Re: Lleyton's Press Conference
January 10, 2001, 2nd Round
Lleyton Hewitt - Andrew Ilie 6-4 6-1
THE MODERATOR: First question for Lleyton.
Q. Was there any sense there today that you didn't get a good enough game, or are you quite happy with the way it went?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Sure, it's always nice to get through in straight sets. I felt like I went out there and, you know, I knew what I had to do out there today. I felt like I did it early, and there's areas of my game that I could build on as soon as I had that sort of solid base out there today through the first set. The second set, I felt like I played some good tennis, probably the best tennis I'd done in the last week and a half. As long as it keeps going in the right way, forward, then come next week, I should be starting to hit the ball well.
Q. Is it a case of just finding your rhythm today? Is that the difference?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah. It's strange. I feel like I've just been getting better with every match I play, just getting that match fitness back. I'm out there. Obviously, it was a long year last year. I only had a little bit of a break. But to come off clay courts on to rebound, I felt that was probably the biggest difference the last couple weeks. I felt like it's actually taken me a while. My footwork is normally pretty good on rebound ace. I've been struggling sort of out there the last week or so. Today I felt very good, and I had to be very good against a player like Andrew because he has you running along the baseline a lot.
Q. Is rebound ace your favorite surface?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah. In the past it always has been my favorite surface. Now I'd like to think -- I've played well on American hardcourts, US Open. I've played well on grass and, you know, the Davis Cup on clay as well. I'm starting to get an all-around, I think, game, and it's definitely helping on all surfaces. Rebound ace is what I was brought up on in Adelaide, Memorial Drive. Probably still every time I step on rebound ace, it feels like home.
Q. Two questions. Following off of what you just said, when you were in Adelaide and in Sydney last year, you were very much a mystery. No one really knew where you were heading or where you were going. Since then, you've become a Top 10 player. You have become very famous on the Tour. How has life changed for you?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I don't think it's changed so much. Obviously, probably the last two or three years in Australia, ever since I sort of made that breakthrough winning Adelaide in my first Tour event, that was a bigger surprise for me because sort of you go from being totally unknown to a lot of people knowing you, only because I won a tournament at the age of 16, beat Andre Agassi, so forth. So it was probably a bigger jump then or bigger surprise then than it has been the last year or so even though I've gone from 22 to 7 in the world. I think the biggest difference is a lot more people knowing you overseas now for sure. You go around America, you could be walking around the streets, they know the US Open's on so they're looking for a lot of people out there, and a lot more people recognize you around that time of year. You know, that's just part of being a professional tennis player. I think because I got it early in Australia, I think I've been able to deal with it overseas a lot better.
Q. That doesn't bug you at all?
LLEYTON HEWITT: No, not really. You know, obviously, I hung around the Davis Cup guys a lot sort of at the start when, you know, I was just an orange boy and that there, I saw how guys like Pat Rafter, the Woodies, Stolty handled it. I think with Newk and Roche, they've been a big help probably handling the fans and the media and stuff like that for me.
Q. Talking about those off-court things, the fans, the media, the money, are you enjoying that side of life as well?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, it's fantastic. You know, to be earning a good living playing, you know, a game that I love. I just love being around tennis courts. I love getting out there and competing. And, you know, to be earning, as I said, a good living, travelling the world, seeing different sites, seeing different countries, different cultures, it's a dream. I've just been fortunate enough that I made that breakthrough at a young age and God gave me that opportunity, and I took it straight away.
Q. With the fame, you lose a little bit of your privacy. Does that worry you?
LLEYTON HEWITT: It's just something you got to put up with. You know, you win some, you lose some. It's just part of being a professional athlete and part of being at the top in a sport, I suppose.
Q. How would you analyze Andrew's game? When you know you've got to play him, how do you think about it? What sort of tactics do you go through knowing that he's going to come out there and try to blast you off the court?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, for a guy like myself, I've got to be very steady from the baseline. I've got to, you know, be very strong from the baseline, got to be strong in the legs, move quickly around the court, and I've got to make him play a lot of balls. There's only very few shots that he'll play during a match where he's actually balanced. That's a very strange type of player to play, because he is one of a kind. And, you know, a lot of people have said that if he does make the Top 10 in the world, it would be fantastic for the game of tennis because, you know, he draws in a lot of people to watch him play just through the shot making that he has. You know, this is the first time I've played him in a professional ATP tournament. He's got a good game, a very different game. But, you know, he's not always there, sort of, 100 percent. You know, he does lose it occasionally, loses his concentration on big points sometimes, and that's one of sort of the areas of his game that he's got to work on.
Q. Without being cheeky, is there any other advice you could offer him? Because he is such a personality.
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, you know, I -- with the game that he's got, I think he just has to keep doing his own thing. I don't think there's a lot that other players can really tell him to do. We can't hit the shots that he hits. Some of the shots, you just got to look at and laugh when you're out there, because they're unbelievable. You know, as I said, he's a totally different kind of player. I don't think there will be too many players on the Tour copying his game.
Q. Having made such a quantum leap last year, what's your priorities for this year? Is it titles? Is it rankings? What is it?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Obviously, the Davis Cup's the highlight of sort of the whole year for me. You know, Davis Cup's sort of, when you pencil in the schedule, that's there, you look at hopefully the four rounds. We got a tough one coming up against Ecuador in Perth. Then it's just Grand Slams. It's really is a time for me to start doing well in the Grand Slams, start making the semis and finals. Then, obviously, the Masters Series events as well. I was a little bit unlucky. I lost in five sets in the Stuttgart final late last year. I think that's a good base for me to build on this year though, in those kind of big events.
Q. How many players do you think can win the Australian Open? Is it a larger number than normal, or are we talking about an elite?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I think it's a very large number. I think there's a lot of junior, sort of the junior guys, age about 19, 20, 21, there's probably a handful at least who have a chance of knocking off some of the top players, I think. To actually be able to win a Grand Slam, I think, you know, may be a different story if you got to play guys like Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi in the semifinal, finals, and they've got the experience of being there sort of on the weekend, last weekend of a Grand Slam, you know. There's definitely obviously Safin, Kuerten, Sampras, Agassi are probably the favorites I'd say. Then Kafelnikov always plays well in Australia as well. The guys to look out for are Roger Federer, Carlos Ferrero, you know, even a guy like Grosjean can do a lot of damage in the draw, I think, as well.
Q. Based on how you played today, Lleyton, you must be back on your serve for the last weekend for the Australian Open. Are you?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Oh, I think I'm getting better and better. You know, I think a lot depends on a lot of luck in a Grand Slam, and, you know, the draw and stuff like that. And, hopefully, I can get through my first couple of matches, you know, comfortably in three or four sets and don't get pushed to that fifth set where you've got to waste a lot of energy getting through the first couple of rounds. I think if everything goes right and I start hitting the ball really well, and the path that I've been going on sort of the last couple of weeks, I think I'm going to be, you know, a good chance.
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I think so. That's something I'm going to block out. If you have a look at my results since I've had that, the US Open semifinal anyway, where I thought I had my chances against Pete in that one.