Wed, Oct 11, 2006 - Page 18 News List

Hewitt says he's not planning an early retirement

AFP , SYDNEY

Australia's injury-plagued former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt said yesterday he was not contemplating retirement and believed he could again reach the top ranking on the men's tennis tour.

"I was No. 1 or two only a year and a half ago, so I feel like I can still get back up there," Hewitt said at a press conference to launch January's Sydney International.

"What drives you is watching guys like [Roger] Federer and [Rafael] Nadal playing out most of the finals," he said.

Hewitt, who is now ranked 18th in the world, said he was especially keen to add to his two Grand Slam titles.

"I want to get up there and have another crack at those guys, and hopefully next year not only my ranking improves, but I'll also be at the business end of the Slams again," he said.

"I still feel there are small errors in my game that I can work on to become a better player," Hewitt said.

Hewitt was responding to comments by former Davis Cup colleague Patrick Rafter, who said Hewitt was tiring and may never return to his best form.

"I only saw Pat's comments earlier. Pat and I know each other so well, but this year things have been hard regardless because I've had so many niggling injuries and that's hard on anyone, especially in my style of game," he said.

Asked about retirement plans, the 25-year-old said the idea hadn't even entered his head.

"I don't know, I've got no idea -- you sort of see as you go, but retirement's definitely not in my plans right at this minute," he said.

"This year has been tough, but you can't really do much about it when you roll your ankle. It's pretty unlucky and that happened four days before the French Open, lingering over until Wimbledon two weeks later," he said.

"It had a bit of a snowball effect. My knee probably got a bit worse because my ankle put my whole body out of balance," Hewitt said.

"Now is the time for me to do some proper rehab. I'm treating it like a pre-season to get myself in as good as possible shape, not only for the Australian summer next year, but for right through the year," he said.

Hewitt's hopes of regaining a top-10 berth will revolve around January's Australian circuit.

The former US Open and Wimbledon champion will resume play in the Adelaide International on Jan. 1-7 before tackling the Sydney International on Jan. 7-13.

He will then have another tilt at the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the year, which begins on Jan. 15.

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