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Default Re: Lleyton's Press Conference

US OPEN

September 9, 2001, Final

Lleyton Hewitt - Pete Sampras 7-6(4) 6-1 6-1

NEW YORK CITY

MODERATOR: Questions for Lleyton.


Q. As a Grand Slam champion, you have to take your hat off.

LLEYTON HEWITT: Take my hat off? My hair's not done (laughter).

Q. Well done.

LLEYTON HEWITT: Thank you.

Q. You must be delighted with your performance today.

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah. It hasn't sunk in yet. You know, walking out there to play Pete Sampras in your first-ever Grand Slam final, it's, you know, something that you'll never forget, that's for sure. Obviously, I had a few nerves coming in there playing possibly the greatest player ever to live in probably my biggest ever match, you know, in tennis. I got off to a pretty good start, then got broken straight back. You know, just sort of settled the nerves. That was pretty good.

Q. You weren't awed, were you? You've been talking about your firmness of mind and how you can block things out, and you have blocked things out. I don't really believe you were awed out there. You just went right after him from the first game.

LLEYTON HEWITT: I've looked forward to this moment. You know, it's something that, you know, you dream of doing, walking out there and playing in a Grand Slam final, you know, playing that seventh match of two weeks. I didn't want to let the chance sort of slip by, that's for sure. I was definitely up for the match. I felt I'd been getting better and better each match that I played. You know, I definitely gave myself a big chance today, the way that I was hitting the ball, every second day got better.

Q. How crucial was that first tiebreak in terms of establishing some sort of psychological lead anyway?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, it was huge, no doubt about it. You know, I was under a fair bit of pressure on my service games throughout the first set. I was able, after dropping it in the second game, able to sneak out of those service games. It was pretty big. I started as well up the better end. I started the tiebreak. I knew I had to get off to a pretty quick start, otherwise Pete was going to be on me in the second half of the breaker. Changed ends at 3-All after doing a double-fault. Still gave myself a pretty good chance, knowing I played a great passing shot at 4-3 to get the mini break. I was able to hold on from there.

Q. Was that better than Brazil or on par?

LLEYTON HEWITT: It's hard to say. I think they're two totally different situations. You know, Davis Cup, you're playing for your whole country. You're playing for your nation. You know, still I knew all the Australians were behind me when I went out there to play today, as well. I think it's on par with when I beat Kuerten in Brazil.

Q. Did you have any problems with the wind?

LLEYTON HEWITT: It was tough. It's one of the toughest condition days that I've had to play in and had to deal with. I felt like I got better and better. But early it was very tough because, you know, Pete hits the ball so heavy. He's got a big serve. I really didn't get too many chances up the end when he was serving with the wind. He didn't give me too many chances on most of those games. I was trying to fight my butt off to hold serve that first set up that first end. It was extremely tough in that sense. Then I started passing well after that.

Q. Did you watch the US Open final last year and see how Marat handled Pete? Did you ever think, "I might be able to do that someday"?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I watched probably a set I think before leaving. I was out of here. But, you know, Marat handled himself great in his first Grand Slam final, as well. You know, I just knew, believing in myself, that I was capable of doing it out there, handling the pressures that come with going into your first Grand Slam final. You know, I've been through a lot of things for a 20-year-old, and I've played a lot of big matches, especially in Davis Cup ties. I've come out of those, you know, pretty well so far.

Q. Were you nervous last night? Were you thinking about the match? Did you sleep well?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I was nervous. You're not human if you're not going to be nervous going into your first Grand Slam final, but I'm sure any Grand Slam final you'll be nervous. It was very hard to sort of eat too much, as well. I didn't really feel like eating this morning or even having a bit of lunch and stuff today. You know, it was probably the fact that you have to play Pete Sampras in your first Grand Slam final as well. There would be a lot of easier guys to play. You know, he's a big match player.

Q. Has the aura of Pete Sampras now changed with his two losses in the finals?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Not at all. You know, he's a great champion. I think, you know, when everyone was starting to write him off, especially after he lost in the Round of 16 to Federer at Wimbledon, I think he's come out and proved a point over the last two weeks. He's capable of winning Grand Slams still, that's for sure. You know, I've still got as much respect for him as a player, on and off the court, you know, as I've ever had.

Q. You said last night that you were going to ask Patrick for some tips. Did you end up doing that?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I spoke to Pat, yeah.

Q. Did he give you any tips?

LLEYTON HEWITT: He told me go out there and enjoy myself. That's all he told me. He said he felt exactly the same way as I felt, you know, going in the night before he had to play a Grand Slam final, him a few years ago. He said that Newk and Roche had told him in the past, he asked, "What do I do now?" He just said, "Go out and enjoy yourself." I asked him the same thing, and he told me exactly that. I tried to take that into my match today. In the back of your head, you're still thinking it's a Grand Slam final out there you're about to play.

Q. How is this going to change your life? How do you think it's going to change you when you go into Grand Slams in the future?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Don't know. Haven't even thought about it (laughter). You know, I'm still going to be the same person. I'm going to go home, I'm going to hang out with my mates, then I'm going to prepare for a Davis Cup tie in two weeks' time. It's not going to change anything in that way. But, you know, it hasn't quite sunk in. It's an unbelievable feeling to have won a Grand Slam now. You know, it probably takes a lot of the pressure and expectation off your back, as well.

Q. You're not old enough to have a beer here. Is that going to be a problem?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I don't know (laughter). You know, it hurts when back in Australia I can have one a couple of years ago, and I can't still have one here, so...

Q. Other than the winning point, what was the biggest point for you?

LLEYTON HEWITT: You know, probably the passing shot that I hit at 4-3 in the breaker to get that mini break up. I think that first set was pretty crucial. I felt if I could get that first set and try and get on top of him, I had a lot better chance than if I lost the first set.

Q. What is it about your personality that allows you to block out the distractions, the pressures?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Don't know. Got no idea. You know, I just grown up doing it, I think. It's something that I've had to deal with growing up in the Juniors back home in Adelaide when I was playing against older guys. You know, I was No. 1 in Australia a couple years out of my age. Everyone was out to beat you back then. I had to deal with those pressures and I had to be very mentally tough. I've been able to take that. I've got stronger in the head as I've got older, as well, I think.

Q. Marat last year just seemed so stunned with his own performance. He described it as an out-of-body experience. Looking back, he can't believe that was him on the court. With you, it seems like this is sort of almost a natural progression. Do you recognize the guy that was out there?

LLEYTON HEWITT: You know, a little bit. It's come in stages, which has helped, that's for sure. I first came on the tour, you know, I qualified for the Australian Open. That was a big shock then. Sort of gradually built up higher and higher. My ranking has gone higher and higher each year. After this, I'll probably be No. 3 in the world. It's career best. You know, that's been a good thing. I haven't been sort of having those highs and lows all the time. I've been gradually getting better and better. You know, the results that I've had in some of those big matches has definitely helped me in big matches in Grand Slams, I think. You know, there's no doubt that in my mind beating Guga in straight sets in Brazil was, you know, I could not have hit the ball any better out there. And that gives me the confidence in big matches when everything's against you, to go out there and do it in times like today, you know, the last three or four days when I've had, you know, pretty tough guys to come up against.

Q. Did you get any advice from Kim before the match?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Go and enjoy myself. That was basically it. She'd been through a lot. She knew it was a big occasion. Obviously, she came so close, two points away from the French Open. She knows what it's like to be in that situation. I can tell you it's a lot easier being out there playing instead of sitting in the crowd and watching that French Open in Paris.

Q. Pete called you the best returner in the game. What do you think about that?

LLEYTON HEWITT: That's a big compliment. You know, return of serve is one of my strengths, that's for sure. But, you know, I've had to work on little areas of my game because I don't have the biggest game, you know, with the serve. I'm not the tallest and strongest guy out there. So I've had to work on little areas of my game to sort of be able to counter-punch those bigger guys. The return of serve has been something I've had to work on since I was 9 or 10 playing in four- or three-year age groups playing the bigger guys. I've always been a big returner of serve. You know, to be the best in the world, that's a big call though, when you have especially guys like Andre Agassi. I rate him the best in the world.

Q. It's been a long time since an Australian has won the Australian Open. Quite a while since an Australian has won at Wimbledon. You guys come in here and won three of the last five. What's the deal?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I got no idea. It's strange. It really is strange. When I first came on the tour, if anyone told me where I was going to win my first one, I would have predicted the Australian Open just because I've grown up there, I always play well in Australia. You know, hard court is very similar here, as well. I try to take that same confidence, you know, growing up on hard courts, into here. It's very easy when I get in pressure situations, I know what to do on hard courts. These courts are pretty similar to the ones in Australia.

Q. Maybe a little less pressure here?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I don't know. I haven't really -- I don't think I've, you know, lost in Australia because of pressure. You know, I lost this year because I had a very tough draw. I played a lot of matches going in probably, whereas the last two years when I've done well here, I've had a week off before, both Slams here. Maybe that's a thing I have to look at going into the Australian Open.

Q. You say it hasn't sunk in yet. Watching you when you lifted your trophy over-the-head, I wonder if the sense of the occasion really hit you then. What was going through your mind?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I looked at the names on the trophy, it was sitting in front of me. To see the guys who have held up this trophy, to now have my name under those guys', it's an unbelievable feeling. It's something words can't describe. You dream of winning a Grand Slam, you know, when you're a young boy sort of looking up. I've been to so many Australian Opens, watched so many great players win there. You know, it's these moments you dream of. For me, you know, to come through at such a young age, it's fantastic.

Q. Who were your greatest heroes in Australian tennis?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Australian tennis? You know, it was a strange sort of time when I was growing up. Pat Cash was sort of really the only guy when I was growing up. I was pretty much about on the tour when Pat started to win the Slams. Pat Cash obviously. Just for a guy to sort of idolize.

Q. Other players?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I loved watching Mats Wilander play, no doubt about that. He plays a similar game to me, as well. I love Stefan Edberg as well. For some reason, two Swedes, I like them.

Q. What kind of messages of support did you get from Australia before the match?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I got a couple of faxes the last couple weeks from John Howe. Starting at the top, that was pretty impressive. That meant a lot to me anyway. From my football team, that was all right, especially after their loss on the weekend. Everything has been very positive from all the fans back home, through my mates that I used to go to school with and I'm very close to and speak to every day. You know, they've sent their best wishes. Everyone who I know back in Adelaide.

Q. You have something of a mixed popularity amongst the Australian public since you came on the scene. Are you hoping now this sort of silences your critics, that everyone will embrace you more now?

LLEYTON HEWITT: You know, it would be great. You know, I love playing in front of my Australian fans, no doubt about that. I can't wait for two weeks' time to get back there and play in Sydney. You know, I'm sure that everyone in Australia was fully behind me today. That's the type of country we are. We love, you know, supporting top athletes, you know, seeing another countryperson in a final. It's like other guys, me watching the cricketers, stuff like that, the rugby. I'm sure everyone was behind me back home.

Q. Throughout sporting history, there have been figures with great talent. Also some have had a fiery personality. They've spent practically all of their careers listening to people tell them they should behave this way, that way, don't do this, do that. You almost fall into that category now. You've come through it all magnificently. Do you think any of this will ever change you, or do you think it's something you'll decide whether you're going to be different in a match or with a crowd?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Oh, I go out there and I get pumped up on a court when I feel like it's necessary to get pumped up. You know, the last three or four matches, I really haven't showed that much emotion out on the court. It's been some of my biggest wins out there. You know, I've had to learn how to play best-of-five-set matches, as well. It's a lot different when you come on the tour, get very pumped up after each point out there. It's only in a three-set match where it's totally different. When you get to the Grand Slams, you can waste some of that energy on not the right points. That's something I've had to work on. It's been getting better and better I think with every Slam that I sort of play in that way. You know, I still feel, you know, like today when I won the first set, I felt that was a big occasion. I needed to get myself pumped up. I needed to sort of get my supporters behind me at that point because it was, you know, a pretty big turning point, getting first-set tiebreak. I feel like when it's necessary for me to get myself pumped up and play my best tennis, you know, that's when it comes out.

Q. Match point, you fell to the ground. You got up and were almost subdued as you went to the net. Was that out of reverence to Pete, or was it a little bit of pity for him?

LLEYTON HEWITT: It's more no one likes to lose, I'm sure, Grand Slam finals, even though I haven't experienced it. The sort of shock of winning a Grand Slam sort of sent me on my back, on the floor. You sort of realize, "I've got to go and shake Pete's hand." That was pretty much it. A sign of sort of respect, I think.

Q. You've had obviously expectations throughout your career. You talked before about the methodical progression of your game to this point. Is it still a bit surreal to be sitting here in front of a final press conference at this tournament?

LLEYTON HEWITT: It is. I can't believe it's sitting here. I don't know when it will sink in, if it ever will. I hope so. You know, just to have won a Grand Slam now, at the age of 20, four years ago I was here playing Juniors. I lost in the Round of 16 or something. My badge, I still have the junior photo on the front of my badge here. It wasn't that long ago when I didn't talk to any of you guys. No one was out there watching. I was playing Taylor Dent out here a few years ago, and no one could care less. Now in front of everyone, I have the world's TV cameras on me, in front of me. I went and told Kim, "I'm not going to wake up, this isn't going to happen." It is unbelievable at the moment. I'm sure that's what sort of Marat felt at the moment, as well.

Q. To have done it against Pete.

LLEYTON HEWITT: That's what I said. I'm standing there about to collect the trophy and hold up the trophy. I'm standing there and Pete's there holding up the runners-up plate. It just didn't quite click for me (laughter). But, you know, if there's ever anyone that, you know, you'd want to play in a Grand Slam final, if you were going to win, it was one of the greatest players ever to live.

Q. Was there a moment when you thought you were thoroughly in control of the match, not just ahead?

LLEYTON HEWITT: No, not really. You know, you're trying to block it out as much as possible that you could be winning the tournament here in such a big event. I really wasn't thinking. I even had to look up at the score board a couple of times just to check what the score was. "Is this really two points from the match here?" Really hasn't sunk in that I was that far ahead. I was still taking it one point at a time, one game at a time.

Q. You had the first break of 87 games of Pete's service. You broke him, after 87 consecutive games.

LLEYTON HEWITT: I knew he hadn't lost a lot of service games in the whole tournament. He had this incredible roll going on his serve. You know, it was important to try and get out of the blocks quickly. You know, if he gets ahead, he's going to try and bury you, that's for sure. He's that kind of player. If he gets on a serving roll, he's going to be tough to break. It was important to try to get an early break, but then I gave it straight back the next game. It was a bit of a dogfight to try to get out of that first set.

Q. To some extent, now that you just won this, your life is going to be turned upside down. Everybody is going to want a piece of you, offers to show up everywhere. Who are the people in your life that you would take advice from? Would it be Patrick Rafter, the older generation? Is it your family? Is it your coach?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, it will be a lot of those. Obviously my coach and my family. Then, you know, Pat, because he's been there and done that. He knows what it's all about. He's really taken me under his wing ever since I came on the tour, helped me out a lot. You know, I owe a hell of a lot to him, you know, for me sitting here right now. He's helped me out. A lot of people wouldn't understand, "Why is he helping out this 15-year-old kid when he's playing all these big matches?" He helps out a lot of junior tennis in Australia. The other two are probably Newcombe and Roche. They're the two older guys that have been there and done that, as well, that I'm close to because of the Davis Cup. I owe them a lot, as well, for helping me out and taking me under their wing as well in the Davis Cup team.

Q. After the Blake match, did you learn anything from that incident?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, you know, it wasn't a good situation. It wasn't a good situation to put myself into during a Grand Slam tournament either. It's something that is going to be one of the toughest things that I had to block out during a tennis event. You know, I really have to be proud of myself for the way I've done that under, you know, so much pressure, so many people looking at you, I suppose. You know, to be able to do that at 20 years of age, it really shows how mentally tough I've been over the last couple of days.

Q. Is that the worst moment in your career?

LLEYTON HEWITT: It's one of the worst, yeah. You know, I didn't mean anything bad by it at all, and it all got blown up. I copped a lot of flak for it, for something I didn't mean at all. It's something I was obviously disappointed by because, you know, I knew I was really innocent in the whole thing. That's why I tried to block it out as much as possible and just concentrate on my tennis. You know, who knows, I just think I've done that really well over the last week or so.

Q. John Newcombe said that press conference for you last Friday must have been a nightmare for a 20-year-old. Was that a fair comment?

LLEYTON HEWITT: It wasn't too enjoyable. It's something that I'll learn from. You know, the media side, if I didn't deal with it properly or whatever, then I'll learn from that. You know, you've got to go through some rough times, as well, to become a better person and better player, on and off the court. If I had to go through it, you know, maybe I'll be stronger for it and, you know, maybe this is one of the signs of it.

Q. You said yesterday you were looking in terms of winning your first Grand Slam at 23 or 25. In view of this, what are your wishes now? What do you think your ambitions will be?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Got no idea (smiling). It's too early to say. You know, obviously I want to keep winning them. It's a good feeling. But it's not quite that easy. You've got to beat seven world-class players over five sets in two weeks to be able to hold up the trophy again. You know, it's going to be very tough. Obviously, going into the Australian Open next year, there's going to be a lot more expectation now coming off this win. I feel like it's a similar surface. I've played some big matches at the Australian Open. I'll be ready to go as soon as that starts.

Q. Did you have any idea that Paul McCartney was watching?

LLEYTON HEWITT: No clue. He was there?

Q. Yes.

LLEYTON HEWITT: Good (smiling).

Q. What are your thoughts on the upcoming Davis Cup?

LLEYTON HEWITT: You know, every time it gets close to Davis Cup ties, I get excited. For this whole tournament, I've had to try and block out that. The more I won, the later I was going to get to Sydney and start practicing on Rebound Ace and get ready for that. I've tried to block it out as much as possible. Tomorrow morning, that's pretty much one of the -- all I'll be thinking about is that Davis Cup tie, trying to get into another final. You know, the last two years in Davis Cup for me, ever since I started, my first tie was in Boston here in America. Ever since that, I love playing for my country and I love getting out there and competing. That's something that Newcombe and Roche and Patrick Rafter really helped me with. Obviously, it could be Pat's last year of playing Davis Cup matches. We didn't quite get over the line last year. We're sort of playing for Pat this year. I think that feeling came through in Brazil, the way I played, handled myself down there.

Q. How are you health-wise with this condition? Has it been affecting you at all?

LLEYTON HEWITT: It comes and goes. There's times when I could be out at dinner, and I feel like I'm shortage (sic) of breath. No one has a real, you know, reason for it. They're not sure if it's an allergy-related kind of thing. It's hard to put your finger on. You know, I've been feeling pretty good out on the court at least every time I've got to my matches, and I've been able to block it out. I definitely haven't been out of energy in any of my matches, which is a good thing.

Q. What do you plan for this evening? Taking a beer is not possible.

LLEYTON HEWITT: Got no idea. I'll definitely catch up with all of my friends and family who are here, have a nice dinner. Hopefully, you know, talk about the nice things that happened over the last two weeks, you know, what could happen maybe in the future.
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