Re: Lleyton's Press Conference
August 31, 1999
Lleyton Hewitt - Marc Rosset 6-2 6-2 6-0
Flushing Meadows, New York City
Q. Lleyton, people get a bit overwrought sometimes playing their first time in a main draw. How did you feel?
LLEYTON HEWITT: No, I didn't really feel any nerves at all today. I really -- I haven't played a match for about four weeks now, since the Mercedes Benz Cup in Los Angeles. I went out there and was thinking a lot about my ankle, so I suppose I didn't know if I would be able to sort of finish the match probably. In practice, that's been totally different. It's been fine in practice the whole week now. I've been testing it out with guys like Pat and Tim Henman. Once you get in a match, I don't think you know how it feels. That was playing in the back of my mind. I tried to block it out as much as possible.
Q. How is it?
LLEYTON HEWITT: It came through well. Rarely felt it the whole time. If I did feel it, it sort of went away straight away. I think I played sort of -- to get through so easily today was a big bonus as well. Not to be out on the court putting so much stress on it and sort of having been in the second round here.
Q. Lleyton, you're 18 years old, you're playing your first U.S. Open, coming in here off an ankle injury. Confidence high coming into this match?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Not really. Confidence was high about four weeks ago. It's tough for a guy who was -- I was playing so well. I had no points to defend over the last four weeks. Missed two Super 9s and Long Island, big events. It was tough for me sitting at home watching all the guys play, especially Pat doing so well and guys like that. So I had to come out here today, and I had to try to do a job and get through my first round.
Q. Have you been able to practice during those four weeks? Are you pretty much rested?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I practiced about three days before I came over here, and they were really staying in the corner just trying to stroke a few balls, and really no running at all.
Q. John McEnroe says that if you're healthy, you're one of his picks here. How do you feel about that?
LLEYTON HEWITT: That's a big call. I suppose it helps when Pete Sampras isn't in the draw anymore. But, you know, I'm not on Pete's side anyway. I have a lot of matches to go before I get close to that. I'm taking one match at a time at the moment. I'm not match fit at the moment, so I wouldn't say much to that answer.
Q. Would you say that the U.S. Open sort of suits your personality?
LLEYTON HEWITT: A little bit. I suppose New York, big city, the crowd really gets behind you out there and stuff like that. A couple of times today I had a couple passing shots, lobs. The crowd got involved in the match. The further I go in the tournament, the more it's going to sort of support me. And as soon as I get on sort of the stadium court at night, I think it's going to be even better.
Q. Was there a time when you thought you might not be able to play?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I got told as soon as I went home by two different specialists that I wouldn't be playing in the U.S. Open. So basically there was -- for about a week's time, I just had to rest and couldn't basically walk. I stood on crutches. From that week, I felt the whole time I wasn't going to be playing the U.S. Open. I was trying to still be positive about it, but in the back of my mind, knowing I wasn't going to be here. I was trying to focus in on getting it right for the Davis Cup tie and sort of put my hand up for selection there. I went and saw the Davis Cup physio for Australia, and (inaudible), who works with him as well, and they both gave me a great chance of playing the U.S. Open and then being all right for the Davis Cup as well. So that sort of -- I suppose just sort of being positive about it really helped as well sort of being around those guys. They're much more around the tennis players, as well, than some of the other doctors that I'm not sure have been around tennis so long and don't know how long it does take for an injury to heal. Sort of being positive and setting a goal and really being --
Q. How do you feel about Pete being out?
LLEYTON HEWITT: My chances?
Q. Well, the fact that he's out?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I'm not going to play him in the final, though, so. The odds on us both getting in the final are...
Q. What did you do to get fit?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I was at the beach every day (laughter.) Walking along the beach every day.
Q. In the water?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, yeah.
Q. How deep was it?
LLEYTON HEWITT: It was pretty cold as well back home.
Q. How deep was the water?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I only went up to about waist-level.
Q. Which beach?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Right outside my coach's house, so it's Henning Beach (ph) in Adelaide. And it's winter over there at the moment.
Q. How far did you walk in the water?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Probably 3 Ks every day.
Q. Did you find participating in the Arthur Ashe Day has increased your public recognition around these parts?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, for sure. I don't think a lot of people knew me sort of before today or before Arthur Ashe day as well. Particularly, I did a Clinique ad for Nike on Court 7 in the morning with John McEnroe. Also coming into the stadium court and having a look around there, and I suppose just being sort of -- Patrick Rafter's in there. A lot of people sort of knew who I was going into that match.
Q. You had experience earlier this summer with the Davis Cup. Do you find it helped calm your nerves as opposed to going out to your first match today?
LLEYTON HEWITT: A little bit it helps. But really I've played a lot of matches. I played the Davis Cup I think, what was it, about six weeks ago now, six or seven weeks ago. That's the most pressure I've ever felt. Coming out here and playing the first U.S. Open main draw doesn't compare to that. Just the difference of being advantage Australian instead of advantage Hewitt. So really today I didn't really think I had nothing to lose going out into that match. I suppose that helped, having an ankle injury. Sometimes you see guys who have a sort of a sore spot or bit of an injury often play better because it's in the back of their mind and it takes a lot of pressure off them as well.
Q. Earlier you mentioned realistically you didn't expect to get to the final. Do you have a benchmark or an objective that you say, "This is where I want to be with this tournament"?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Not really. I've come in to this tournament -- two weeks ago I didn't think I was going to be playing. It's just great to be here. I'm taking it one match at a time. I think a lot of -- you know, there's a lot of question marks of me going into the match today: Main court. Am I going to be able to put up with the stress? I came through great, and, hopefully, I do in the next match as well. I'm just taking it one match at a time.
Q. Most of those courts out there are lightning fast. Are you surprised at how well you handled a big-hitter on such fast court?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, they're pretty quick. I've been practicing the last few days with Tim Henman, Pat Rafter, got pretty big serves as well. I think that helped a lot. I think one of my own assets has been a good return of serve. It was sort of his strength against my strength today, and I thought I had done really well. Plus, I think the wind helped me as well, being a bit breezy out there. He threw in double-faults at crucial times.
Q. Pat Rafter and Jason Stoltenberg said you kind of created a little bit of a stir down in Australia, especially with a lot of the female fans.
LLEYTON HEWITT: Pat said that? (Laughter.)
Q. Yes. How do you handle instant adulation?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Actually, I've learned a lot from Pat, to tell you the truth (laughter.) He's sort of the king down there with all the females and that so... And just sort of -- sort of handling myself in the media on and off the court, just with the media and how well Pat handles it. So I've learned a lot from Pat. And since Davis Cup three years ago, Newc and Reggie put me on that team, I have learned a lot from all the Australian guys. They took me under their wing and helped me a lot. Pat sort of comments on how I could improve the media talk and stuff like that. That's been a big part for me.
Q. Has there been any time at a tournament or whatever that you couldn't -- an incident that happened, whether you got mobbed or autographs, and you go, "Oh, my God, I'm a professional tennis player and I'm becoming a star"?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Probably when I was 15, the Australian Open was a big shock. I was playing with no one watching me the whole time. Suddenly I was on the front page of the paper playing Sergi Bruguera, who, at the time, was the jewel, the French Open champion. So in my home Grand Slam it was pretty big. Come sort of Monday morning and everyone sort of wants to know you; whereas, Friday afternoon playing in the quallies, no one really knew you at all.
Q. In Australia, baseball is becoming a big game. Have you ever played it? I know we have Dave Nelson here who plays.
LLEYTON HEWITT: No, I never played baseball. No. I watch it on TV over here, but never played it.
Q. You're one of the young guns here right now with the likes of McEnroe thinking of you as a possible contender here. Hearing that Sampras is out of this tournament -- I mean I know you haven't had a lot of time for this -- to absorb this, but does this sort of take a little something out of it, the thought that you might have an opportunity to possibly go up against the No. 1 player in the world? The fact that he's out of this tournament, does it deflate things at all?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Not really. I think to win a Grand Slam is big enough. There's enough guys, 127 other guys in the draw who are all great players as well. Whether it's Pete, Pat, Andre, none of that really matters. It's who's playing the best at a certain time, and I don't think anyone can say Pete was going to win the tournament regardless anyway. Safin's a tough player. He had to play him the first round. He's coming off -- I think he had pulled out of another tournament two weeks ago as well. He was going to have his hands full in that match. There was no guarantee I was going to be playing Pete. There are a lot of other guys. I'm going to have my work cut out.
Q. What's the best part of being on Tour for you?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I think just travelling around and seeing other cities.
Q. What's your favorite city so far?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Adelaide. No (laughing.) No. I like, outside of Australia, I like probably Orlando.
LLEYTON HEWITT: A lot of the other Australian guys do also.
Q. Have you done anything in New York while you've been here?
LLEYTON HEWITT: No, nothing.
Q. Are you staying in Manhattan?
LLEYTON HEWITT: No. I'm not sure where I'm staying, the Intercontinental. I'm not sure where that is. I haven't really looked around at all.
Rusty - always # 1 in my heart