Better than ever: Hewitt
LLEYTON Hewitt is adamant he’s a better tennis player than when he ruled the world.
It’s just that a certain Swiss named Roger Federer has come along to make Hewitt and his ilk appear to be on a downward slide.
The former world No. 1, who will contest the Adelaide International tournament starting tomorrow, says he’s as committed as ever to return to his halcyon days.
‘‘The game keeps getting better and better, there is no doubt about that,’’ Hewitt said yesterday.
‘‘And Federer has now taken it to another level.
‘‘I think I’m a better player now than I probably was when I was No. 1, No. 2 in the world a couple of years ago.
‘‘But you have got to pro- duce that week in, week out and obviously with a few niggling injuries that is pretty hard to do.’’
The South Australian maintains he’s over such niggles and a knee injury which curtailed his success last year.
But as he begins his preparation for the Australian Open in Melbourne next month, the sceptre of Federer looms large.
‘‘You have got to get to the semis and finals pretty much to have a crack at him,’’ Hewitt said of the topranked Swiss.
‘‘I have got to try to take care of obviously the lowerranked guys first to get an opportunity at Federer.
‘‘You don’t want to be too worried about him.
‘‘Nine times out of 10 he’s going to be there waiting for you if you do make the final of the slam.
‘‘But with that in mind, you don’t want to get preoccupied with how to beat Federer when there are a lot of good tennis players out there . . . and you have got to beat a few of them to get a crack at Roger.’’
Hewitt, currently ranked world No. 20, has embarked on a ferocious fitness campaign leading into 2007.
But he said regaining a berth in the world’s top 10 wasn’t foremost in his thinking.
‘‘I’m pretty confident I have done enough work to be physically one of the best guys out there,’’ he said.
‘‘I feel like I’m playing as well as a lot of guys in the top 10, if not better than half of them. It’s not really a goal to get back into the top 10.’’