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An Interview With: Lleyton Hewitt

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Q. How tough were the conditions?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, it was hot and humid out there. Obviously sweating a lot, which was just hard. But it's hard for everyone out there, as well. I felt like I got off to a great start. Came out and executed my game plan perfectly. You know, just through the second set he obviously started serving a little bit better. He's an awkward opponent because I wanted to be aggressive and play on my terms, but it's a bit hit-and-miss out there so you're trying to make him play that extra shot as well. If you don't get enough on it, he's capable of hitting winners. I was happy to play a really good tiebreak.

Q. Was the decision to come here to get some more match practice for the Davis Cup?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, pretty much. After we won the Davis Cup tie, I wanted to play obviously. Wally and Pat, Joshua Eagle and Rochey, everyone wanted me to play. Obviously take a wild card, could have gone to another Aussie, but I felt like to give myself the best opportunity for the Davis Cup tie, it was the right decision.

Q. You obviously played him in Davis Cup. Different surface.

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah.

Q. Do you feel he was more at home on this surface?

LLEYTON HEWITT: It's hard to say 'cause, you know, his serve and his forehand are dangerous. But, as I said, he can miss a lot of shots out there, as well. The court probably suited me, gave me a slight advantage over hard court against that opponent. But he played bloody well against Nick on the day one in Davis Cup on that court. He can play on grass, as well.

Q. The prospect of playing Bernie next...

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, just awkward. That's the only thing to summarize that. I get along great with Bernie. Helped him out a lot. Hit with him this week. Yeah, just awkward.

Q. Could you point to the two or three really most special moments in your career.

LLEYTON HEWITT: That's hard. Davis Cup means a lot. Winning especially in 2003 when I played so well in the semis and the final. You know, doing it in a team atmosphere in Australia was pretty special. Getting to world No. 1 in Australia, in Sydney. Yeah, my good mate and idol growing up Pat Rafter with me on the court. Yeah, it's hard to separate obviously the US Open and Wimbledon. US Open was my first slam. But for me there was always something really special about Wimbledon.

Q. Roger just spoke about how different rivals pushed him through his career. Which two or three players really pushed you?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I guess early on Agassi, you know. He came back and took the No. 1 off me. Then I was able to get it back for a bit. He was just such a quality player. Obviously Roger took the game to a new level, and then Rafa. It was obviously bloody hard to keep up with those guys.

Q. You never played Bernie before. Something that you always looked forward to, had much banter about?

LLEYTON HEWITT: No, never really spoken about it. As I said, you know, Bernie and I have got a really good relationship. He trusts me a lot. Yeah, I don't like playing any of the Aussies. I had to play Kokkinakis last year in Brisbane. I played Grothy in Brisbane this year. I had to play ^ J.P. Smith only a couple of weeks ago. For me, in the position that I'm in now, trying to help these guys especially with Davis Cup and the rest of it, yeah, it's tough.

Q. What is your enduring memory of your win here? What do you think back on?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Obviously beating probably the greatest at the time, Pete Sampras, in the final, in his home Grand Slam. The semifinal and final I felt invincible out there. Didn't feel like I could miss a ball.

Q. Did you go into that match with Pete unsure or did you feel massively confident?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Pete hadn't dropped serve for something ridiculous going into the final. I remember sitting right here, everyone saying, You can't beat him, you can't break his serve. I just tried and I broke him first game, so... That gave me a lot of confidence. I remember walking out for the final, Pete Sampras is out there at the coin toss. Ivan Lendl is actually doing the coin toss. These are two guys I grew up idolizing going to the Australian Open every year. For me it was a surreal feeling, but it gave me confidence for the rest of my career going out there and being able to play well in those situations and not be in awe of the situation.

Q. Controversy early on, did that help you with handling the media?

LLEYTON HEWITT: A little bit. I've always been able to block things out really well. I was able to do it those two weeks. I guess in terms of crowds and stuff, playing Pete in the final, nearly everyone was obviously going for Pete. But I'd played him Davis Cup big matches before that already in pretty hostile arenas. To me it didn't faze me at all.

Q. Spent a few days with Nick. What was your advice to him and do you feel for him at all? Pretty difficult month.

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I do feel for him. Yeah, he's a good kid. Yeah, just trying to work through certain things more on court than anything. You know, he's obviously got a totally different game style to me. But I think a lot of my bigger strengths, if he can tweak his just a little bit in some way, it's really going to be beneficial to his game moving forward. He obviously has a rough draw here but we'll see what happens.

Q. Didn't speak at all about his trouble?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Oh, we speak about everything (smiling).

Q. You talked about your performance here in New York. You also had an incredible performance in Davis Cup in Boston. What are your takeaways from that experience?

LLEYTON HEWITT: From Boston?

Q. Yeah, early in your career.

LLEYTON HEWITT: I beat Todd Martin who was No. 4 in the world at the time in four sets in extreme conditions. As I've always said, Davis Cup means so much to me. I was fortunate to come up at a time with Newk and Roche. They let me know what Davis Cup is about, especially playing for Australia. Yeah, I've just tried to lead by example with that the rest of my career.

Q. This tie coming up, do you feel that passion is there with the other guys as well?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Sam is growing as a player. He's made massive inroads from the Czech Republic when he played his first live match to Darwin. I think it's really helped him as a player week in and week out. Just that belief, you know, getting over those nerves of going out there and not just playing for yourself. He was great, fantastic.

Q. When you leave this tour, one chapter of the tennis history is going to be closed. You are the last player to make a full Grand Slam season in the last three decades.

LLEYTON HEWITT: Just makes me feel old, Mate (smiling).

Q. How do you feel?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Old (laughter). Roger and I are the same age. Obviously I just came on tour just a little bit before him. He's obviously not struggling at the age of 34 out there. He's playing okay. No, obviously everyone has to call 'time' at some stage. I'm very comfortable with how it's all panning out at the moment.

Q. You've achieved success, reached the No. 1 ranking in the world. As you close a chapter on your career, what's the next step for Lleyton Hewitt? Will you try to go into coaching, mentorship program, be an example for some of the younger players? Will you try to be a role model, as well?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Mainly I'll be selfish and try to help the Aussies. I'm not going to lie. That's what I'm passionate about. I still feel I can more so at the moment help with guys on the court, dealing with certain things off the court. I think that's my biggest strength at the moment. How much I do in the future, I can't tell you.

Q. Going into tonight, what do you think that Nick's best qualities are as a player and just as a bloke?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, obviously he's got such a powerful game. I'd love to have his serve obviously. I would have won a lot more big tournaments if I had that weapon. But it's how he backs it up, as well. For a big guy, he moves well around the court. He can hit winners from anywhere. That's why he's so exciting to watch. As a bloke, he's pretty reserved for how you see him on the court. You know, he trusts me at least, which is a big step forward. Obviously I've been able to earn that trust being in Davis Cup teams and showing that I do care about his career.

Q. You were talking about Davis Cup. You play for your teammates and your country. Singles is about you. Are you ready to turn the chapter away from that as you near the end of your career? Has that helped you to say, It's time to put that part of my life down and help others come up? 

LLEYTON HEWITT: Mate, it's been like that the last few years. I've had that many Aussie young boys come and stay at my house and train with me, whether it's in Sydney, Bahamas, Adelaide, wherever it's been. It's been like that for a long time. Davis Cup for me has been a massive passion. It's the reason that I still played this year, is because I feel like we had a good opportunity to do well, and I could still add something to the Davis Cup team as a player this year. I made no secret that my goal this year is to go as far as we can in Davis Cup.

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