01-17-2004, 09:46 PM
Join Date: Aug 2003
The kind of article that makes me nervous, but I can't resist snack-consumption statistics. Sort of a summary on who's injured/missing too...
Hot Hewitt goes up a notch
By KELVIN HEALEY
LLEYTON Hewitt is on track to take his first Australian Open, winning an injury-marred anti-climax to the Adidas International yesterday.
Melbourne's other favourite, Andre Agassi, was disappointing in his last hit before tomorrow's grand slam start, losing the final of the Commonwealth Bank International at Kooyong in straight sets to Argentine David Nalbandian.
Warm-up tournaments provided an enthralling entree to the Open, with female top-seed Justine Henin-Hardenne also victorious at the Adidas International in Sydney.
Despite Agassi's loss, fans hope for a dream final between the American veteran and young gun Hewitt.
Hewitt took out his third Adidas International, becoming the youngest Australian to win 20 ATP titles, after opponent Carlos Moya retired due to an ankle injury he suffered while trailing in the first set.
Hewitt said he was more confident with each win.
"I felt like I really, really went up a notch today," he said. "I thought it was a very high-standard match early on."
The tournament also proved momentous for Aussie veteran Todd Woodbridge, who won a world-record 79th doubles title when he and Swedish partner Jonas Bjorkman claimed a three-set victory in the final of the men's doubles.
The on-court action was a relief to Australian Open organisers, after preparations for the grand slam were marred by the Greg Rusedski drug-test scandal and the withdrawal of several of the world's top female stars due to injury.
Despite testing positive to a banned steroid, British champ Rusedski is set to take his place in the Open in a first-round clash with Spaniard Albert Costa.
Records crowds are expected to flock for the start of court action tomorrow.
While superstar Serena Williams, two-time champion Jennifer Capriati and one-time Australian Jelena Dokic won't be at Melbourne Park, hundreds of thousands of fans will be, and organisers have ensured they won't go hungry.
The crowds are expected to devour 159,000 ice-creams, 18,000 burgers, 17,000 sushi rolls, 18,500 sausages, 4000 curries and 12,900 boxes of noodles during the tournament's 14 days.
To wash the food down, there will be more than 126,000 bottles of water and 250,000 beers. Fans are expected to drink almost 120,000 cups of coffee.
Organisers hope recent good weather will be repeated for the tournament, which this year has been marketed as the Asia-Pacific region's grand slam.
The rocky road to the tournament began nine days ago when Rusedski outed himself as testing positive to a banned steroid. The big-serving champ sparked worldwide controversy, claiming tennis authorities inadvertently supplied him the drug.
Rusedski decided to play the Open despite facing an anti-doping hearing next month.
Then came the withdrawal of Williams, battling to overcome knee surgery, Capriati with a back injury, and Dokic who said her preparation had not been up to par.
And injury dogs Belgian Kim Clijsters and the USA's Lindsay Davenport.
01-18-2004, 01:07 PM
Join Date: Aug 2003
Article discusses the Australian players' chances at the Open and makes me nervous in the process.
Time for a new hero
January 19, 2004
Not since 1976 has an Australian man - Mark Edmondson - won the Australian Open. But, now, Mark Philippoussis and Lleyton Hewitt look ready to end the drought.
Mark Edmondson loves this time of year. It is in mid-January that the tennis world is reminded that balding, moustachioed "Edo" remains the last Australian to win an Australian Open men's title.
This year, his reign will reach 28 years. But Mark Philippoussis and Lleyton Hewitt look better equipped than ever to break it.
Philippoussis is seeded 10th and faces a tricky first-round tie in the tournament, beginning today, against 2002 champion Thomas Johansson, who is on the comeback trail from a knee injury.
The 27-year-old is coming off a career-best year that saw him reach the final at Wimbledon and win the deciding rubber in the Davis Cup final, battling injury to clinch a five-setter.
Finishing in the year-end top 10 for the first time in his career, Philippoussis appears to have matured beyond being the big-server with a penchant for flash girlfriends and flasher cars into a player of genuine substance.
Boasting a game suited to the quick Rebound Ace surface, Philippoussis's challenge will be to find the consistency that will see him through two weeks of top-level tennis.
Hewitt had the first down year of his career in 2003, which saw the former world No.1 slump to No.17 by year's end as he played just 47 matches in a deliberate effort to keep himself fresh.
That program was designed to prepare him for the successful Davis Cup campaign, highlighted by a stirring win over Roger Federer in the semi-final, and also to have him injury-free for the Australian Open.
Past campaigns had seen Hewitt burdened by the pressure of being No.1, tiredness and even chickenpox resulting in a modest 9-7 record in this tournament.
Week two, and the added pressure it brings, will be something new to the South Australian, but he finally looks ready to produce.
An 11-match, four-month unbeaten run culminating in a second Davis Cup and 20th career title is not enough to lull Hewitt into a false sense of security as he chases this elusive title.
He feels he's playing some of the best tennis of his career but will be taking nothing for granted when he opens up against world No.195 Cecil Mamiit at Melbourne Park tomorrow.
"I've still got to go out and get the job done next week," said a no-nonsense Hewitt after his abbreviated victory over injured Spaniard Carlos Moya in Saturday's final of the adidas International in Sydney. "There's a hell of a lot of good players out there. You've got to be wary and give respect to every opponent you play."
Hewitt, the 2001 US Open and 2002 Wimbledon champion, titleholder Andre Agassi and fellow former world No.1 Gustavo Kuerten are the only three players in the 128-man draw to have won multiple grand slams.
And, make no mistake, as cautious as Hewitt is, Australia's great hope is bursting with confidence after rediscovering the form that elevated him to the dizzy heights of 2001-02.
"I feel like I'm hitting the ball as well, if not better [than when I was No.1]," he said. "I guess I couldn't be happier with my game right at the moment.
"I felt like from the US Open [last September], every match that I've played after that, even though it wasn't a lot - the Davis Cup matches right through the US Open to the quarters there - that I've played some of my best tennis I've ever played."
Despite not having progressed beyond the round of 16 at his home grand slam, Hewitt didn't believe he'd done too much wrong at Melbourne Park.
As top seed last year, Hewitt "couldn't have done much more" to stop Younes El Aynaoui, who played the match of his life to upset the tournament favourite in a four-set fourth-round thriller.
As top seed in 2001, Hewitt was never a chance suffering from chickenpox. He is ready this time around.
"I've had the preparation and warm-up and everything in the match conditions, but I didn't waste any energy," Hewitt said of his Sydney experience.
His third tournament success in Sydney made Hewitt the youngest Australian in open-era tennis to collect 20 ATP titles.
Only Bjorn Borg, Boris Becker, Mats Wilander, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Pete Sampras and Ivan Lendl have reached the milestone in quicker time.
The victory propelled Hewitt from 16th to 11th in the rankings, but the 22-year-old South Australian will be the 15th seed in Melbourne, where his first serious test is expected to come from Federer in the fourth round.
Aside from the top guns, there is also a sense of expectation about the emerging young Australians, particularly Todd Reid and Chris Guccione, who had shown impressive lead-up form.
Both have winnable opening-round matches - Reid will play Uzbek Vadim Kutsenko and Guccione takes on compatriot Alun Jones - which is more than could be said for Todd Larkham, who plays Andre Agassi tonight.
Australia is still searching for a top-line women's player, with the hardy Nicole Pratt and Alicia Molik at long odds to reach the quarter-final stage.
01-18-2004, 02:41 PM
Join Date: Aug 2003
From the Herald Sun...some Agassi quotes about Lleyton etc.
Lleyton can rise again, says Andre
DEFENDING champion Andre Agassi says Lleyton Hewitt can accelerate his climb back to the top of the rankings with a stirring Australian Open campaign.
While Hewitt's fall to No. 17 has been widely regarded as a career crisis, Agassi is amused by the talk, especially since his own ranking fell from No. 1 in 1995 to No. 141 in 1997 and then rebounded to No. 1 in 1999.
Four-time champion Agassi will tonight seek his 22nd consecutive Melbourne Park win.
His opponent is wildcard Todd Larkham, the Canberra battler who became one of the stories of the 2003 tournament when his coach, and brother, Brent challenged John McEnroe to a fight.
Agassi, 33, said Hewitt, seeded No. 15 this week after winning the adidas International in Sydney on Saturday, was the latest world No. 1 to experience how hard it was to stay on top.
"We've seen him rise many a time. To finish No. 1 two years in a row speaks to his capabilities. I'm sure he has a great year ahead of him," Agassi said.
"Certainly, he could be (back to No. 1). If he thinks 15 in the world isn't an accomplishment, he should have been around me a few years ago. I could have shown him what it was like to really work hard and fall to No. 140.
"Things can change fast. Everybody is firing at you every time you are on the court (as No. 1) and especially the way he plays the game -- he works so hard in every match -- it's easy to understand any sort of physical or mental struggle that can occur at any given time."
Agassi and his Australian coach Darren Cahill have watched videos of two of Larkham's matches and know Larkham needed an intravenous drip in the lead-up to his second-round ordeal against Hewitt last year, in which the 29-year-old was humiliated 6-1 6-0 6-1.
McEnroe, acting as a television commentator, said a fatigued Larkham had no business playing in a grand slam match on a centre court.
Larkham's brother Brent then issued his challenge.
McEnroe doesn't begin his television commitments for Channel 7 until Saturday.
"I don't care whether he is here or not. It was one of those things which happen on the circuit and, as far as I was concerned, that's the end of it," Todd Larkham said.
Ranked No. 168, Larkham said this could be his last Australian Open.
"To see my dream of playing on the centre court here happen means I was one of a very small percentage to do that. I'm privileged to be there," he said.
"I was physically at the end of my run last year against Lleyton. It was to be expected, to be honest.
"A good result against Agassi is a win. I have to be aggressive and hit my forehand as well as I can hit it. If you try to stay in the point against him, you're going to get pasted."
Larkham missed the last three months of the 2003 season because of a virus and a shoulder injury.
01-18-2004, 11:23 PM
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Cynical Area
A fresh start is key for Lleyton
By Margie McDonald
January 19, 2004
THE sacrifices of last season are paying dividends for Lleyton Hewitt as he aims to end his run of early outs at his home Grand Slam.
Yesterday, Hewitt spoke with conviction of his strategy not to play an ATP tournament after the US Open, passing up the chance to qualify for the lucrative $3.7million end-of-season Tennis Masters Cup to concentrate on the Davis Cup.
He spoke of how he and coach Roger Rasheed, who took over from Jason Stoltenberg in June last year, hatched a plan focusing on his match with Spain's Juan Carlos Ferrero in the Davis Cup final.
But Hewitt added that was only part of the plan. The rest of it was to be fresh and fit to tackle the Australian summer, particularly the Open where he has never been past the fourth round.
"I feel good at the moment," Hewitt said yesterday on the Seven Network.
"That whole build-up Roger and I did leading into the Davis Cup final (was) to try to prepare myself to last the whole Australian summer and really (give me) a huge platform physically and mentally for the whole 2004 season.
"So far so good. I got through my matches and won a tournament last week in different circumstances."
Hewitt was referring to Saturday's Adidas International final, where for the second match in a row his opponent retired hurt.
Carlos Moya rolled his right ankle with Hewitt up 4-3 in the first set. That was one less game than Hewitt needed against Martin Verkerk in the semi-final before the Dutchman retired feeling sick and dizzy.
Such a light finish to his Adidas campaign and the fact he has only played two Davis Cup ties and the Hopman Cup in four months have left Hewitt fresh and full of vigour.
That's unusual for Hewitt, who is embarking on his eighth Australian Open campaign. A bout of chicken pox two years ago resulted in a first-round loss when he was the No.1 seed.
"Playing with spots is difficult," Hewitt confessed yesterday.
"A couple of times when I've come here in the past, I've come here winning Adelaide and Sydney and maybe worn myself out a little bit.
"This year I do feel fresh. And I feel not playing at the end of the season last year may help me."
Hewitt also feels better prepared with Rasheed.
"Roger has done so much work on and off the court for me -- he's been incredible," Hewitt said. "We've worked extremely hard, not only technically and tactically on the court but also off the court.
"He's got degrees in physical education and fitness programs and he's been able to help me with that side. He's brought another dimension to the table to help me out.
"We copped a bit of flak at the start, I guess, but the thing with Roger is that not everyone sees the amount of work he puts in."
Hewitt starts his campaign tomorrow against American qualifier Cecil Mamiit.
Just when everyone thought there were no more records for Todd Woodbridge to break, he found one.
If you thought Woodbridge would wind up his career, which includes a record-breaking 79 doubles titles, 15 in Grand Slam tournaments, including eight at Wimbledon, think again.
Woodbridge, who with Jonas Bjorkman won the Adidas International title on Saturday, is now after John Newcombe's 17 Grand Slam doubles titles and has no thoughts of retiring.
"I enjoy winning," Woodbridge said. "I've got to tell you, that's the reason I stay out there - it's a bit of a drug, that feeling when you win."
Woodbridge and Bjorkman beat the top-seeded Bryan brothers, Bob and Mike, 7-6 (7-3) 7-5 in the final.
01-18-2004, 11:41 PM
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Cynical Area
Fresh Hewitt's big prep talk
LLEYTON Hewitt yesterday declared his game to be in virtually perfect order as the former world champion lays siege to an elusive Australian Open crown.
The Wimbledon and US Open winner is brimming with confidence after stretching his unbeaten streak to 11 matches at the weekend.
He won the adidas International in Sydney on Saturday, when Carlos Moya withdrew with a serious ankle injury after only seven games.
Hewitt will tomorrow play 195th-ranked American qualifier Cecil Mamiit, having never lost a set to the baseliner in two meetings.
Unable to pass the Open's fourth round in seven attempts, Hewitt says he may now have struck on the best Melbourne Park preparation, with his unbowed winning sequence taking in the Hopman Cup and the adidas International.
"It has been the ideal preparation for me so far," Hewitt said yesterday, after practising on centre court with Sydney teenager Todd Reid.
"At the Hopman Cup, going out there and getting off to a good start, winning all three matches until Alicia (Molik) got hurt.
"Last week just felt like I built it up, got better and better. I knew it was going to be a tough match against Carlos.
"The seven games that we did get to play were a very high standard. It has left me in good preparation. I didn't waste too much energy, but I've got that confidence of coming through a few matches.
"I feel good. I love coming to Rod Laver Arena, especially now that I've been able to have some of my most memorable matches and life experiences in the Davis Cup semi and final.
"To beat a guy like Roger Federer in the situation I was in in that match and to come back and fight it off after he'd served for the match in the third set.
"Not only that, I took three months off to get ready for the Davis Cup final knowing that I was going to have to play Juan Carlos Ferrero. To come out and win that in five sets was an awesome finish to last year."
Seeded 15th and projected for a return bout with Federer in the fourth round, Hewitt sounded a warning over the difficulty involved in becoming the first Australian male champion in Melbourne since Mark Edmondson in 1976.
"There's no easy matches in grand slam tennis, I know that," he said. "I lost to a qualifier (Ivo Karlovic) at Wimbledon. I'd never heard of him, I'd never seen him play.
"Now's he's proved to be a great player. He's in the top 70.
"I've got Cecil Mamiit to play, Xavier Malisse or Karol Kucera. I'm not looking too far ahead.
"This year, I do feel fresh, and not playing (tournaments) at the end of last year has helped."
Hewitt repeated his call for Australian supporters to turn out clad in green and gold in the hope local spectators can replicate the spirit of Davis Cup.
"It (crowd support) really just gives us an extra leg when you're out there because when you're down on the canvas, you've gotta get up," he said.
Hewitt said his current form could be traced to a gruelling training program in Adelaide in October-November.
He and coach Roger Rasheed ignored the spoils of the regular tour and worked on preparing for the Davis Cup final and the Australian Open.
"I've played enough matches over the last two weeks now. At the moment, I feel good. You can always have some losses out of nowhere," he said.
"But at the moment, I'm executing as well I (could) hope going into the first grand slam."
Beaten last season by inspired Moroccan Younes El Aynaoui, Hewitt lost the previous year to Spaniard Alberto Martin when he was afflicted by chickenpox.
"The last couple of years have been tough," Hewitt said.
01-20-2004, 05:45 AM
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Cynical Area
Tuesday, 20 January, 2004
Lleyton Hewitt Bio
THE MODERATOR: First question for Lleyton.
Q. When he hit the umpire's chair, do you think it was as serious as that?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I wasn't sure. He sort of starting jogging back, then dropped on the middle of the court. He looked like he was in a bit of pain. You know, you're just really not sure how bad it was.
You know, hard to sort of keep focus there. It's obviously a fairly long break in between, you know, longer than -- I don't know, would have been close to probably 10 minutes by the time the trainers came out and started evaluating it. Then he eventually came out to play again.
Q. What are you doing to your opponents? That's three in a row now.
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah. I've been winning in every match, though (smiling).
Q. Have you ever seen anyone do that before, fall into the umpire's chair?
LLEYTON HEWITT: No, not me personally, I haven't seen it.
Q. Or heard of it?
LLEYTON HEWITT: No, I haven't heard of it. You guys would probably know better than me.
I've seen people come pretty close at times, you know, to the seats that we sit in at the change of ends or the umpire's chairs, lines-people, stuff like that.
Q. Do you feel sorry for the bloke?
LLEYTON HEWITT: It's never a way you want to win a match. But I've got to go out there and try and focus on what I've got to do.
You know, I felt like everything was going pretty well for my game at that stage.
Q. It's not necessarily the way you wanted to win, but 37 degrees out there, you saved a little bit of time.>
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah. I felt like I was getting on top of him. He just started, you know, serving a lot better, made a higher percentage of first serves there, in his service games in the second set.
When I really had to try to step it up at 4-All in the second set, I was able to do that. Break him to love. That's a nice match to get through. Your first match in your home Grand Slam is always tough, I think. To come through, not waste too much energy and be through to the next round, that's nice.
Q. Are tennis players superstitious? Do you think they will start getting out of the food cue, giving players a wide berth?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I don't know. There are some players that are very superstitious. I don't know if they'll take it that far.
Q. Did he say anything to you about exactly what it was?
LLEYTON HEWITT: No. I just said to him, "How bad is it?" He just said, "Just felt it when I ran into the umpire's chair."
You know, it's hard to say. If you get a knock, obviously it's going to be pretty painful for the next five or ten minutes, unless he's got a fracture or a break in it, which no one knows at that particular time. It's really only his pain that he can know whether he can play on or not.
Q. Given the tragic events of the last 48 hours, do you think sports people are more at danger when they go out in public?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, at times, I guess. You know, it's obviously shocking news what happened a day or so ago. But you got to be pretty careful, I think, when you go out, for sure.
You know, it can happen to any one of us, I guess.
Q. Have you experienced any troubles?
LLEYTON HEWITT: You know, I haven't experienced any real, real troubles when I thought I was in danger at all. But, you know, I know there's been times when, you know, you get people heckling or whatever at times. I've seen it with other people, as well, other sports people and whatever, that I've been out with. You know, I heard some stories and stuff like that.
You know, it's something that I think people in the spotlight, not only sports people, but high personalities I guess who are always in the spotlight.
Q. Have bouncers ever been an issue?
LLEYTON HEWITT: No, not with me, I've never had a problem.
Q. How well did you know him?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I didn't know him that well, to tell you the truth. Done a few interviews. He's emcee'd a couple of things that I've actually been on. I haven't seen him since Adelaide Crows' breakfast before a grand final a couple years ago that he emcee'd. That was the last time I had spoken to him.
Q. Had your old man and him crossed paths at all?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I'm not sure. I don't know how much.
Q. General South Australian feeling of loss?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, well, I think for anyone, an Australian more than anything. Someone that plays the elite level of a huge sport in Australia. Not only for South Australia, but also for Australia.
You know, I think everyone can tell by how much media and news has been about it the last, you know, 24, 48 hours.
Q. You came off court. Were you feeling like you got what you wanted out of today's game?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah. He's a different kind of an opponent. Yeah, he doesn't come out and cream winners at all. He doesn't try and put that much pressure on you. You're sort of dictating play most of the time out there. Sometimes it's an awkward match-up. Sometimes when you're actually hitting the ball better, he actually counterpunches a lot better, as well.
There wasn't too often he actually came inside the baseline there. It felt like he was standing about 10 meters behind the baseline just trying to run everything down today.
You don't experience too many matchups that way, but against him I felt like I was always in control on most points, I felt out there, which is a good thing.
Q. You were happy with your game?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah. Against that guy, it's always tough coming in and playing the first round of a Grand Slam anyway. I think everyone's just happy to get through sometimes, especially when you don't waste too much time and energy.
Q. What is it like for you to play against a guy where you're in the unusual position of being the physically imposing player, the bigger player?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, well, it doesn't happen that much, I guess. But, you know, I'm trying to be more aggressive. It's a good chance for me -- you know, I felt comfortable against him out there, that I knew I was in control of the match nearly every point.
So it felt like, you know, unless he got off to, you know -- put a good serve in and he could dictate play from then, it felt like I was able to dominate. It's something that I've been working on in my game, to try and get more aggressive in that.
Yeah, against a guy like him, you have to do it as well. It's actually good that you can take what you've been working on in the practice court into a match situation.
Q. You've seen a lot of Karol recently.
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah. Three weeks in a row now. It's going to be a tough match. Obviously, last week was a bit of a weird match from 4-Love down, then winning 6-4, 6-1.
He's a tough player. Smart player out there. He moves the ball around well. He moves extremely well. Yeah, he's got a pretty good serve on him, as well. He uses the angles of the court well and goes for the lines a lot.
But I've got to go out there and play my game. We had a tough match in Perth, as well, where I got through in three sets. You know, it's no easy match.
Q. You mentioned in the post-game interview that the balls were a bit heavier than in Sydney. Do you think this is something that might affect your game?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I'm not really sure the reason of it, to tell you the truth. I don't know why -- I don't think it will affect my game too much.
But it's probably more similar to Perth, I'd say, than Sydney. The balls are actually fluffing up a little bit more, whereas in Sydney they were getting smaller like pellets out there.
Even in the heat today, it was still unusual. Whether it's the roughness of the courts that's chopping them up a bit and making them more furry, I don't know.
Q. How exactly have you been trying to get more aggressive? What kind of drills have you been working on in training?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I guess going for your shots a bit more, shot selection, and taking advantage of the short ball a little bit more, not being afraid to come into the net at the right opportunities.
Q. Anything else specifically you worked on over the winter?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Not specific, no. Just, you know, in the whole trying to be more aggressive and take your opportunities, I guess.
Q. I know about your involvement in the Special Olympics. How exactly did you become global ambassador?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I got asked a couple of years ago. You know, I felt like it was a good way to put back into sport, as well. You know, for me, the first time I got involved with it, it was at the US Open. Just the year after I won the US Open, I did the camp before I went in to defend my title.
You know, I just really enjoyed that first time. I try to make it before all the Masters Cups and as many tournaments as possible. Obviously, I went to the Special Olympics games in Dublin, in Ireland, last year after I lost in Wimbledon. It was a little bit of a wake-up call I guess in a lot of ways. After you lose first round of a Grand Slam, you know, I got to get away from Wimbledon for a day or so and sort of, you know, think about other things, realize that, you know, it was just a tennis match that I lost.
Q. In that way it helps your tennis, as well?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I think in a lot of ways it does. You know, you see how fortunate you are I guess in a lot of ways. You know, they don't really care who goes out there and hits tennis balls with them. They just want to get out there and hit tennis balls and enjoy the sport for what it is, not for the money or the fame.
Q. Do you prepare differently now for this season? In what way?
LLEYTON HEWITT: What do you mean?
Q. For this new tennis season.
LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, I haven't done that much differently. I've taken a few weeks off towards the end of last year. That was more preparing for the Davis Cup final more than anything, you know, tried to get my fitness level at a stage where I felt like I could last, you know, the 2004 season.
Q. Is Kim involved in this Special Olympics at all?
LLEYTON HEWITT: No. She's involved in her own stuff in Belgium more.
Q. How did he get the nickname "Mamool"?
LLEYTON HEWITT: It was the horse that ran in the Melbourne Cup. Mamool is actually a Lebanese desert. He's Lebanese. He told us that. He had a few bucks on it, it came last. There you go (smiling).
01-20-2004, 12:48 PM
Join Date: Aug 2003
Danni...I have no idea who "he" is either. The interview seems to be incomplete.
From the Sydney Morning Herald, Richard Hinds on yesterday's action...
Lleyton and Venus - two of a kind are off to good starts
By Richard Hinds
January 21, 2004
Oscar Wilde wasn't much of a tennis man, so it must have been Fred Stolle who coined the phrase. But on centre court at Melbourne Park yesterday, the words held special significance: "The only thing harder than being the world No.1 is becoming world No.1 again."
For Venus Williams and Lleyton Hewitt, this Australian Open provides an even greater challenge than usual.
By winning the title for the first time, both can reassert themselves on the game itself and prove the set-backs that helped swell their rankings to unsightly double figures last year were temporary aberrations.
As it turned out, the only temporary aberrations on the Rod Laver Arena yesterday were their overwhelmed opponents - Cecil Mamiit and Ashley Harkleroad. Should either or both the former No.1s lift the trophy, it can truly be said that their triumphs sprung from humble beginnings.
The one memorable part of Hewitt's mauling of qualifier Mamiit was its unusual and premature end. In an incident sure to feature on every sporting bloopers show, the 27-year-old American ran into the umpire's chair and twisted his ankle while running down a set point.
After about 10 minutes of treatment, and some impressive grimacing, Mamiit gamely hopped his way through the first game of the third set which he won with a neat drop shot, then called it a day. He could thus claim to have quit while he was ahead - in the set at least. But, having been munched in the first two by the increasingly impressive Hewitt, 6-2, 6-4, no one was left in any doubt about what would have happened had the American not been injured.
Rather, given this was the third consecutive match in which Hewitt's opponent has failed to finish - Martin Verkerk and Carlos Moya both withdrew at the Sydney International - we were left to ponder what fate awaits the easygoing Slovak Karol Kucera, the next man to face The Curse of Hewitt. A tweaked hammy? A racquet in the groin?
Not that the ultra-competitive Hewitt would buy into the joke. "Yeah, I've been winning in every match, though," he said, when reminded of his good fortune.
As for the type of curses usually associated with Hewitt, yesterday there were none. He is hitting the ball sweetly and, while he might not be getting full-scale match practice, yesterday's brief two-setter in stifling heat ensured his precious reserves of energy were conserved for the battles ahead.
Given this was Williams's first real match since the Wimbledon final in July, her 6-2, 6-1 victory over the supposedly promising Harkleroad was remarkably one-sided. Of course, the gap between the best women players and the pack is measured in light years. But either Williams is much better prepared than many had expected - or Harkleroad is not quite the talent some believe.
Harkleroad suffered the disadvantage of watching her fiancee Alex Bogomolov jnr mesmerised by Roger Federer on centre court immediately before her own match. But the best-not-to-mention difference between the two Americans was their fitness. Despite her long absence, Williams looked in great shape. With her stomach protruding from an unflatteringly tight pink outfit, Harkleroad more resembled what other females like to call "a real woman".
Which is not to say she needs to subscribe to the Daniela Hantuchova low-calorie oxygen diet, merely that nature may have handed the 18-year-old Harkleroad a tough battle to stay in the type of shape required to play her exhausting back-court game - particularly against a hitting machine such as Williams.
While Harkleroad ran up and down the baseline doggedly, Williams had one of those days when, in cricket terms, it is almost impossible to set a field for her. Either the ball whizzed by for a winner or ballooned over the baseline. Williams in top form is very much the mistress of her own destiny.
Despite a scare when she turned an ankle in the first set, Williams clearly has a significant chance to win her first grand slam title since the 2001 US Open - especially with sister Serena at home. Given she has lost five of the past eight grand slam finals to Serena, you could not blame Venus for being glad about that. But, apparently, that is not the case.
"Not the same, not the same," said Williams about Serena's absence. "I'm alone in the room. The phone's not ringing because her phone is always ringing non-stop."
As usual, the Williams inquisition turned to more important matters - such as what she was wearing. The rock on her finger wasn't an engagement ring, she said, but because the finger was swollen she couldn't get it off.
And the big diamond earrings? "Accessorise, accessorise, accessorise," she said. "I'm just a regular girl, I really am."
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