Re: Lleyton's Press Conference
September 8, 2001, SF
Lleyton Hewitt - Yevgeny Kafelnikov 6-1 6-2 6-1
NEW YORK CITY
MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Who would you prefer if you had a choice to meet in the final tomorrow?
LLEYTON HEWITT: It's hard to say. I'm not really sure. You know, Safin is obviously a big hitter, got a big serve. Pete, the way he's playing at the moment, the way he played against Andre and Pat, he's going to be very tough to beat, as well. They both didn't have great lead-ups, US summer, coming into this. That just proves how much class they've got when it comes to Grand Slams and big matches. I can't even predict who is going to win this. Sort of suck it and see really.
Q. Obviously, you get yourself pumped up for a big match, semifinal. How strange is it to come in it, have an opponent play so flat? Is it tough to adjust to that?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, a little bit. But I knew I had a job to do. You know, I just kept going after it out there. You know, it's hard to sort of keep your concentration, though, when you're about to serve for it to go two sets to Love up, and you know he's not playing his best tennis. You think he can only get better out here. Yevgeny is that kind of guy. If you give him a sniff early in the third set, he's going to stay out there and fight it to the very end. I wanted to sort of keep the momentum going early in the third set. I was able to get up that early break, sort of finish it from there.
Q. Coming off a five-setter, then the devastating result you had here today, can you feel any better or more prepared no matter who it is you face tomorrow?
LLEYTON HEWITT: No, but, you know, I prefer to be out and finished, sit back and watch those guys grind it out. Even though I didn't get through, I had to play the late match. It was a lot later because we had the women's final in between the men's two semis. That's maybe one of the reasons why Pete wasn't up for it so much the next day. Definitely it's in my favor, but also I had a long match, I've had a couple of long matches, throughout the tournament. Had a long match against Andy, you know, a couple of days ago, as well. You know, I was happy that I could get out of this one relatively quickly.
Q. Very eventful two weeks here. Can you just talk about your emotional highs and lows, how you're feeling now, what's left in the tank going into the final?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I feel good. You know, I've been -- I wasn't hitting the ball well really at the start. I hadn't had a great US summer, even though I sort of fought through Cincinnati to make the semis there, you know, lose to Pat in the end. But it just wasn't clicking. I came here, I was fighting through my matches, but it still wasn't really there. You know, I stepped it up really against Tommy Haas, best match, maybe a little against Portas, but against Tommy I stepped up and played. Against Andy, that's when I played some of my best tennis. I tried to take that confidence into today. I'm definitely going to still be on that high from the last two or three matches that I played, you know, very consistently out there. I've been moving well. You know, I'm going to try to take that into tomorrow's final.
Q. You served for the match, you thought you had an ace, celebrated, the chair umpire called the let. What were you feeling at that particular second?
LLEYTON HEWITT: You know, I had to try and concentrate. You know, another first serve. I still went for it. You know, I've never been in that situation, serving to try to get into the first Grand Slam final. Find yourself 40-Love up. Gets back to deuce. You know, I played a little bit tentatively there. But then I felt like, you know, I went out there and I hit some good shots on the next match point when I had my fourth opportunity.
Q. Did you say anything to the chair umpire when he called the let, like, "I can't believe this just happened"?
LLEYTON HEWITT: No, I just asked him. It was like the crowd and everything sort of happened all at once. I didn't hear the actual -- normally I can hear it if it's going to clip the tape. I didn't actually hear it. That's why as soon as he said it, it was one of those serves that could have touched the net.
Q. It's not unusual for athletes or even teams of athletes after a very emotional victory to come down a little bit, not be able to get up for the next match. What's your plan for staying emotionally stable after a match like this so you can come back in the next match?
LLEYTON HEWITT: You know, you enjoy it sort of for an hour or two after the match. You know, you reflect on the win. You definitely don't go out and celebrate. But you reflect on it and you enjoy it, but then you've sort of got to think ahead. Still two matches to be played here if I was going to win this tournament. I knew that I had a good chance against Yevgeny today, and I didn't want to let it slip. Never made it through to a Grand Slam final. Now that I've given myself that opportunity, it's sort of the same thing. I'm just going to carry out the same sort of strategy that I did after the Roddick match.
Q. After the commotion and controversy in the second round, how have you been able to focus? What have you done? Does that seem like ages ago?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Doesn't feel like ages ago. You know, I've just blocked it out. I've just gone out there and taken it one match at a time. You know, I know if I play my best tennis, I'm capable of winning big matches. I've been able to do it in Davis Cup ties. You know, I've probably thought about those Davis Cup ties I've been through, the Barcelona match against Costa and Ferrero, then the Brazil match where a lot of things were against you. I went out there, played my best tennis, came out on top. That's what I've been thinking about for the last week and a half.
Q. How upset and frustrated were you during those three or four days?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, you know, I really didn't have much control of it after that. I just tried to block it out as much as possible. As I said, I was playing in one of the four biggest tournaments we wait for throughout the year. I didn't want to let something like that sort of, you know, block my tennis game. I haven't let that happen. It's something I can be proud of.
Q. You've been known for your mental strength for a long time. Has there ever been a time in your career when you allowed distractions to get inside your head? Have you learned something from that? Are you able to tunnel through those things?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I can't really remember a time when I haven't been mentally tough out there. You know, it's something I've done, coming through the Juniors. Haven't been as big and strong as a lot of the guys. I never played my own age group in Juniors. I was always playing one, two, maybe three years above my age. I had to find a way to have an edge over those guys because I wasn't going to overpower them or serve bigger out there. So obviously my movement was one of those. The other thing was being very mentally tough out on the court. I've been able to do that. That just came through into the senior ranks as soon as I got my opportunity. I qualified when I was 15 for the Australian Open. I believed I was able to match it through those quallying rounds. The next year I felt like I was able to win the tournament in Adelaide. I didn't doubt myself, whether I was playing Agassi or whoever I was playing through that whole week. That's one of the main reasons why I've been able to get in the Top 10, the Top 5, at such a young age.
Q. Is that something your dad taught you or you learned on your own?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, a little bit of both. You know, that definitely helped me in that area, that's for sure. You know, I think I've learned sort of throughout myself that I needed some way to beat those older guys in Juniors. This was one of the ways. I've had a few coaches and squads as well tell me that along the way.
Q. Considering that obviously when you were 15 years old, you play your first professional match against Bruguera in the Australian Open, was a big occasion, you mention now Davis Cup ties, you have been to other occasions. In your singles career, this probably will be the most important match of your life.
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, apart from those Davis Cup matches that I've played, it's on par with those. But, you know, in my personal career, it's definitely going to be the biggest match tomorrow. I've won maybe nine tournaments, I think, but I haven't been able to crack it in the Masters Series or the Grand Slams. Last year my best result was the semifinals here. I've made quarterfinals, Round of 16s pretty consistently this year. I said coming in here, it's been a good year without being a great year. It's getting a little bit better now.
Q. I know you've been a big fan of Rocky movies. The parallel here is Rocky came back and won his last fight. I'm wondering if maybe you'll take in a Rocky movie to prepare yourself?
LLEYTON HEWITT: No, I don't think so. I haven't watched one for a long time, but everyone keeps talking about it. I've watched it many times, I know every word in it. I won't have to watch it. It's a great movie. Very motivational.
Q. Did you ever visit the steps in Philadelphia?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I've never been to Philadelphia. If I went, I would.
Q. If somebody didn't know you were an Aussie, would look at your Australian Open and US Open results, comparable surfaces, you clearly really responded to the situation here. Can you comment on that? What's your take on why you've done so well here and struggled more at home?
LLEYTON HEWITT: You know, it's hard to say. This year I felt like I was hitting the ball great going into the Australian Open, as well as I've ever hit the ball. I had probably one of the toughest draws you could get in a Grand Slam. I had Bjorkman, to play Tommy Haas, to play Carlos Moya. I got out of the Bjorkman match in a tough five-setter. I beat Tommy in three extremely tough sets. I eventually lost to Carlos Moya 7-5 in the fifth after having a lot of chances in that match. I felt like if I could have gotten over that hurdle, the draw may have opened up for me, as you saw Clement and Grosjean in the semifinal there. You know, in terms of playing my best tennis, I think I've hit the ball as well in Australia as I've been hitting it here. Things just haven't broken through for me. You need that little something to open up in the draw maybe for you to get through. The other thing, maybe I've taken a week off the last two years before the Grand Slam. In Australia, I haven't done that. Maybe that's an option I have to look at down the future.
Q. You mentioned playing up as a junior, Barcelona, Brazil. There's been this tournament this week. As kind of a feisty fighter, does it sort of help you to have a big obstacle in front of you where the odds are sort of against you? Does that help you in any way?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I don't know if it helps me. It's something that I don't, you know, turn away from. I enjoy challenges. I enjoy going out there, you know, sometimes being the underdog out there. I think that's one reason I've never doubted myself in those situations. That's what's come through in Brazil and Barcelona where I've played those big matches, where the crowd has been against you, you're playing better players on their home surface in front of their home crowd. I've still been able to have that self-belief in myself every time I've gotten to that situation. It's a little bit the same here, I suppose, the last couple days.
Q. You defeated Corretja in the Australian Open like today Yevgeny Kafelnikov. Have you been in the situation, on their side, in some of the matches? Do you think how the opposition feels in a match like today or against Corretja in Australia?
LLEYTON HEWITT: You know, I haven't lost that convincingly, I don't think. I was down 5-Love in the first set against Haas, but I got out of that in the Australian Open this year. You know, it's obviously tough, though, there's no doubt about that. You know, Grand Slams are what you live for, that's what you play for. You know, Yevgeny, he's been there and done it. He knows what it takes to win Grand Slam titles. Obviously, he had an off day. Everyone has those kinds of days. He's going to bounce back, no doubt about that.
Q. A big part of Yevgeny's win over Gustavo was his play around the net. He was very aggressive. You dominated him the few times that he did get to the net today. Did you sense passing him or forcing errors at the net today got into his head, maybe made him a bit more passive than he wanted to be?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, well, I'd seen a few of his matches, a few points of his last few rounds. He looked to be coming in, looking for that opportunity to come to net more and more. You know, I wasn't surprised when he tried to do that early. I believe my passing shots are one of my best strengths. I went out there and I knew I was capable of passing him most times he came in. Got off to a good start. Then I think he really wasn't sure what to do out there. I think that was half of his game plan, to try and throw in that surprise tactic of coming to the net, sort of rushing me, putting me off a little bit. Didn't worry me. I got lucky on a few passes maybe, and he missed a couple of volleys there. He really didn't know where to go from there, I don't think.
Q. Patrick Rafter, for example, he would just keep coming in, be in your face.
LLEYTON HEWITT: But, you know, Pat is a lot better at net than Yevgeny is, as well. That's his natural game. Yevgeny's natural game isn't to come in. He was doing something which, you know, in the past few matches may have helped him a little bit, but it's something that maybe you can't rely on in pressure situations.
Q. There's been analysis in terms of why your Grand Slam record wasn't better, even though of course you are 20. Is this sort of justification of your methods, the amount of tennis you play, which of course is being questioned? What would winning a Grand Slam title mean to you, also?
LLEYTON HEWITT: It's obviously a big step, making the final of a Grand Slam. You know, I felt like it was, you know, just a matter of time. I'd made so many semifinals. In Masters Series, I've beaten so many of the big guys in smaller tournaments. When I started with Darren, we weren't looking at trying to win Grand Slams at the age of 18, 19, 20. We were looking at 24, 25, 26, so on. I still have areas of my game to work on that's going to make me a better player. To answer your second question, you know, it would be a dream. I haven't really even thought about it. Up to here, I didn't really give myself a great chance going into the tournament of winning it. To be in this situation now, it's hard to reflect on it. Hasn't really sunk in that I'm going to be in a Grand Slam final tomorrow. You know, I'm going to go out there, give everything I got, leave it all on the court, that's for sure.
Q. You talked about what you learned from last year's semifinal. What do you think is the most important thing you'll take away from this semifinal?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Just the way that I, you know, handled myself out there today. You know, I was able to, you know, get on top of him early. I played to my game plan perfectly out there today. Everything went my way. Hopefully I can take, you know, that experience if I make a few more semifinals in Slams, take that into those.
Q. You said something about Pete and Safin weren't playing well coming in here. There was some report that came out about this virus, the fatigue thing bothering you. Is that still true? Is that still a factor now?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Comes and goes. It's been a thing no one has been able to put their finger on. There's days when I feel better; there's days when I don't feel so good. It's something that over the -- it's been going on for, you know, 13, 14 months now. It's something that I've just had to learn to block out. You know, the last 12 or 13 months has been my best tennis results. I'm currently No. 4 in the world. That's my highest ranking. You know, it's something that I've just got to try to fight through, for example.
Q. Against Roddick, long match, you felt pretty good?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Actually felt pretty good in that one. It's something that I can't get ahold of. They're not sure if it's allergy related.
Q. What did you take away from last year's semifinal loss to Pete? If you do play him tomorrow, what will you do differently?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, he's a big match player, there's no doubt about that. He's one of the greats. You know, I didn't take my chances when I had him last year. I had set point in the first set. Short forehand, just missed it wide. Then he played too well to break me. Wins the second set. Third set, I lead a break, let him back in. Had chances in that third set tiebreak, as well. Just a matter of handling my nerves in those pressure situations. If I play him again, I have to take my chances because he doesn't give you a lot of them.
Q. Going to be a different ballgame tomorrow. Will you seek any sort of advice? Who will you talk to to try to put you in a frame of mind of what you can expect when you go out on court tomorrow?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I'm not sure. Might have to talk to Kim. She went through a big one. You know, I might talk to Pat overnight. He's probably the best guy, knows this place better than anyone. He knows the last day of a Grand Slam here in New York better than anyone else. I'll probably give him a call and see how he handles it, how he does so well in US Open finals.
Q. Where is he at the moment?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Don't know. I haven't spoken to him. I guess he's in Australia, but I'm not sure.
Q. Did you hear The Crow's results?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, not good. I'll have to try to do better.
Q. In these days of 140 mile-an-hour serves, guys are 6'4", Pete at 6'1" is pretty big, as you have come up in the last couple years, was there a time when you thought, "I'm not going to be able to reach the top because the game has servers that are too big, I can't compete"?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Not really. It's something that I drew confidence from guys like Michael Chang and Andre Agassi. Agassi has won every Grand Slam on every surface. That just goes to show, he beat Ivanisevic in the final of Wimbledon, where a lot of people would have probably doubted that a guy standing at the back couldn't win Wimbledon against a guy with such a big serve as Goran. Andre has been able to win on every surface. You know, he moves so well. I think that's one reason. Obviously, he hits the ball extremely hard from the baseline. Michael Chang, he got to No. 2 in the world, had so many chances of winning more Grand Slams. He is a very small guy, but was very quick around the court. He was very mentally tough out there, as well. They're the kind of guys I draw a lot of confidence from.
Q. Such a big part of your game is your legs. What do you do on an off-tournament week when you have time to train? How important are your legs to you?
LLEYTON HEWITT: They're very important. You know, my movement is one of my main areas of my game. It's like a weapon. You know, I've got to take good care of it. When I can, I do a lot of running at home, 400s, sand hills, that kind of thing.
Q. You said a number of times, "I've got to block this or that out." What do you do to relax between matches?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, you know, not a lot. I've been just getting massages every day, chilling out back in the hotel. You know, go out to dinner, just have a quiet dinner. That's pretty much it. Haven't gone to see any movies. Just listen to music, stuff like that.