Hewitt on top of the
By Richard Yallop
March 19, 2002
LLEYTON HEWITT started the year down and thoroughly out.
First there was the chicken pox that wiped him and Australia out of the Hopman Cup. He tried the impossible, a comeback at the Australian Open just two weeks later but was wiped off centre court in the first round by feisty Spaniard Alberto Martin.
Then came the virus that kept him in bed for about a month. And the breathing problems. And don't forget the ongoing stomach complaint.
Not that you'd guess all that happened now. Two big tournament wins back-to-back; he's undefeated since his return; he's claimed a string of former world No. 1 scalps; and predictions about his future keep leaping higher and higher.
Hewitt, now acknowledged by his peers as setting the benchmark in men's tennis, has the potential to stay world No. 1 for a decade, according to influential commentator John Alexander.
Hewitt won his second successive tournament yesterday, beating Briton Tim Henman 6-1 6-2 in a one-sided final of the Masters Series event at Indian Wells. In the semi-final Hewitt had his fourth straight win over former No .1 Pete Sampras, 6-2 6-4.
A fortnight earlier in San Jose, Hewitt beat Andre Agassi, another former No. 1, and is now guided by Hewitt's former coach, Darren Cahill.
Alexander, who chairs Tennis Australia's player development committee, said Hewitt, the youngest ever person to end the year as No. 1, could stay there for another decade.
Drawing a comparison with Australia's last No. 1, Pat Rafter, who was 27 when he made it to the top for two weeks in 1999, Alexander said it was quite possible that, as Hewitt had become No. 1 at 20, he could stay there for 10 years. He saw no danger of burn-out.
"I'm sure Lleyton's goal would be to stay No. 1 for a decade. He could break all-time records and I think that's what his goal would be."
Alexander said he used to doubt whether Hewitt had the strength from the back of the court to penetrate on the clay at the French Open but those doubts are disappearing: "I think he's so far ahead of everyone else at the moment, and gaining in strength each day, that he is a great chance for the French," he said.
Australian Davis Cup captain John Fitzgerald believes Hewitt can win all four grand slams, but the French Open, played on clay, presents the greatest challenge, because it is the most physical.
Team Hewitt changes again
as agent heads to AIS
February 22 2002
Lleyton Hewitt's entourage is to alter for the second time in three months, with Hewitt's Australian agent, John McCurdy, accepting the post as head tennis coach and program manager of the Australian Institute of Sport.
Hewitt parted company with coach Darren Cahill in December and appointed Jason Stoltenberg in his place. This latest change is not so dramatic, as McCurdy's role will be partially filled by Octagon manager Rob Aivatoglou, whose business association with Hewitt pre-dates McCurdy's appointment four years ago.
Hewitt leaves for the United States today to prepare for his first tournament since last month's first-round loss to Alberto Martin at the Australian Open. The 21-year-old has been recuperating from chickenpox, and has entered the San Jose event, which will also mark the debut of Cahill's new partnership with Andre Agassi.
McCurdy, 41, is a former tour player and Victorian state coach. He fills the AIS position vacated by Chris Kachel - now travelling with Evie Dominikovic - after 12 years.
"I've had a wonderful association with Lleyton," said McCurdy.
McCurdy's star pupils will include talented teenagers Todd Reid, Ryan Henry and Chris Guccione, with the non-residential scholarship holders to be determined with input from the new coach.
Meanwhile, the recently-retired Peter Tramacchi, a regular Davis Cup hitting partner in the John Newcombe era, has been contracted as a private consultant to the Tennis New South Wales high-performance program.
LLEYTON PLANS ON DEFENDING HIS TOP RANKING
Hewitt brims with confidence needed to remain on top
By Sandra Harwitt
Confidence – a common trait that all champions seem to possess and Australian Lleyton Hewitt is definitely no exception. Only one year out of his teens, Hewitt captured his first taste of Grand Slam glory at the 2001 U.S. Open. And then in the late autumn, at 20 years, 10 months old, he because the youngest player ever to end a season as the world No. 1 player in the ATP rankings.
Of course, confidence comes in different packages. Players like Bjorn Borg and Stefan Edberg wore theirs with that cool aloofness befitting the quiet Swedish personality. In contrast, the Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe's of the world were outwardly brash and cocky, never subdued enough to be ignored.
In case you've missed Hewitt – although it's highly unlikely you didn't take notice last year – the scrappy Australian is of the Connors and McEnroe mold. Bold and brash, Hewitt holds nothing back, wearing his emotions on his sleeve.
It is likely that his brazen personality will be beneficial as Hewitt faces a new situation in the coming weeks – returning to the tour after illness kept him away. Proof that Hewitt is still in his youth more than adult life could be that he recently contracted the childhood disease chicken pox. Clearly fatigued, Hewitt valiantly attempted to play the Australian Open, but the top seed couldn't hold his own against Alberto Martin of Spain, losing in four sets in the first round. He hasn't played since, but is due back on court the week of Feb. 25 at San Jose and plans to follow that event with stints at the Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells and Nasdaq-100 Open in Miami.
"It was just unlucky that it happened at that time," said Hewitt, of being spotted with the chicken pox during the first Grand Slam of the year. "It was unfortunate, but also I probably needed the break. Hopefully, I'll come back bigger and stronger because of it."
At 5', 11"and 150 pounds, Hewitt is categorized with the slighter built players on the tour and takes his cue from these type of aggressive baseliners.
CHANG, AGASSI STYLES WERE INFLUENCE
"Obviously when I was younger, I looked up to Michael (Chang) because I wasn't the biggest guy around. I sort of looked at how I was just going to be able to dominate the big servers and big hitters. You look at guys like Michael and Andre Agassi, see how that sort of counter-puncher player, especially Michael, further back of the court, can dominate guys with the passing shots. Obviously, I think the biggest weapon is the return of serve. I've drawn strength from Michael winning, obviously, the French, but probably more so Andre winning with his style of game on all surfaces at the four Grand Slams. For me, that's a big thing, knowing that a guy like that can do that, beat such big servers, especially on a court like grass at Wimbledon."
Hewitt pinpoints the difference between his old coach, Darren Cahill, who resigned at the end of last year and has just signed on with Agassi, and new coach, Jason Stoltenberg, as most significant in terms of off-court preparedness. Stoltenberg seem to be more attuned to what working in the gym can do for a player, especially a smaller guy like Hewitt, who could use to build up strength and muscle. Such strategy is certainly not going to hurt Hewitt, who relies on a very physical style of game to beat opponents, many of whom are taller and more powerful than he is.
WILL CONCENTRATE ON TRAINING
"I actually don't think that I was as fit as I should be and probably could be the last couple of years," said Hewitt, who has won 12 career titles including the coveted U.S. Open. "You know, even though I got to No. 1, I'm not as good a player as I can be. It's great that I've had the success that I have, but there's still areas of my game – I'm only 20-years-old – there's areas of my game that I still know and think that I can work on and become a better player. To produce the results like the U.S. Open on all different surfaces, for me, I've got to change a few things.
"I think I've definitely got to get a little bit stronger, obviously need a higher percentage of first serves, getting more cheap points off my first serve, getting those easier points, and also becoming more of an all-court player."
In Hewitt's mind, he's ready to make his mark in other arenas besides for the hardcourt he won the U.S. Open on in September. The way in which challenges the competition is by outdoing them in the confidence and tenacity departments and that makes the Aussie a tough player to beat.
"I think one of my main areas of strength as well as my return of serve, I think is in my mind," Hewitt said. "I'm capable – I've got the confidence that I'm capable of doing well in the French Open and also at Wimbledon in the years to come. When I go out there, I love competing, I love getting on the court and working hard. When I go out there and give a hundred percent every time I step on the court. If I play with that same confidence that I played with at the end of last year, then I think, I'm going to end up having a pretty good year as well this year. Hopefully, I feel like I'm getting better and better on clay and grass the last few years. I'm just hoping it's sort of a matter of time before I start having some big results at the French and Wimbledon."
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2002
Preparing for his return to the game as he recovers from illness, world No.1 Lleyton Hewitt says he’s unconcerned by former coach Darren Cahill linking with Andre Agassi.
Hewitt and Cahill parted company in December after Hewitt had ascended to the top spot in the world, and after Agassi did likewise with his mentor of eight years, Brad Gilbert, Agassi last week engaged Cahill’s services.
Both Hewitt and Agassi are planning returns to the game in the San Jose tournament that begins on February 25 – Hewitt from complications from his bout of chicken pox and Agassi from a wrist injury that was thought at the time to be career-threatening.
Asked whether he is bothered by the fact that the next time he meets Agassi it could be with his fellow South Australian Cahill in his opponent’s camp, Hewitt said it would make no difference to the result.
"Not really. I'll go out there, it's between me and Andre basically," he said. "Last time I played Andre was in the Masters Cup. I played one of my best matches ever. In the past, we've had extremely tough matches. It's sort of gone either way.
"I've got great memories of playing Andre. He was obviously my biggest win in that first tournament when I beat him in the semi-finals in Adelaide. I've got good memories of that. If we were to meet, it would be an extremely tough match, that's for sure."
Hewitt says he is almost fully recovered from the virus and its complications, and says he had little choice but to take some time off to get over the problems.
"I am pretty much over it," he said. "It has been sort of a slow, gradual process really that you have to go through. I am just unlucky that it happened at that time (days before the Australian Open). You know, it was unfortunate, but also I probably needed the break.
"Hopefully I'll come back bigger and stronger because of it. You know, it was obviously a little bit of a setback playing in such a big tournament as the Australian Open with it."
Having spent his time on the sidelines after his shock opening round loss to Spaniard Alberto Martin at the Australian Open, Hewitt says he is ready to fire in San Jose.
"You know, I'm feeling good. I sort of have just been training the last week or so, at the moment back on the court," he said.
"I've been in the gym a little bit longer than that. I feel like I'm getting better and better each day. It's going to be a tough week, though, in San Jose for me, coming back after you haven't played for a while.
"It's always going to be tough, but hopefully I can get those first couple of matches under my belt. Once you sort of get into the tournament, I think I've got as good a chance as anyone."
Hewitt changes court to get better
By Alex Brown in San Jose, California
Officially, Lleyton Hewitt wants it known that any showdown with Andre Agassi is just that - a showdown with Andre Agassi.
Any drama with his dumped coach Darren Cahill joining Agassi's camp? That's in the past, Hewitt says.
Just because Agassi has linked with Cahill, just because the circumstances surrounding the Hewitt-Cahill split were short of jovial, just because a Hewitt-Agassi match could present itself as early as next week, the world No1 isn't buying into talk of animosity with his former coach.
"I'll go out there and it's between me and Andre, basically," Hewitt said. "Last time I played Andre, in the Masters Cup (in Sydney), I played one of my best matches ever.
"[The split with Cahill] is sort of between Darren and I and that's the way it's going to stay pretty much the whole time as well. We just sort of came to the end. Darren let me know he was resigning. I didn't have a problem with that. I felt like we've had a great partnership over the last three or four years."
Hewitt scoops awards
By NIKKI TUGWELL
WORLD No. 1 tennis player Lleyton Hewitt last night delivered on his overwhelming favouritism by winning The Advertiser-Channel 7 Sports Star of 2001.
Trading his baseball cap for a tuxedo for the star-studded event, sponsored by RAA Insurance, the 20-year-old also won the People's Choice Award as most popular athlete for the second consecutive year.
In an extraordinary 12 months, Hewitt won the US Open, the Tokyo Open, the Sydney International singles title and also the final at Queens in the lead up to Wimbledon.
The Team of the Year category was won by SA's national quad sculls representatives Jo Lips, Amber Halliday and Sally Causby who teamed with New South Wales rower Catriona Roach to form the world-conquering Australian team.
They won gold at the world championships in Switzerland and the World Cup in Munich.
Baseballer Leigh Neuage, 18, who was signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers last year, was named Junior South Australian Sports Star of the Year.
He made an impact in the American Rookieball League and was a key contributor on debut for Australia at the world championship in Taipei in November.
Donna Alexander was honoured as the Special Olympian of the Year for winning three gold and one bronze medal in rhythmic gymnastics at the State Games. She also clinched gold and silver in State Games tenpin bowling.
Sport has always been a big part of Hewitt's life. He first picked up a squash racquet as a toddler.
As a child he wrote to his English teacher that he wanted to improve his spin bowling so he could "bowl all the English cricketers out".