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January 18, 2009

Lleyton Hewitt


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Probably not the first-round draw you would have hoped for?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, probably not. Probably a lot tougher ones as well, though. So, yeah, when you're unseeded, you're thrown in that territory where you don't really know what to expect.
Yeah, it's going to be a tough matchup. But the whole time I've been preparing the last couple of months to be ready for whoever I came up against. It was going to be fairly tough anyway.
Hopefully I can knock him out and take his draw.

Q. (Question regarding the draw.)
LLEYTON HEWITT: No, that doesn't worry me what they think too much. Obviously, you know, I think for anyone, I'm probably one of the more dangerous unseeded players in the draw. Yeah, puts a little bit more pressure on him, I guess.

Q. Have you had enough matches to get through seven matches in a Grand Slam?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Don't know. Just take the first one, see how we go after that. Right now I'm focusing on González, worrying about the matchup, what I need to do with my game to be in as good a nick as possible.

Q. Have you got any expectations of how far you think you can last into the tournament?
LLEYTON HEWITT: No, I haven't. Not worrying about anyone apart from Fernando at the moment.

Q. There's been a lot of talk amongst the players about this Open should be moved into February. What are your thoughts?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I think as an Australian, I think it's probably the ideal team for Australian sport. This is the time that I've always known it as the Australian Open, the dates that I've always come to, around these dates, late January, since I was coming here as a young kid to come and watch.
For an Australian, it fits in so well with obviously the school holidays and getting kids out there. And I think for the sport of tennis in this country, that really helps as well, you know, that the young kids can come out and watch a lot of it, even on the back courts, get a good atmosphere out here.
You know, I think sport-wise there's not a lot on at this time of the year either, so it sort of stands out by itself as well, which is probably a good thing for our Grand Slam. Yeah, so it's a tough call. It's obviously early in the year. A lot of overseas players have prepared well enough to win it in the past (smiling).

Q. Do you ever feel tempted to say what you just said to Roger, Novak, Andy about the viewpoint of an Australian, the way it fits into the summer here?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I definitely know Roger knows it. Yeah, I haven't actually spoken to any of those guys about it, what their thoughts are about it. I'm sure Roger knows. He's had a lot of success here in the past. It hasn't really changed his performance, I guess. He's lucky that he's been able to come out after only one or two weeks' preparation and still play extremely well.
But obviously there's a lot more to it than just worrying about the players for a couple weeks, I guess. You know, the tournament has to worry about obviously ticket sales, kids being around the place, a whole lot of other things.

Q. Do the players enjoy coming here as the first tournament of the year, since a lot are coming from the northern hemisphere where it's pretty cold?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I'm not sure. I hope so. I think they put on a great event here. It's in an awesome stadium, great arena. You know, obviously I love playing here. But I think, you know, everyone really enjoys it here. We get looked after really well, which is good.

Q. You've been playing the sport a long time now. You've had quite a few family changes in the last year or so. What about your level of ambition now with all that experience behind you, do ambitions shift, attitudes change, or are you still as driven as you always were?
LLEYTON HEWITT: No, right at the moment I'm still as driven and motivated as I think I've always been. You know, probably more so after having the injury, having to put in all the hard yards to try and get back, just to get back on the court, you know, doing a whole heap of rehab, fitness stuff, just to be able to play here.
So, yeah, if the motivation wasn't there, then I wouldn't be playing. So for me, you know, I still feel that I've got things to do in the sport. I still feel I can get back into the top 10 and push those better guys at the top of the rankings.
I've obviously got to play a lot more matches, get in that rhythm of, you know, hopefully being a hundred percent fit on the court and playing week in and week out as well.

Q. Roger Federer is on the brink of joining Pete Sampras. You've been one of their closest rivals. His achievements, where he sits now, can you believe it?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Right at the start of his career, you didn't really put anyone in the same category as Sampras. That seemed like an awfully long way away before anyone got close to Pete's record.
Obviously when Roger got on that run for four years or so there, he was nearly unbeatable, especially in three of the majors. So, yeah, he's had an unbelievable run. Yeah, obviously he won the last slam, the US Open of last year, as well, so he's gonna be one of the favorites coming in here. If he does it, good on him. It's a hell of an effort.

Q. Is there still a rush coming into an Australian Open?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, absolutely. Australian Open and Wimbledon are probably two of my favorite tournaments, I think. Yeah, for me to always come back and play here, it is a big thrill always. Yeah, I love playing on Rod Laver Arena. It's going to be a lot of fun on Tuesday, as well.

Q. How is the court surface this year? Are you happy with it?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I think it's all right. I wouldn't say it's any different to last year. It's probably on the medium to fast pace, I'd say. It's a fairly rough court surface, though. The balls fluff up quite a bit after a couple of games. But that's very similar to last year, as well.

Q. The prospects for the locals don't seem to be overly high. Is it frustrating that stories about what's wrong with Australian tennis are being written before a ball is even hit?
LLEYTON HEWITT: We don't have that many guys or players in the main draw. Yeah, it's always going to be written if you don't have the players out there. We were fortunate for a number of years, though, even before probably Pat Rafter was, you know, getting up to the top, we still had a lot of great players out there competing in the main draws, being able to make the odd semifinal, quarterfinal, consistent Round of 16s at any of the slams. That's probably what we miss, you know, at the moment. We just don't have the numbers there to be able to do that.
Until we get more guys in the top 90, top hundred in the world that get direct acceptance into the Grand Slams, it's gonna to fall back on guys like myself and Guccione.

Q. Tony Roche has indicated he's going to speak about the state of tennis in Australia after the Open. Have you had lengthy discussions with him about it yourself?
LLEYTON HEWITT: You know, we talk about little things now and then. Yeah, obviously there's issues behind the scenes to try and get more players to be able to come through.
Rochey, I can't speak for him, but he obviously knows more than anyone about how to make kids into players. He's been around the traps that many years and he's worked with so many great players, I think people really should be listening to a lot that Rochey has to say.

Q. Almost 40 years since Laver completed the Grand Slam. There's a lot of emphasis on Roger and his beating Sampras or equalling it here, then the next step is another Grand Slam attempt. Where do you think Laver's position in tennis history is?
LLEYTON HEWITT: It hard to say. Over time it changes so much. But obviously he's always going to be one of the greats. To win a Grand Slam twice is remarkable. But, yeah, it's hard to compare generations. It's like in golf, comparing Woods to all the older guys that won so many slams as well. When does he get put in that category the same as them?
It's a lot easier to sort of look at Sampras and Federer and try and compare the two of them than it is throwing Laver in. This day and age, there's so many different countries playing as well now. The surface of all four majors are all different as well now. There's a lot of variables.

Q. Can you remember being made the favorite for a tournament, a Grand Slam, before you'd actually won a Grand Slam?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I wouldn't have been, no.

Q. Do you think it's common sense to make someone a favorite before they've actually won a Grand Slam, going into a Grand Slam?
LLEYTON HEWITT: It's probably not the done thing. Who knows who's favorite. Yeah, that's one person's opinion (smiling).
I guess the rivalry of Nadal and Federer in the majors the last, you know, three or four years... They're both at the moment 1 and 2 in the world. You're a brave man to look outside those two as a favorite going into any slam at the moment.

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