Hewitt looking to net gains this season
By AAP and Peter Ker
January 3, 2004
A refreshed Lleyton Hewitt may have committed to fiancee Kim Clijsters but he's finding it more difficult to agree to an increased playing schedule this year.
The 22-year-old, in Perth for the Hopman Cup, which starts today, eased speculation he would increase his playing schedule in an effort to return to the top of world tennis this year.
The 2001 US Open and 2002 Wimbledon champion, due to face Clijsters when Australia play Belgium next Wednesday, is yet to decide on his plans after sliding from No.1 to 17th in the world rankings last year.
"[I will] see what happens, I've not got past the round of 16 at the Aussie Open yet and the Hopman Cup and [adidas International in] Sydney is about working towards Melbourne for me and getting as much match preparation [as possible]," he said yesterday.
Andy Roddick, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Roger Federer have replaced Hewitt as the best male players after the South Australian scaled back his tournament commitments last year. But Hewitt said he had no regrets and felt the breather was a major factor in his crucial singles win over Spaniard Ferrero in Australia's Davis Cup final last November in Melbourne.
"It was awesome, I guess," Hewitt said. "Taking those last few months off before the Davis Cup final, I know people questioned it and the people closest to me didn't question it and knew what was best for me and it won us the Davis Cup in a lot of ways, as it won the match against Ferrero."
Hewitt toiled in hot conditions at the Burswood Dome yesterday for more than an hour and looked primed for another assault on the Australian Open in Melbourne, from January 19.
He'll be aiming to become the first Australian male to win the national open since 1976.
Hewitt said he felt stronger than ever and conceded the chance to become world No.1 again might provide too tantalising a challenge.
"I feel I have a lot of energy in the tank at the moment so if the chance comes around again to have a crack at number one I will be happy to take that chance."
Hewitt conceded there was unfinished business for he and Australian teammate Alicia Molik in the eight-nation cup tournament after they were defeated in the final by the United States last year.
The US have again been named top seeds for the mixed-teams event, but Lindsay Davenport has replaced Serena Williams this summer.
Hewitt will play unfancied Attila Savolt or little-known Canadian Frank Dancevic in Australia's opening tie on Sunday, depending on who wins today's qualifying tie.
Australia and Belgium have been installed by bookmakers as equal favourites.
The Russians have formed a strong team of 2000 US Open champion Marat Safin and world No.7 Anastasia Myskina and the Slovac Republic (Daniela Hantuchova/Karol Kucera) and France (Amelie Mauresmo/Fabrice Santoro) will also be competitive.
Hewitt played down questions about Wednesday's match-up against Belgium, and refused to discuss how he had proposed to Clijsters. He also was equally reticent about their wedding plans.
But he conceded their similar career paths meant he and the former women's world No.1 understood the burdens of the tennis world.
"It is good we both know what each other is going through, obviously I got to the pinnacle of tennis and now she is up there," he said. "And the pressures and whatever, we don't speak too much about tennis but if we do we can sort it out or help each other."
Meanwhile, Mark Philippoussis will contest next week's Qatar Open and the adidas International before returning to Melbourne Park for the Australian Open.
Speaking after a training session at Melbourne Park yesterday morning, Philippoussis said he was looking forward to beginning the year on a positive note.
"I've got two tournaments before the Aussie open, it has not been an ideal preparation for those, but they will be a good preparation for here," he said.
Much of Philippoussis's Christmas break was spent recovering from the pectoral muscle injury he sustained in the Davis Cup triumph.
This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/...908915799.html