Re: Lleyton's Press Conference
September 2, 1999
Lleyton Hewitt - Wayne Arthurs 6-2 6-4 6-7(5) 6-4
Flushing Meadows, New York City
USTA: Questions for Lleyton?
Q. Were you having trouble with the serve in the third set?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Third set?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Probably. His serve got better as the match went on. He started off pretty rusty at the start. For sure, at the end of the third set I was starting to struggle, particularly in the tiebreaker as well. He served his best in the whole match was the fourth set, and that was the set that I won. I knew that if I could keep holding on, I'd get that opportunity. He sort of threw in a couple of doubles in that game and sort of got me back to 30-all, and then I was pretty confident every time I got a second serve on him. But he got better as the match went on.
Q. How did the ankle play?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Pulled out well. Strapping was a little bit tight. But apart from that, it pulled out well.
Q. Are you surprised you've gotten back this quickly, playing so well?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I think so. I think I've always been lucky in the past. When I have been fresh and sort of come in to a tournament after a few weeks' break, I've always played well. It's sort of shown in Adelaide the last couple of years when everyone sort of had holidays and that, and I came out at my hometown and came out and played well there. So I think that was a bit of a bonus as well. You know, it was tough for me sort of having four weeks off. After I was hitting the ball so well and coming off that Davis Cup victory as well.
Q. Lleyton, it looks pretty conceivable you'll have gone from being the rookie of the Davis Cup Team to possibly, in two weeks, being the leading man?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, it's unbelievable, isn't it? Everyone's getting injured. My timing could have been good.
Q. Can you talk about that?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I'm still hot from Petr, and Pete getting better soon. But obviously there is a cloud over both of those two, and possibly still a little bit of a cloud over myself as well with the ankle, even though I have passed the first two matches and that. I've got to go in there, I've got a job to do, and I suppose I was -- even if I was the No. 2 player, I had to try and beat both the guys anyway. I don't think it's going to be a big step for me going as the No. 2 player into the No. 1 player, and I'd probably rather be the No. 2 player and playing the fifth match on the final day. So, but, you know, I think we've got -- the good thing is we've got a lot of depth in our team. Whether we call on Wayne Arthur, Jason Stoltenberg to play the second singles, you know, Woody, we've got so many combinations in the doubles as well, which helps.
Q. What's the current team now?
LLEYTON HEWITT: The four that were named, Pat Rafter, Mark Philippoussis, Mark Woodforde and myself.
Q. And what happened with Todd Woodbridge? You don't know?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Pardon?
Q. Todd Woodbridge? No?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I think Newc figured there was a cloud over a couple of us in the singles, and Newc figured that we had -- there's four singles instead of just the one doubles that we've got to win. So he thought that we might as well throw in, at that time and stage, we might as well throw in three singles players ahead of Woody there. He felt any three of us could have played with Woody as well.
Q. Have you had conversations with John Newcombe in the last few days about all of this?
LLEYTON HEWITT: No, just a bit of a joke. Everyone's getting injured. We'll sit down -- probably everyone's going to sit down maybe at the end of this week, during this week, I'm not sure. Newc suggested we all sit down and talk about the situation now and what's the best team to sort of put into the grass when we play against Russia.
Q. It looked like you were going to be the favorites going into this, and now it's a little bit more even and you're on grass against the Russians. How do you see that?
LLEYTON HEWITT: It's going to be a tough match. There's no doubt about that. I don't think Safin's results on grass are all that good. I think that's a bonus for us. I don't think -- I don't believe he played any grass this year. Kafelnikov can play on any surface. I think the big thing was for us, when we did pick the surface, that it was either rebound ace or grass. Kafelnikov won the Australian Open and can win on any surface. I think it's still going to be a good decision.
Q. How hands-on in your general career are Newc and Tony?
LLEYTON HEWITT: They've made a big influence. You know, for the last four or five years probably, three to four years, sort of when they got me in the Davis Cup as sort of the orange boy, and I started gradually moving up and up. Reggie's at all the big tournaments, he's spent a lot of time with me working on my technique side of it, and Newcombe spends a lot of time working on tactics and stuff like that. I had four weeks off at the end of last year before I played the Perth Challenger and then the Australian. This summer I went to Newc and Rochey's house and practiced there for two and a half weeks. They're good mates.
Q. The Australian crowd is great. I was watching some of the matches. They had a rah-rah section.
LLEYTON HEWITT: It was good, wasn't it?
Q. It was cool. How does that make you feel out there? As part of that excitement and playing, countrymen and so forth?
LLEYTON HEWITT: It's fantastic. The more you get, it feels like you're playing at home all the time. So I support all those people that come out all the time. You know, I think it's great to have as many Australians in the crowd as possible. But I think because we are doing so well in the Davis Cup the last few years, it is because we have a tight group as well. I suppose that's sort of the thing that Newcombe and Rochey are trying to put through to all the guys, the way it was in their day and trying to get it through to our day, and then sort of going on -- whether I become a captain in the future -- or put it into the Juniors' in their minds that we are sort of a team. And that's why we sort of bond so well every time we go to the Davis Cup ties.
Q. Do you think the Australians represent probably one of the tighter groups?
LLEYTON HEWITT: For sure. No doubt about it. If not the sort of tightest group, I would say sort of travelling every week.
Q. Why is that? Is it tennis in Australia, the way you're brought up? Just the culture, the tradition, the heritage?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I would say more the tradition. I would say that's probably the big thing. It's all of the above that you said. I'd say the number one is tradition and sort of the way that Rod Laver did it, he's out there supporting all the guys today. He was out at my court today. He comes to all the matches that he can. Ken Rosewall, Fred Stolle, Newc, Rochey, all these guys come out and watch all the time, John Alexander. It's just so tight. Whether I'm getting coached by Darren, Darren Kale at the moment, everyone chips into my game as well and helps it out a little bit in areas that they can. Whether that's past or present players as well. Mark Woodforde had a big deal in my career as well, coming from Adelaide, he's helped me out a lot.
Q. What's your first memory, when you were a kid, of big-time Australian tennis?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Probably Pat Cash's match against Mikael Pernfors in the Davis Cup, in the Davis Cup Final. He came back from two sets to Love, down in one and five. Ever since then, I wanted to play Davis Cup and I wanted to represent my country, and sort of I looked up to Pat Cash.
Q. Have you faced Kafelnikov before?
LLEYTON HEWITT: No, I never played Kafelnikov.
Q. Given all these famous Australian players around you, was anyone telling you come into the net more?
LLEYTON HEWITT: They're all telling me to come into the net a little bit more all the time. You know, they understand that baseline's my game and I'm trying to play greater from the baseline, try to counter punch the opponent. They don't get into it that much, to become a Pat Rafter and serve volley every point. They're chipping in; they think it's going to help me down in the future. I'm sure it is. It's going to help me on every surface as well.
Q. You didn't come to the net in the third set. You didn't come in much today, though, even though you had been playing pretty well behind the baseline.
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I sort of backed my passing shots against Wayne today. I thought -- for starters, I try to keep him on the baseline as much as possible. I feel like I was going to win 80 to 90 percent of the points on the baseline every time. When he did come in, I thought I was passing well enough to counter punch him anyway, and I was lobbing well anyway. I wasn't worried about getting to the net.
Q. Growing up, did you play a lot on grass?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Grass, I played very little. I'd play three tournaments in my whole Junior career.
LLEYTON HEWITT: Practice, very rarely. We've got Memorial Drive right there, but there's just no tournaments so there's no need to practice on it. You're always practicing on rebound ace.
Q. Australia waited for a long time to have a new generation, in a way, of top players and stuff. Does that put you guys under particular pressure at home, playing in the Australian Open?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Not really. I love playing back home in Australia. My favorite three tournaments are Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne. But also I like playing under a little bit of pressure as well. I think the crowd gets behind you that much, sort of lifts you up as much. It's a buzz playing in front of home fans, sort of where you grew up playing tennis.
Q. Where does that come from? You've shown a remarkable ability not to be intimidated by higher seeds and playing well in your big moment. Where does that confidence come from?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Just playing in Juniors, I suppose. I always played at my age group. I've always been playing the bigger and stronger guys, for example, the guys like Wayne Arthur today, big serve. My whole time in my Junior career, I haven't been the biggest guy out there. I think being mentally tough has had a big part to do with it as well. That's one of my main strengths, if not the strength of the my game as well, being mentally tough out on the court. And I think that's had a big deal in sort of looking at these guys and sort of believing that I can beat them.
Q. Where does that come from?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I'm not sure. I don't know. I think just growing up, I played a lot of footy and stuff like that. So I think I was born a little bit with it as well.
Q. You're in the toughest part of the draw.
LLEYTON HEWITT: It's tough. At the moment, I'd rather be in the top half, I can tell you. Everyone's pulling out. But to win the tournament, you have to win seven matches, and every guy on the 128-draw is going to be tough. I'm just taking one match at a time at the moment. You never know, it could open up down the line.
Q. On this surface, how do you rate?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I'd say pretty good. The whole year I made semis and Queen's on grass, third round Wimbledon, won a tournament in Del Rey Beach on clay. I think my game is coming together on all surfaces. Hardcourt is suiting my game pretty well at the moment. It's similar to playing on rebound ace as well.
Q. Were you a bit tough on yourself for losing that third set?
LLEYTON HEWITT: In the past I would have been a lot tougher on myself I think. I think today I coped with it as well as I ever coped with making a mistake like that. I had a chance to put him away and I think sort of everyone -- Wayne's main -- Wayne's worst part of his games, I'd say, is returning. I think I did take it a little bit easy, I'm going to stroll in here for a 6-4 in the third victory. But I did a double-fault at 15-0. I was upset after losing that game. I think I refocused. I knew once I could get that break in the fourth set, I wasn't going to do it again. I wasn't going to let it happen again.
Q. Did Darren have anything to say about that?
LLEYTON HEWITT: No, he just came in and said "Great match" afterwards. I haven't seen him since.
Q. Do you get nervous? You always seem very balanced and mentally in control and you talked about your mental toughness and having the support of the guys on the side of the court?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah.
Q. It seems well beyond your 18 years, too.
LLEYTON HEWITT: I think everyone gets a little bit nervous though before any tennis match. For sure if you're playing the big guys in the US Open, Australian Open, you get nervous. Once you're out there in the first couple games, you're in the atmosphere and the buzzer thing, it goes all over my head. For some reason, I've always loved sort of being in the limelight or the spotlight out there, sort of in the middle of everything, trying to put on a bit of a show for everyone out in the crowd. So I think that's had a big part to do with me. Sort of I got thrown into it pretty much when I was 16 or even when I was 15 and qualified for the Australian Open and had to play Sergi Bruguera in the show court. I've learned how to deal with it sort of over the years and I think I'm getting much better at it.
Q. Did you enter the Open with a certain round that you wanted to get to?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Not at all. I didn't know if I was going to be able to play. I rode up here and I was literally 50/50 on playing the first match. And I knew if it wasn't right, I wasn't going to risk it going into the Davis Cup, and then I've got five or six big tournaments after that as well.
Q. It's a long way away, do you think you can hold up for seven matches?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I haven't even thought about it. At the moment I'm feeling good, my ankle is coming together good. My body's feeling good as well. I'm gradually getting match tougher after a four-week break, which has been tough. It's a long way to go to win seven matches here.
Q. Did you play (inaudible) before?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Never.
Q. What do you think about that?
LLEYTON HEWITT: It's going to be a tough match. He's hitting the ball great at the moment. I'm not sure what his score was today. He won his first round easily in straight sets. I'm going to have my work cut out with Andre and have to be moving well in that match as well.
Q. Would you like to get into a bigger show court, do you think, for that?
LLEYTON HEWITT: For that match?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I always like getting in the show court, so I would say yeah.
Q. Can you tell me more about where you were when you saw Cash play?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Where I was, I was about five years old, I think. I'm not sure where I was. But a couple of years after that, I had the tape at home and Pat Cash made a story called The Pat Cash Story, which sort of was pretty big in Australia, and I watched that. I'm not sure where I actually was at the time.
Q. Did you see the match on TV?
LLEYTON HEWITT: No, I watched the tape of it.
Q. You watched the tape.
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah.
Rusty - always # 1 in my heart