monday or Tuesday's match.
The first couple matches, okay, they're not going to be easy. It's a matter of trying to get through those as quickly and convincingly as possible and move on to hopefully get my teeth into the tournament a bit more.

Q. How worried were you when you did it initially?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I was worried. I did it 5-All in the second set against Kunitsyn. Felt like a gun going off in my calf. It felt like cramps. Never had anything like that before. For the whole third set, I wasn't there, wasn't able to compete. Came off the court, knew there was something wrong. The odds are that I wasn't going to be able to play Sydney anyway, which was disappointing for me anyway. You know, I really love that tournament. Obviously, you know, that was a big decision in itself, to pull out of Sydney.
But, you know, there was no guarantees it was going to be right by now. Normally it would take two weeks or so. You know, I've done absolutely everything possible physio and treatment-wise to get me as close as possible to a hundred percent. I think, fingers crossed, it will hold up okay.

Q. Did you think you might not be here when it first happened?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Absolutely. When I pulled up a couple hours after that match, you know, there's no chance I was going to be able to play, even if I got through that match, the following day in Adelaide. Obviously, Sydney was starting in three days' time. You know, the scan showed I had one-and-a-half centimeter tear in my calf. Not a lot I could do about it. It was more trying to stay positive and manage the situation that I had in front of me.
Obviously when you haven't played a match for a couple of months as well, I was looking forward to this month. I love playing Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne.

Q. Not only dealing with your calf, you also had to deal with the split with Roger. How has that affected you?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I think I've dealt with it all now. I'm focusing on what I need to do now for the tournament. I feel like I've got a good group behind me that want the best for me, are going to try to put me in the best frame of mind to go out there and compete over the next two weeks. I think that's a big thing for me. If I'm mentally ready to take on every challenge that's going to be put to me, and there's going to be some big challenges over the next two weeks, if I last the distance.
Yeah, I think I'm as mentally ready now as I can be. In practice, I've been hitting the ball well. It's a matter of going out there and executing.

Q. Were you surprised by his decision?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I've spoken about it. I'm sort of going to leave it on that at the moment, try and focus on the positives, what I need to do over the next two weeks now.

Q. To this point, have you made the best out of a bad situation with the injury and the split with Roger?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I'm not hiding it's not the best situation to be in coming into a Grand Slam. But, yeah, I think mentally the injury knocked me around more with the chance I may not be playing the Australian Open. And the first couple days after I found out I had a small tear, I was a bit down obviously, not knowing how it was going to respond. It was probably the first couple days I couldn't walk properly and felt it the most that I thought, Is this really going to heal within a week?
Everyone was assuring me that pretty much it will be right. But then the question mark, you know, you're going to come in under-done as well. Is that really giving you the best opportunity of trying to win the tournament?
Yeah, I think I've dealt with the situation as well as I can. The people around me as well believe that I'm good enough to go out and have a big tournament.

Q. Have you learned a bit yourself over the course of the past week about yourself and about where you're at with your game?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, a little bit. I've had some good chats obviously with Scotty over the last three or four days now, five days. He's a very positive guy, as well, brings a lot to the table. I think it's a matter of going out there. I know what to do on the court. I know how to play the game. Depending on who I play in the draw, obviously a qualifier I'm not sure, but most of the time I know how they're going to play against me. It's a matter of me going out there and doing what I need to do and executing the way I want to.
If I play my best tennis out there, then I'm going to have an extremely good chance, you know, especially getting through the first week.

Q. Could you put a percentage on your fitness, on your calf, then your match fitness as well?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, the calf's over 90% now. The last two days I haven't felt a thing out there. I don't feel like I'm holding too much back in practice. Had a couple good hit-outs with Looch. Match fitness, you can't emulate matches, getting them under your belt. So percentage-wise it's hard to put. I would have liked a bit more than two matches, that's for sure.

Q. With this preparation, can you win?
LLEYTON HEWITT: If I get through the first week and put some pressure on the name players in the second week, I've got a chance, that's for sure. I think mental toughness is going to play a huge part.
You know, I feel like I've prepared as well as possible. I did a lot of stuff through November and December to get ready for the Australian Open. If I put myself in the right frame of mind going out there, that never-say-die attitude, especially what got me to the final two years ago. You know, I can't have a much tougher draw than I had a couple years ago here. I know what it's going to take to come through a couple big matches.

Q. What do you make of your draw this year?
LLEYTON HEWITT: It's not too bad. Qualifiers, the one thing they have is three tough matches under their belt. Also they're going to be put on a lot bigger stage than being on court 17 or 18 out the back, as well. Hopefully that works in my favor.
Second runs, Dancevic or Hanescu. I played Hanescu as least once, I played. Dancevic is an up-and-comer with a bit of flair, flashy kind of player. If I can get through there, we'll start looking at some of the bigger names in the draw.

Q. We've heard you talk about in the past couple years how the courts didn't really suit you, how you were unhappy with things with the tournament. How do you feel about things now? How would you assess the way those changes affect your game? McNamee is gone now.
LLEYTON HEWITT: You know, I think in terms of the court, it's more trying to get a level playing field, so courts like court 17 and 18 aren't playing different to Centre Court and Vodafone. Them playing it a bit earlier this year, the same time they lay the outside courts, maybe that helps that. I haven't hit on the outside courts yet, so I can't really judge the comparison.
Yeah, in terms of the tournament, I love the Australian Open. I love playing here. I get goosebumps walking into this place. This is great memories for me, not only coming here as a young kid matching Lendl and Edberg and Wilander and all these guys, but making the final two years ago, even though I lost, was a huge occasion for me and one of great pleasure and great memory.
I have nothing against this tournament.

Q. Is Rod Laver playing faster?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Slightly. Slightly maybe (smiling). It's hard to say. I've heard the outside courts are bouncing reasonably high from other guys. You get so many different opinions out there.
For me I think it's playing, you know, maybe a little bit faster and a little bit lower bounce this year. I think probably more so this stage, you know, before the tournament. Maybe by the end of the tournament last year, I wasn't in it long enough to know, but maybe it was playing a bit more like it is now at the end of the tournament last year.

Q. So are you happy?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I'm ready to play on it.

Q. You mentioned it was one-and-a-half-centimeter tear in the calf muscle. Is this wasn't a major, would you be taking more time off?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I wouldn't have had as extensive physio and treatment on it as I've done. I've been pretty much getting treatment and physio all day every day when I've been away from the court. I'm doing everything in my power to be fit by Monday and Tuesday. But, you know, it would have to be a lot more than to make me not play the Australian Open.

Q. After such a tumultuous buildup, can you think of a tougher time in your career that you've had to overcome before an Open?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I don't know. I've always had a lot of -- US Open last year was difficult, you know, having a knee injury, knowing that I definitely wasn't a hundred percent going into it.
You have little obstacles you've got to try and pass. You know, I overcame that pretty well considering I wasn't even close to a hundred percent playing, was still able to make the quarterfinals there.
Yeah, it's going to be mentally tough. I think that's one of my assets. I'd like to think it'll come through again.

Q. Do you think you even thrive on your obstacles?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Sometimes. A lot of people would say that. You know, I try and be as mentally tough as possible every time I step on the court. I think when the bell rings Monday or Tuesday, I think I'll be ready to go. Mentally I'll be as focused as ever, you know, know what I need to do out there.

Q. Will you speak to Roger or expect a good luck phone call before your first game?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I don't know, mate. Not sure.

Q. Can you foresee in the future, or do you still have a good relationship with Roger?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I'm sure we will, yeah.

Q. In the future?

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