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Hewitt hungry for more - 'I feel like my game is coming together nicely'

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By (REUTERS) in York
  • Published 31.08.04

New York: The secret is out. Lleyton Hewitt is back in form and hungry for another Grand Slam title.

After losing his place at the top of the rankings in 2003, the Australian made some changes to his game, became more aggressive and upped his schedule. His improved results are clear to see.

Four titles this year, including back-to-back wins in Washington and on Long Island, have lifted the 23-year-old to No. 5 in the rankings and made him many people’s bet to repeat his 2001 triumph at Flushing Meadow.

“Last year I really didn’t play much,” said Australian Hewitt, after crushing Peru’s Luis Horna 6-3, 6-1 to win the Long Island Cup on Sunday. “This year I have just tried to hit a lot more balls. There’s nothing better than that winning feeling going into a Grand Slam.

“I feel like my game is coming together nicely but, at the US Open, it’s really about finding a way to win.”

In 2001, Hewitt demolished former world No. 1 Pete Sampras in the final to win his first Grand Slam title at the age of 20. “I think I definitely played some of my best tennis then for sure,” he said.

“The semi-final against (Yevgeny) Kafelnikov (whom he beat 6-1, 6-2, 6-1), I pretty much played flawlessly. And then in the final against Pete, I have probably never passed more or been as sharp as in that moment.”

Hewitt followed up with victory at Wimbledon in 2002, and topped the rankings for 75 consecutive weeks between November 2001 and April 2003, only to suffer a letdown as the likes of Roger Federer and Andy Roddick dominated the men’s game.

The Australian took some time off at the end of 2003, however, and returned rejuvenated in 2004 as an even more fearsome competitor. He lost to world No. 1 Federer in the Australian Open at Wimbledon and to Gaston Gaudio at the French Open. Both men went on to win the titles.

Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf during the Arthur Ashe Kid’s Day in New York. This family festival, held at the National Tennis Center, is a curtain-raiser to the US Open. (Reuters)

“At the French Open, Gaudio just played too well for me that day,” Hewitt conceded. “But against Roger, I had chances in both matches.

“I probably feel more confident this year than last year. This year I'm just hitting the ball better going in. My mindset has never changed. In the past, I’ve been able to play my best in the big matches, which is something that was drummed into me in juniors. I’ve always believed in my ability.”

At Flushing Meadow, Hewitt will face South African Wayne Ferreira, a tour veteran, who is set to retire after the tournament.

“It’s going to be a tough match,” said Hewitt. “We’re 2-2, and we’ve played some tough matches in the past. He’s a real danger out there. “I beat (Marat) Safin, (Gustavo) Kuerten and (Tim) Henman in Cincinnati (earlier this month) and, at times, I played some pretty incredible tennis. If I can put together matches like that at the US Open, it's going to take a hell of a player to beat me.”