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Hewitt to skip Olympics
Hewitt Will Skip Olympics
By Richard Pagliaro
Lleyton Hewitt has the mettle to medal — he just doesn't have space in his schedule to go for the gold. Stating his quest for another Grand Slam crown — as well as helping Australia defend its Davis Cup championship — are his top priorities, Hewitt announced he will not play in the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
The 2002 Wimbledon winner joins girlfriend Kim Clijsters in opting to skip the Olympics, though in his interview with respected Australian writer Leo Schlink published today in The Herald Sun, Hewitt said he made his decision based on his schedule rather than his relationship.
The Athens Olympic tennis tournament will be contested August 15th-22nd with the U.S. Open starting on August 30th. The 2001 U.S. Open champion, who plans to play Los Angeles, Toronto and Cincinnati as tune-up tournaments for the U.S. Open, said his desire to properly prepare for Flushing Meadows played a primary part in his decision to bypass Athens.
"The big thing is when we had the Sydney Olympics in 2000, it was after all the four majors had been played," Hewitt told Schlink. "Athens is being held right before the U.S. Open and it's got the same feeling as the Atlanta Olympics (in 1996) when a lot guys were missing because it was just so close before the U.S. Open. We're fortunate in tennis, I guess, that we're in a sport where we've got the four majors and Davis Cup every year and they're my main goals. I've sat down with (coach) Roger (Rasheed) and we've come up with a schedule designed for me to do well at the Grand Slams and Davis Cup. They're my priorities next year. I would like to win at least one major and help Australia successfully defend the Davis Cup."
Wimbledon finalist Mark Philippoussis — Hewitt's teammate on the Australian Davis Cup team, who has a tattoo of Alexander the Great on his shoulder to recognize his Greek heritage (Philippoussis' father, Nick, is from Greece) — is expected to play in the Athens Olympics.
Many prominent pros have said while they appreciate tennis is an Olympic Sport, realizing their Olympic opportunity is difficult due to an already extensive schedule that stretches nearly 11 months and requires them travel to several continents throughout the course of the year. Former top-ranked players such as Martina Hingis and Pete Sampras never played the Olympics. Andre Agassi, who cites his gold-medal triumph at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics as one of his career highlights, did not defend his title at the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics.
The 33-year-old Agassi has not announced if he plans to play in Athens. The Williams sisters both struck gold in Sydney as Venus captured the gold medal in singles and partnered with Serena to seize the gold in doubles. Neither Venus nor Serena has played since their meeting in the Wimbledon final in July. Both sisters say they plan to play the Australian Open in January, but have not yet announced if they will defend their Olympic title.
The 22-yearold Hewitt has hopes a shortened season would lead to a longer career. In an effort to prolong his career and focus on his primary pursuits: the Grand Slams and Davis Cup, Hewitt reduced his schedule in 2003 and did not play an ATP event after his quarterfinal loss to Juan Carlos Ferrero at the U.S. Open. Though his ranking as plummeted to No. 17, the move paid off as Hewitt scored two singles victories to help Australia capture the Davis Cup with a 3-1 victory over Spain last month.
Next year, Hewitt plans to play more tournaments. He will open the year at the Hopman Cup in Perth and play the adidas International as preparation for the Australian Open. Following the Melbourne Grand Slam, Hewitt will return home to Adelaide to play in Australia's opening-round Davis Cup tie against Sweden.
Concluding the winter season playing indoors in Rotterdam, Hewitt will travel to the States for the American spring hard-court season where he will begin his quest for a third consecutive Indian Wells title before moving on to Miami where he can pick up points after his opening-round loss to Franceso Clavet in 2003.
Traditionally, Hewitt has produced solid results playing on American hard courts. He had a disappointing clay-court season this year and could win valuable ranking points before Roland Garros in 2004. Hewitt plans to play either two or three clay-court tournaments before Paris, which may include Monte Carlo, Rome and/or Hamburg.
A first-round upset victim at Wimbledon this year, the three-time Queen's Club champion has scheduled the Stella Artois tournament and Wimbledon as his grass-court events before traveling to North America for the summer hard-court season.
A passionate and patriotic supporter of the Australian Davis Cup team, Hewitt has posted a 23-5 singles record, including a 5-0 singles mark this year, in a Davis Cup career that started in 1999. He needs two singles victories to eclipse Australia's Davis Cup record for most career singles victories. Adrian Quist currently holds the record for most singles wins with a 24-10 singles record in a nine-year cup career that began in 1933.
While he recognizes the prestige of playing in the Olympics, Hewitt said the team competition of Davis Cup makes it a more meaningful event.
"For athletes in many other sports, the Olympics are the be-all and end-all," Hewitt told Schlink. "It comes around once every four years for them and it's understandably huge. For a tennis player, you can pack up your bags after losing at the Olympics and be on cloud nine two weeks later if you've had a win in New York. For me, Davis Cup is about representing Australia in a team sport and I love it. Although you're still representing Australia at the Olympics, you're doing it as an individual."