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An Interview With: Lleyton Hewitt (Round 2)

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Q. What were your emotions after that?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I left it all out there again. Yeah, obviously you go through the pain barrier out there on the court. Everything happens so quickly. It was the same as Wimbledon.

But, you know, was a great atmosphere out there on that court. The crowd was really involved. You know, it was nice to be able to turn it into a decent match.

Q. You had your little boy out there watching you. He's here now. What does it mean for you to be able to share this moment, even though it didn't go your way tonight?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, no, it's great. Obviously my two oldest kids especially are old enough to understand what daddy does out there now. It's been a lot of fun this year taking him to a few more tournaments.

He's really enjoyed it. He loves sport. For him to sit out there for five hours, it was a pretty good effort.

Q. Did you feel you had it?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Oh, obviously I felt like once I got to the fifth, if I could have broken that first game as well, I could have really opened it up. You know, Bernie's got such an easy serve, though, he hits his spots well. He was able to do it in that first game from Love-40 down. That sort of just kept the momentum going for him there. If I was able to break it open early in the fifth...

But then obviously had 15-40 at 5-3. He was kind of in that mood of just going for everything. Couple of shots went in.

Q. Would you take that backhand that just dropped over?

LLEYTON HEWITT: I can't remember now. The first backhand he hit, hit the tape. Went for a winner. The next one I felt like I scrambled as much as I could have. He was sort of just redlining on every shot.

Q. What will you miss about playing at the US Open?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, just great atmosphere like tonight. Especially the night matches are really special at the Open here. I've been fortunate to play in so many long four- and five-set matches out there on all three of the major courts.

You know, it was a great atmosphere out there again tonight.

Q. You're kind of a real mentor and kind of a father figure to these youngsters. Did you feel any conflict? Is it easy to set aside that aspect of things when you go out there and play against them?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, it was really awkward. I said it would be before the match, and it was (smiling).

As I said before, I get along really well with Bernie. Yeah, he's a good guy. He's moving in the right direction. You know, the last couple years I've gone out of my way to try to help him out a lot. Yeah, I think it was awkward for both of us.

Q. Do you think something like this does something good for him?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Probably, yeah, in the long run I think. He obviously was well on top. Yeah, I was able to somehow find a way. That's what I've been renowned for in my career. If I can instill a little bit of that especially into the three promising young guys on the way up, you know, with their games and the weapons they have, then that's just another positive for them.

Q. Talk about your quality of fighting. Obviously that was something you had from the get-go. Did you work on that at all? Did it just come naturally?

LLEYTON HEWITT: No, it just came naturally, yeah. I'm just very competitive. I pride myself on getting the most out of myself.

Q. Do you think you have the same level of ferocity and fight now that you did at the very beginning?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I do. Yeah, maybe in a different way in some way, though.

Q. It was obviously a very emotional match. You've both spoken about that. Is it a match you could actually enjoy while you were in the heat of the battle or just too much pressure and too much else going around to really enjoy what was happening? The second part is, in one sense is this like a baton change between you and the young ones, playing Bernie, now the No. 1 Australian?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, he's been I guess the No. 1 for a while, for the last couple years anyway. In terms of that, I've seen my role the last couple of years as more of a mentor to those guys anyway.

Yeah, I guess once you're out in the heat of battle it's hard to enjoy it because you've got so many things going through your mind about trying to get the most out of yourself and performing as well as possible.

So, yeah, I would have liked to have been able to enjoy it a bit more. But obviously when it's so tight, especially in the fifth set, you're just trying to find a way to obviously get across the line.

Q. You said your competitiveness is something you've always had. How do you go about trying to instill that in another player?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, it's not easy. Everyone's personalities are different, so you've got to work with that a little bit, I think. It's probably a work in progress.

But I think the biggest thing is if they see what you can get out of it, just doing a lot of the 1% things, and it doesn't always even have to be on the match court. It could be being the ultimate professional in the locker room and preparing as well as possible for matches. Then it just becomes part of your daily routine.

So there's a lot of things the younger guys can learn.

Q. You've heard the Aussie fans singing a fun song about walking in a Hewitt Wonderland. What's the one most wonderful thing about all your years playing tennis?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Playing tennis?

Q. Yes.

LLEYTON HEWITT: I don't know. Tennis has given me the life that I have, and that's the best thing. Obviously I've had a lot of success. A lot of hard work and dedication and sacrifices. But obviously at the end of the day, you know, tennis has given me this great life.

Q. Can you mention some of your most cherished memories from here, if any, other than the year you won? Big or small things you'll always remember about this place or your time here?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, the night matches are always, you know, that's probably the biggest difference to a lot of the other tournaments. When you play at night here, great atmosphere here, obviously 23,000, 24,000 people. You really feel like you are the showtime, prime time match.

Yeah, probably a couple years ago, two years ago, whenever I beat del Potro in the second round in five sets, because I came back from a foot surgery and didn't know if I'd have the opportunity to compete out there on the center stage against those guys again. To beat another former winner here in the night match, that was probably, apart from winning it, one of my biggest ones.

Obviously my first breakthrough year in 2000 of making the semis in singles and winning the doubles the year before I won it. This has always been result-wise one of my more successful slams.

Q. Talk about the first great win when you were young, winning your hometown tournament, how important was that?

LLEYTON HEWITT: It was obviously important. I went from 750 in the world to 150. Winning a couple satellites, I wouldn't have done it that quick.

Yeah, I guess, you know, instilled the confidence and self-belief that I can go out there and match it against tour players because I really was just not even a rookie. I was on the junior tour.

To go out there and beat guys like Agassi and hold up under that pressure and circumstance in the heat of battle against the best guys, that gave me a lot of belief. I think that's one of the reasons why I was able to succeed at a young age.

Q. At Wimbledon you spoke about some of the toughest strokes you've faced. Mentally, who would be the one or two greatest fighters that you've faced in your career?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Oh, Nadal for sure. The way he goes about it is fantastic. He's one of my favorite players to watch. How he handles, even at the French Open this year, Novak was well on top early, when he finally got on the scoreboard, incredible competitor.

Q. Can you sense a transformation in the way you were received here? Back when you were younger, you weren't the crowd favorite. Today everyone was going crazy wanting you to win.

LLEYTON HEWITT: They like the old guy, don't they? It's nice (smiling).

Yeah, unbelievable atmosphere out there. The night matches have been great. Even two years ago when I played on center court against del Potro, the whole crowd got behind me there. I really felt the love. Yeah, coming back as a champion as well as the years go on, once you've been back, your 10-year anniversary of winning the thing, you've been around for a while. I guess I appreciate that.

Q. What will you think about leaving the grounds tonight?

LLEYTON HEWITT: What time to book a practice court for tomorrow. Sam Groth already messaged me (laughter).

Q. A lot of your biggest rivals have long retired. Is there anybody who you're going to particularly miss playing against?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Probably Roger just because how good he is. Everything that he can do on a tennis court, it's second to none. I've had a lot of practice sessions before every major tournament the last couple years with Roger and I've really enjoyed that as well.

Q. When you first came into it, there were a bunch of Aussies. Now at the end of it there's a bunch of Aussies too. Is there a message you would like to give to the young guys coming through?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I will pass on stuff to the young guys. I don't have to say it here. But, yeah, obviously that's my next role, is to help those boys out.

I was very fortunate that I came up in a group where there weren't a lot of egos, especially the Woodies Stoltenberg, Fromberg, Wayne Arthurs, a lot of these guys. I stayed at both the Woodies' houses around the world. They helped me out with a lot of stuff. Obviously Rafter came up when I was playing Davis Cup with him. He took me under his wing.

So I was really fortunate with that stuff. It's just like, you know, I had Nick at my house in The Bahamas last week training beforehand. I think that's just part of a really good Australian culture.

Q. How special was it playing in front of your biggest fan, and what advice did he give you after the match?

LLEYTON HEWITT: He said I nearly won (laughter).

No, he gets along well with Bernie, too. No, it was good. He loves his tennis. I'm very proud that he could sit through five sets. Now he knows what Bec and my parents have had to sit through their whole life.

No, he loves it. Yeah, Bernie is fantastic with Cruz, Nick and Thanasi. They're great. Hopefully some of this rubs off and he wants to be out here someday.

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