Re: +++++ Come on Rusty in French Open Cheering Thread +++++
Lleyton plea for clay courts
LLEYTON HEWITT believes Australia must skip a generation if the country is ever to boast a regular supply line of clay court specialists.
The former world No.1 is the only Australian man left at this year's French Open after compatriots Mark Philippoussis, Wayne Arthurs and Todd Reid were all beaten on the first day.
"It's a bit hard to get guys who are probably 16 onwards. I think you have to look at the 10, 12 and 14-year-olds to get them on clay courts and teach them how to slide and move," said Hewitt, the 12th seed, after booking his place in the second round with a 6-0 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 6-1 win over France's Arnaud di Pasquale.
"I think it's a lot easier to adjust from being a good clay court player to become a good grass court or hard court player than vice-versa. The game has changed so much that you can play from the back of the court on all surfaces now."
Australia has been without a French Open champion since 1969, ever since Rod Laver won here, but Hewitt believes that if his country can encourage a culture of clay court tennis, then it might not be another 35 years before another Laver comes along.
"It wouldn't be hard for the kids to play on clay if we had clay courts in Australia.
"For the older guys, it's always going to be a lot tougher to make the transition. But the surface at the French Open is probably the least favourite for all Australians."
Hewitt's best performance here came in 2001 when he made the quarter-final and he next faces Austria's Jurgen Melzer who eliminated veteran South African Wayne Ferreira.
He beat the Austrian just two weeks ago in Hamburg and, to fuel his confidence further here, his section of the draw has opened up with seventh seed Rainer Schuettler of Germany losing to Balgium's Xavier Malisse today.