Bet­ter than ever: He­witt

Townsville Bulletin - - Sport -

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.’’

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