Re: Lleyton's Press Conference
PACIFIC LIFE OPEN
March 17, 2002, Final
Lleyton Hewitt - Tim Henman 6-1 6-2
INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA
MODERATOR: With his first career Tennis Masters Series title, Lleyton has now won his 14th overall career title, and he also has won 18 matches in a row going back to the US Open in the United States. Questions for Lleyton.
Q. How do you serve 46% serve in a set and yet dominate the set like you did in the first set?
LLEYTON HEWITT: You know, wasn't all about my serve. You know, Tim couldn't do much with my second serve, so I was always in the point anyway. We were both a little bit nervous at the start, but then I sort of got on a roll. I've played some big servers in the last few matches - Gambill, Sampras and Enqvist. I felt like I was in a good rhythm, seeing my returns and feeling it out there. I didn't give him any chance on his service game. I think that builds up with one of his main strengths. I was sort of taking it away from him a little bit out there.
Q. Can you talk about how satisfying these last two events have been, considering where you were in January?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, it's a bit of surprise really. You know, I worked extremely hard, a lot of hours on the court, in my backyard when I was able to pick up the racquet again after a few months off. Then to come out and to play the way that I have, you know, be mentally tough out there, you know, the fitness level back again, you know, it's a great feeling.
Q. How much confidence are you taking out there right now?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Oh, a lot of confidence. You know, I step on the court and I believe I can win every time. That's a good thing to have, especially when you're playing against guys the caliber of a Henman or a Sampras or, you know, Enqvist.
Q. How much more faith do you have in your shots than you did, say, nine months ago?
LLEYTON HEWITT: It's hard to say. You know, I still feel like I'm just about playing the same. I've just got that little bit more confidence. I think I've worked on areas of my game a little bit more which, you know, have come out in the big times, under pressure situations in matches, MVP conditions, rather than just practice now. Obviously, my serve has been one of those. You know, it's good to have, you know, something you can fall back on that you know you've been on the practice court doing a lot, and it will come out in the matches.
Q. Obviously seven or eight months ago you'd had some fabulous results and some wonderful performances in Davis Cup. Now you've just been on an incredible run, starting with US Open, Sydney, two tournaments here. Are you in any way either surprised or particularly impressed at yourself at how much you've emerged as a dominant player on the men's tour?
LLEYTON HEWITT: You know, it's a little bit surprising I think for anyone to start doing it at the age of 20. But, you know, dominating, that's a big word. Yeah, I wouldn't say dominating. Yeah, I give myself a chance every time I step on the court. You know, I feel confident every time. You know, I have been playing strong in the big matches when it counts the last few months. It gets to a big match, a big time sort of show-time match and it doesn't worry me at all. I go out there, I play with no fear. It is a little bit surprising, though, that I've been able to win, this is my 14th title, in such a short time. It's good.
Q. You've had also big wins against Andre, incredible win against Pete, now Tim. What player would you fear the most in a big match?
LLEYTON HEWITT: You know, there's no one I really fear the most. I take everyone on the day really. I think it's a case of that because, you know, on a different day I think Tim's going to be extremely dangerous. Pete can be dangerous, you know, if he's serving big. Andre, he's always dangerous. You know, I think a lot depends on the day with a lot of these guys, the conditions, the surface, stuff like that. But, you know, in the last few months, confidence as well has a big part to do with it, and I've had it against all the big guys. There's not one player that I, you know, fear the most.
Q. Besides your serve, what else have you beefed up?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Just, you know, I've sort of just got my base there, my groundstrokes and that, just been consistent, something I can always fall back to. If things aren't going right, I can always fall back to my solid game, which is, you know, just try and dictate points from the back of the court and, you know, not make too many cheap errors. You know, I've been able to do that when I had to. After I lost the first set against Pavel, I was able to go back to that and try and step it up again. It was really the only time I had to do it throughout the week, you know, when I was in a little bit of trouble.
Q. What does winning this tournament mean to you?
LLEYTON HEWITT: It means a lot. You know, these tournaments are so tough, you know, as tough as slams. It's only the best-of-five set format is the only tougher part about a Slam. You still have to win six matches in seven days in this tournament. In this field, there's not too many players missing here. You go to some of the clay court Masters Series, or the indoors, and some of the top guys don't go. So you're playing a little bit weaker than a Slam, but not in this one. This is an extremely tough field. You've got to be playing well to win it.
Q. You're definitely the boss on hard courts now. Did you settle a game plan for the clay court season already? How far do you think you can go on clay?
LLEYTON HEWITT: No, I haven't set really any game plans. I feel like, you know, hard court is still my favorite surface at the moment. You know, it's hard not to be. But there's no reason why I can't do it within the next two or three years on clay, I don't think. My game suits clay. It's a matter of, you know -- growing up in Australia, we don't see a clay court. It's been a gradual process for me. I feel like the more bigger matches I play on clay, the better off I'm going to be. But, you know, obviously the main goal is the French Open, one day to hold up that trophy. I think it's within range. Whether it's this year, though, that's a big question.
Q. You said two or three years. Do you think this year is a little bit early?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Could be. You know, obviously I've been getting better and better at the French, there's no doubt about that. But, you know, if I play like I did against let's say Guga in Brazil, if I play like that every match, then I'm sure I can win the French - I know I can. But whether this year's going to be the one for me to put seven matches together, best-of-five sets on clay against those caliber of players - Ferrero, there's so many good clay-courters - you know, I'm not quite sure if it's this year. But I'm going to give it a go anyway.
Q. Do you think maybe sometime in the next couple weeks you're going to wake up and you would have actually lost a match or do you think this can go on?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I'll lose a match sometime. Can't tell you when it's going to be (smiling). You know, I'm just feeling -- as I said, it's a strange situation. I feel confident out there. You know, sooner or later it's going to stop. Someone is going to be better than you on the day. You know, won't be a huge set back for me anyway.
Q. Have you felt any better at any other time in your career about your tennis than you do today?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Felt pretty good after winning the US Open and Masters Cup, getting to No. 1, you know, beating Guga in Brazil. There have been times when I felt as good. But, you know, when today comes, you can sort of look back at all the last ones, think, "Gee, I've done well over that period, held it up for that period." There's only been the one hiccup at the Australian Open. If you count the two Hopman Cup matches, there's another two wins there. I feel great. If I didn't have the hiccup in the Australian Open, who knows what the situation would have been now or whether I would have had a chance of winning the Australian Open.
Q. You just mentioned some really special moments, US Open, No. 1, Guga. Is beating Guga in Brazil the most special or do I have that wrong?
LLEYTON HEWITT: It's tough to beat your first Grand Slam, winning the Davis Cup in France, getting to No. 1, beating a guy, my closest mate on tour, to get to No. 1. They're all up there. I don't think you can really pinpoint one out. Obviously, winning a Grand Slam, the US Open, you know, the Guga match would have been better if it was in the final of a Davis Cup rather than a second round.
Q. I asked you the other day if it occurred to you that maybe you could go undefeated for the rest of the year. You dismissed the question by saying that that would be awfully tough. Why would it be so tough if somebody is playing as good you did in this tournament?
LLEYTON HEWITT: The rest of the year - maybe through Miami hopefully. The rest of the year, I've got to go apply on clay, then I've got to play on grass. You know, sooner or later you're going to have a slip-up, I'm sure. That's why Sampras or Agassi's never done it either.
Q. Why are you setting your sights so low Lleyton?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah (laughter). No. 1, you should be able to play like that every day.
Q. Do you ever reflect back on the Roddick match at The Open, how close that was?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Not really. You know, it was a big match. I felt like I played pretty well for the whole match. It was a great standard of tennis. It was a lot of emotion out there. You know, I felt like, you know, I gutsed that one out, got through it, went on. I played well from sort of the Round of 16 onwards. After the rain delay against Tommy Haas, I won the next three sets after dropping that. I extended it right through. That was pretty much the start of it.
Q. For the standard of the tournament, do you regret that the final is not best-of-five?
LLEYTON HEWITT: You know, it's hard to say. It's definitely disappointing I think just because I don't know if they've ever played best-of-three here or not.
MODERATOR: Since '84 it was the first time.
LLEYTON HEWITT: It's sort of been best-of-five for so long. What I've read, I think it's just for TV. It's strange waking up and playing at 10:30, as well. I don't think that suits both players. After trying to get up for a big semifinal, you sort of want to have a bit of a sleep-in, just calm everything down before going out there and playing at 10:30. It's tough. Sooner or later you have to start looking at the players and what's best in the players' interest. I know TV is a big part of it, but you have to draw the line somewhere.
Q. You're not turning into a morning guy?
LLEYTON HEWITT: No. I've been waking up early anyway. It wasn't a huge, huge problem for me. I played a lot of 10:00 matches actually this week.
Q. When you're so much into the match, do you hear anything from the sidelines?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Not really. I hear Jason and Kim and my mate Hayden (ph), Kim's coach in the crowd, saying, "Come on." But nothing too special out there. I'm trying to block out most of the thoughts and just -- you're so into the match yourself that you really only hear your own thoughts going on inside your head anyway.
Q. That's a fairly unusual winner's trophy in front of you (referring to the Pacific Life Whale trophy). What are your thoughts about it?
LLEYTON HEWITT: It looks nice. It's strange, saw it come out on the court. But, yeah, it's nice. It's unique anyway.
Rusty - always # 1 in my heart