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Australian swing the sole focus for Hewitt

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Originally published on: 06/01/12 11:20

A current ranking of 186 belies both his talent and trademark fighting spirit, but given that a recurrent foot injury restricted Lleyton Hewitt to just nine ATP tournaments and two Davis Cup appearances last year, the spirited Aussie can be content simply to have a part to play in the Australian summer.

In Perth this week to get some matches under his belt ahead of the Australian Open – where he has been awarded a wildcard for the second straight year – the 30-year-old pushed world No.19 Richard Gasquet and world No.24 Fernando Verdasco to three sets and earned his first singles win since last July when he downed China’s Wu Di 6-3 6-2.

“The focus was to come here and get plenty of court time and just test the moving out and try to get my ball strike as close to where I want it going into Melbourne,” admitted Hewitt. “The three matches have been perfect for me.”

Adelaide-born Hewitt, who now lives in the Bahamas, contested an epic five-set battle with David Nalbandian in the first round in Melbourne last year and was at it again in round two at Wimbledon, where he ultimately lost another fierce battle against Robin Soderling.

And while the 2002 Wimbledon champion remains fond of playing on grass, thoughts of competing at the All England Club and at the Olympics beyond it are pipe dreams, for now.

“I’d like to play the Olympics but right at the moment, it’s on a totally different surface. I enjoy playing on grass so if the opportunity comes up then I would love to,” he said.

Before he looks to the season ahead, the Australian summer swing is the sole focus of Hewitt’s attention.

“Right at the moment I’ve just sort of been doing my own thing and focusing obviously on just these four weeks really, not the full-time tour yet, the grind,” he revealed.

“These are the easier weeks because I’m in my backyard, in my home country. But then again you obviously have a lot more pressure and expectations going into matches in your country.”

Hewitt thrives under pressure and it is that characteristic that ensures the two-time Grand Slam champion is never to be ruled out in any clash on court, no matter the opponent, so long as his body stands up to the test.

“I still play the game for the big tournaments,” maintains the Aussie. “You get an adrenaline buzz every time you step out there in a Grand Slam.”

Perhaps preparing for life after his playing days are over Hewitt will next head to Sydney, where he is ambassador for the Apia International Sydney.

“I’ve tried to help out a little bit obviously behind the scenes and just with a few different things,” added Hewitt, who will also play at the event.

“It’s been good. I think the tournament has got a solid base but there is a lot of room for improvement for it to become a bigger tournament worldwide – obviously it’s one of the greatest cities across the world as well.

“Hopefully it can go from strength to strength.”

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