Re: Lleyton's Press Conference
March 28, 2000
ATP: Lleyton's first Tennis Masters Series quarterfinal.
Q. Never easy, but didn't look like you were out of control in the match?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I got off to a good start in the first set, broke him the first game. I lost my serve, but played a good game with the breeze to break back sort of the middle of the first set. From there on, I felt pretty comfortable with serve, apart from the 4-3 game in the second set, down two breakpoints. Probably got a little lucky to get out of that game.
Q. When you play Yevgeny, is it a strategy or mental game?
LLEYTON HEWITT: A little bit of both, I think. You know you're always in for a tough match because he's such a talented player. Today he tried to sort of slow up the match a little bit more than he did the last two times I played him. Sort of once -- I think that was one of the main reasons I lost my service game to give back the break. After that, I sort of worked on my tactics and felt pretty comfortable with my game against his out there today.
Q. Mentally, you have an edge on him, do you think?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I don't know about that. Definitely I think he hasn't played his best tennis. I think the time I played him in Paris last year in the Super 9, I think he played pretty well that match. I think we both played very well. I don't think today he played his best tennis. He didn't play his best tennis in Brisbane in the Davis Cup either. I feel like, you know, every time I step on the court with him, I've hit the ball well the last few times.
Q. Do you go in with a fair amount of pride based on what happened in Davis Cup, the controversy?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I try to forget about it as much as possible. It's just like another match for me. The big thing for me today was to go out there and try to make the quarterfinals of a Masters Series, which I've never done before. That was pretty big for me. That was sort of my goal going into the match.
Q. He seemed surprisingly passive in the first set, didn't seem like he wanted to step on the accelerator until the second set. Do you have any explanation?
LLEYTON HEWITT: What do you mean "go for it"?
Q. Hit a lot of balls down the middle, safe balls.
LLEYTON HEWITT: That's the way he was playing. I played it with him. That's all he did to me. Every time I was against the breeze, I tried looping the ball up high to my backhand. I did the same thing back to him. In a rally situation like that, I feel pretty comfortable that I'm going to come out the victor on most occasions.
Q. Almost as if he thought he could out-steady you.
LLEYTON HEWITT: Like I said before, his tactics were totally different today than it had been in the past. Normally he comes out and goes for the backhand down the line. I gave him that today; he didn't really want to take it. Only when he was in desperate trouble, a set and a break down, that a couple times he game up with a great backhand. That was only with the breeze. I can't recall him doing it against the breeze at all today.
Q. Which of the Grand Slam events in your mind would be the most difficult for you to win given your style?
LLEYTON HEWITT: It's hard to say. Very hard to say.
Q. Do you feel comfortable going into all of them?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I feel confident going into all of them. Obviously, the Australian and the US at the moment are probably a lot easier for me because they are on hard courts, and I was brought up playing on hard courts. I see no reason over the years why I can't -- I had a good result at Queen's this year, making the semis there, pushing Sampras. We all know that Sampras is one of the greatest players, if not the greatest player, on grass. But I know it is a lead-in tournament. It's not Wimbledon. You know, I still feel pretty comfortable on that. You know, I won a clay court tournament last year. Every match I play on clay, I feel a lot more confident.
Q. Going to be either Philippoussis or Gambill the next round. Are you ready to absorb Mark's big game?
LLEYTON HEWITT: They both have very big games. Obviously it will be great for Mark to get through, going into the Davis Cup tie. Hopefully Pat is going to have a tough time with Andre later tonight or this evening. If he can get through, Mark can get three, three guys in the quarters. Newc and Rochey can feel pretty well. Hitting the ball well going into Adelaide.
Q. What do you remember about your match with Gambill at Scottsdale?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I had a chance. I was down an early break in the third set. I broke back. Then I had 4-3, 30-40 on his serve. I got overruled. I felt like I was very, very close to winning that match. You know, I think I'm a better player because I did lose that match.
Q. How do you explain beating Mark Philippoussis on grass?
LLEYTON HEWITT: What do you mean?
Q. You beat him on grass, he beat you on a hard court.
LLEYTON HEWITT: I played him actually here last year, where I lost to him on the hard court. He was too good that day. He served huge. He had just won Indian Wells, so he was obviously seeing the ball pretty well. But, yeah, obviously I feel pretty confident I'm seeing the ball well at the moment. You know, to beat guys like Tommy Haas and Kafelnikov the last two matches in straight sets, obviously I've got a pretty good feel about my game going out there on the court. Obviously I'm going to have to raise the bar again to play Mark.
Q. To follow up on this grass-court thing, the fact you've had some good wins and play well on grass; despite what some people might think about your game and record, do you actually make alterations, like shorten your swing? Do you make changes or just go with what you've got?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Try a little bit of changes. But mainly, yeah, the return of serve is huge for me last year on grass. At Queen's, at Wimbledon, I made the third round, then also in the two Davis Cup matches where I won both my singles in Brisbane on grass. I worked on the return of serve. I thought, you know, if I can take away their serve, shorten my swing, go at them, make a lot of returns, I felt pretty comfortable. Once you get the short ball on grass, you've got to take that opportunity to get to net, as well.
Q. Do you shorten your swing?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Very little changes, but there are some, for sure.
Q. Like Andre Agassi, you seem to have that gift for picking the ball up off the racquet very quickly. Is it something that can be learned or improved by some kind of drill or training? Are you just born with it, and that's it?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I think I was lucky enough to be born with it, I think a little bit. You know, all the squad coaches always said that my return of serve was always my best shot. They used to put me up against the older guys, the top squads in South Australia at the time, the 18-year-olds, when I was 12 or 13. I'd be trying to return their serve. I'd never step back to that challenge, as well. I felt pretty comfortable at that stage. I was seeing a lot of big servers. They weren't big compared to the tour at the time, but they were pretty big to me.
Q. Can you take us through a service return, what you're looking for?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I'm just concentrating. Obviously in the back of my mind, I've been thinking about the way or the placement that he has been serving his last few serves, where he's gone. That's just the sort of a thing at the moment that pops inside your head. You get that instinct where he's going to go sometimes. Sometimes you're wrong, as well. There's not a lot you can do about that. I try and pick the ball up as soon as possible and just go forward to it.
Q. Do you start with the backhand grip, is that your ready-- ?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Pretty much a forehand grip, actually. I don't play -- it's sort of in the middle, it's not one or the other. It's closer to a forehand grip than a backhand.
Q. Going into a match with someone like Sampras, how daunting must it be to face that particular serve on grass?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, it's very hard. But, you know, that particular tournament in Queen's, I faced Philippoussis, Pioline, then Sampras. Sort of built up, as well. It wasn't like I was playing small servers first and second round. Obviously, playing those guys is very tough. You know if you do get that opportunity, second serve on breakpoint, you've got to take it. You know you're not going to get a second look.
Q. What would it take to beat Pete at Wimbledon?
LLEYTON HEWITT: It would take a hell of a player. You know, you'd have to be playing unbelievable. Obviously, he feels like that's his court out there.
Q. The ankle braces, is there a weakness?
LLEYTON HEWITT: No. If you recall, I twisted my ankle at LA last year.
Q. Both ankles are braced.
LLEYTON HEWITT: Just now for precaution.
Q. Security blanket more than anything?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Pretty much. There's no problem there now at all. I've been doing it ever since. It's just routine now.
Q. What was the reaction back home when you landed after the Davis Cup final?
LLEYTON HEWITT: It was huge. I suppose that's sort of the ultimate for us. TV cameras and everything. We were all landing at different times. Obviously some of the boys went back to their homes in America. I was one of those people who went straight home. It was huge back home to win the Davis Cup, because we'd won so many other World Cups, as well. It was sort of topping off a great year.
Q. Adelaide, it will be great, playing in your home city.
LLEYTON HEWITT: It's going to be fantastic. I'm sure we'll get a great crowd out there. I think they're building a few more stands as well. Looking at maybe 8,000. I'm looking forward to it.
Q. What's happened to your volume of fan mail in the last year?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Not that big. Obviously I get a fair bit of fan mail, stuff like that. You know, I'm sure it's not as big as Pat's or Mark's.
Q. How many proposals for marriage have you gotten?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I haven't had any of those.
Q. Was the win over Martin in Boston, the US strategy, We both beat Hewitt and we win the doubles. You took it right out of the first match. Was that quite a jump for you?
LLEYTON HEWITT: That was a big turning point for me. That was really getting into the big time. I think playing for your country, what had been such a talked-about tie. Everyone was saying, "Is Sampras going to play, is he not? Should we be playing in Australia or the US?" It was a huge tie to be playing in. I'm grateful that I got that opportunity. Obviously, it was a loss not having Mark on the team. I went out there, and I really knew that I had to stand up in that match. Newc and Rochey got me through.
Q. Five aces today. How close to a personal best is that?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I'm not sure. I think I served a few against Haas actually the other day. I'm not sure how many it was. It felt like a lot.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about all the success you've had this year? Could you have imagined you would be doing this well this year?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I don't think so, not at all. But obviously I had a great start to the year in Adelaide. My whole goal for the Australian summer was to be hitting the ball the best by the first round of the Australian Open. Obviously, I peaked a little bit early, but I kept it going right through the Australian circuit. I got that winning feeling, and I didn't want to let it go. I think that's sort of been the same way, you know, for the rest -- the last two or three months.