Duesseldorf: Lleyton Hewitt goes into the French Open in Paris next week as one of the favourites for the title but with a niggling fear in his head: he is worried that he may never win it.
The world No.1, who will defend his Wimbledon title next month and who won the US Open in 2001, has never been beyond the quarter finals at Roland Garros and knows it will take a monumental effort if he is to become the first Australian to win the title since Rod Laver in 1969.
For a man who thrives on confidence it is quite an admission. Not that he has given up. He is, after all, only 22.
“Maybe I have to work a bit harder on clay,” Hewitt said. “It’s a challenge and I’ve always liked challenges. Whether I will ever win the French (Open) and master playing on clay, who knows' But I’ll give it a shot.”
Hewitt, who was fine-tuning his game by playing for Australia in the World Team Cup in Duesseldorf this week, admitted he was at a disadvantage on the surface.
“Not having grown up on it means that it takes me a little longer to get used to it but I enjoy playing on clay, the strategy and the patience you need.”
After taking time off to rest and recover from a breathing problem which affected him last year, the Australian began his claycourt season only last week at the Hamburg Masters Series, where he lost to Fernando Gonzalez of Chile in the third round.
“I didn’t expect to win the tournament in Hamburg but I had three good matches which is as good as I could have wished. I think everyone there played probably as well as they could against me.
“That’s something that you have to expect, as number one, that everyone will come at you all guns blazing, but I feel like I can still go up a notch.”
Hewitt has struggled on clay, particularly against the Spaniards, Carlos Moya and Juan Carlos Ferrero, players whose weight of shot is tough for him to handle. That, Hewitt said, would come with experience. “I feel like I’m getting better on it each year.” (Reuters)