Sat, Dec 30, 2006 - Page 18 News List

Lleyton Hewitt has set his sights on No. 1 spot

AFP , ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA

Australian Lleyton Hewitt believes he is a better tennis player than when he was world No. 1, but Roger Federer stands in the way.

The former US and Wimbledon champion, who will contest the Adelaide International tournament starting in Adelaide tomorrow, said he was committed as ever to returning to his halcyon days.

"The game keeps getting better and better, there is no doubt about that," Hewitt told reporters yesterday.

"And [world No. 1] 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 or No. 2 in the world a couple of years ago," he said.

"But you have got to produce that week in, week out, and obviously with a few niggling injuries that is pretty hard to do," he said.

Hewitt said fatherhood had not mellowed his desire to live his dream of winning the Australian Open.

He said he had overcome a knee injury which curtailed his success last year.

Hewitt knows for him to return to the top echelon again he will have to get past Federer.

"You have got to get to the semis and finals pretty much to have a crack at him," Hewitt said of the top-ranked Swiss.

"I have got to try and take care of obviously the lower-ranked guys first to get an opportunity at Federer. You don't want to be too worried about him," he said.

"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," he said.

Hewitt, currently ranked 20, is working hard on his fitness leading into next year.

"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.

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