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April 14, 2009

Lleyton Hewitt


M. SAFIN/L. Hewitt
6-4, 7-5

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Was that one of your toughest ever turnarounds, between travel and the match?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I think it was the toughest, yeah. Yeah, it was sort of just like one thing after another really. Yeah, it was not the best preparation, that's for sure.

Q. Can you go through your trip? I know you left on Monday, I think.
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah. The final was in Houston. It was delayed a few hours because of rain and the court got flooded so we had to wait for that. So I couldn't get out Sunday night. And then, yeah, Monday, with the time change and everything, it just sort of put it even further behind. Then our flights got delayed about three and a half hours, as well, out of Dallas.

Q. BA or AA?
LLEYTON HEWITT: No, American Airlines. Yeah, so it was just frustrating. Yeah, nothing sort of went right.

Q. Did you come in with any expectations or you just want to give it a go and see?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Not a lot. Not a lot of expectations really. Yeah, for me it's all about still going out there and competing. I actually felt like I hit the ball pretty well today. Actually ball striking, I was actually pretty happy with. So, especially just coming off the plane, I probably wasn't as sharp as I would have liked to have been or normally would try to be. But apart from that I actually felt like the ball striking, I was pretty happy with.

Q. How is your right leg? You had your treatment.
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I just strained it in the final the other day. So it wasn't the best thing hopping straight on a plane and coming over here. Yeah, just got worse as the match went on.

Q. How is it now?
LLEYTON HEWITT: It's a bit sore at the moment, so...

Q. What made you decide to play in it last minute?
LLEYTON HEWITT: No, I was always going to play here. I'd been offered a wild card. It's a big tournament. So, yeah, for me, my clay court preparation is sort of up in the air as well, with Davis Cup and that as well. You know, it was always going to be an opportunity. But going into Houston, I knew it was always gonna be tough if I went well there.
Yeah, you take that, I guess. The start of Houston, though, my goal was to win the tournament. If that meant that it was gonna make it tougher for me to come here, then so be it.

Q. How did you feel having to play Marat Safin in the first round?
LLEYTON HEWITT: We've played first rounds the last couple of years a couple of times, as well. Yeah, obviously our rankings both aren't in the top 10 anymore, so you're not getting the protection of not playing each other early on.
But, yeah, he's obviously still a class player when he's on.

Q. It was almost a strange thing waking up Monday morning and seeing that you and Ferrero had won a tournament. Has it given you renewed faith, hope in your game?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I guess after the surgery and that, to come back. Last week I played extremely well. Not to drop a set through the tournament gave me a lot of confidence. I still got to build on that, though.
But, yeah, as I said, my ball striking was good today. I'm happy with the way I'm hitting the ball at the moment. There are small areas of my game I still feel like I can work on to get to the next step before the French Open and Wimbledon. That's the goal now.

Q. What is it about over the last few years you seem to be almost improving on clay.
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I'm not sure. Yeah, the last probably two years, two and a half years I've actually played some of my best tennis on clay. I keep saying, yeah, we don't grow up on it in Australia, so it's hard for any of us straightaway to come out and play well against the Spaniards and the South American guys straight up.
But I've been able to learn and adapt to the best way for me to play on clay for my game and I feel comfortable on it.

Q. Has it come to the point now where you if you were to have one more Grand Slam victory or a chance at a Grand Slam, it could be the French Open above others? Have you gone that far?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I don't know about that. Rafa's still pretty tough to beat (smiling). Out of our four slams, he's probably holding that one tighter than anyone, I'd say.

Q. Your own sort of ability...
LLEYTON HEWITT: I think I can knock good players off on clay, yeah, the French Open. In the past, it's sort of been the French Open that I've probably played my best clay court tennis, as well, that court surface.
I feel comfortable playing at Roland Garros. We'll see happens.

Q. You say you didn't grow up playing on clay. What is the hardest thing you had to learn over the last few years?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Oh, it's more the movement and the tactics playing on clay I think. When you first come on tour, you grow up playing on hard courts. It's a totally different mindset when you go onto a clay court. I think it's a lot easier to go from growing up on clay to learn to play on hard court than it is the other way.
So, yeah, it just takes time I think more than anything.

Q. What is your clay program going to be?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I'm not sure at the moment. Yeah, I got no idea because we got Davis Cup, as well. It's up in the air at the moment.

Q. A lot of players who come from big injury setbacks like you've had, they come back and they say they actually enjoy their tennis more. Have you found that? Do you feel it's actually more of a buzz just being out there and being able to play?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, right at the moment I don't know if I feel it. Yeah, I think when you get back out there, all the hard work that I did towards the end of November and December, for it to pay off, to be able to play the Australian summer, at one stage I wasn't sure if I'd be able to play that. So for me that was a huge bonus to be able to compete there.
Obviously you still want -- sometimes it's frustrating when the body's not quite at a hundred percent and you have had the surgery and that and you're still doing a lot of rehab to get it back. It's a long process. You have to be patient with it, keep working at it, stay positive.

Q. Where do you think you are in that process?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I'm not sure. My hip has actually been feeling really good on the clay, which is probably a little bit easier for my hip as well, than playing on the hard court.
But, yeah, it was probably going to take 9 to 12 months after the surgery until you actually get back to a hundred percent movement-wise and get that confidence back in the hip as well. So, yeah, last week I've moved as well as I've ever moved, so I was pretty happy with it.

Q. I know it's a long way away, but how important to you these days is Wimbledon?
LLEYTON HEWITT: One of the most important tournaments if not the most important tournament. Yeah, for me I don't think there's that many guys that have an absolute huge chance of winning Wimbledon. There's obviously the handful that we all know. But it's not like you're going to see a whole lot of outsiders come through and really do a lot of damage there.
I still give myself a good chance on grass. When you've won there, you walk into those gates, it's an amazing feeling as well.

Q. What does that feel like?
LLEYTON HEWITT: You get goosebumps walking in. The tradition sort of builds more so after you've done well there, I think. You go there as a youngster, you've seen all the greats win there before. But I think when you go back after you've done well, it's even more special.

Q. Your ranking, given where it is at the moment, it does offer you the opportunity of knocking off a seed and taking their path.
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, well, the last few years I -- even when I've been ranked sort of that 16 to 30 odd spot, I've come up against Rafa in the French Open and Roger at Wimbledon in the Round of 16 anyway. So, yeah, you need a better -- sometimes getting a bit lower seed, knocking them off, taking their draw, especially at Wimbledon, that's sometimes where it opens up a lot more.

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