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Focused Hewitt ready for Davis Cup action
Greg Stutchbury | November 27, 2003 11:38 IST
Former world number one Lleyton Hewitt is adamant his long-layoff from competitive tennis will not affect him in the opening singles rubber of the Davis Cup final against Spain's Juan Carlos Ferrero on Friday.
Hewitt, who has not played since the Davis Cup semi-final against Switzerland in September, has slipped down the rankings since and is behind compatriot Mark Philippoussis as Australia's top singles player for the tie.
"I (have been) looking forward to this since I came off court against Federer in the last tie and nothing has changed," Hewitt told a news conference after the draw on Thursday.
"It's been a long eight weeks for me and. all my focus has been on this tie and probably this match, knowing that I was going to be playing Juan Carlos on day one."
Hewitt, 22, the 2001 U.S Open and 2002 Wimbledon champion, said part of his long break had been enforced.
"It wasn't entirely my choice. I had a foot problem and I had to get that sorted out."
Hewitt, however, was also mindful of the experience he had in 2001 when Australia hosted France in Melbourne on the same grasscourt as that being used for the final this weekend.
During that tie, Hewitt was visibly fatigued after embarking on a punishing schedule that ended with the U.S Open title, the Masters Cup and the world number one ranking.
"I had to look whether it was worthwhile flying all that way just to play in one tournament on a totally different surface indoors and I thought no, it's not."
While he has slipped below his two Spanish opponents, Ferrero is third, while Moya is seventh, Hewitt said one of his advantages came from playing on the specially-laid grasscourt at Rod Laver Arena.
"I think grass is a great equaliser in that these guys haven't played a match on grass, Moya hasn't played a match on grass for two and a half years," he added, though Moya has actually not played on grass since Halle in mid-2002.
"No-one has really talked about that much," Hewitt said.
Hewitt, who has been practising on the grass courts in Melbourne for the best part of two weeks said the court, which was used in 2001, had improved since then.
"It's probably playing a little bit quicker (than two years ago)," he said.
"It had been cut down to eight millimetres on the first day we practised on it (and) it will be down to five by tomorrow morning.
"It has been getting quicker and quicker each day and I think they have stopped watering it to harden and speed it up as much as possible.
"Hopefully tomorrow it will be that fraction quicker again."