By Caroline Overington
August 29 2002
Lleyton Hewitt has accused the organisers of the men's tour of lying to strengthen their case against him in a coming dispute about whether he should be fined for failing to do a television interview.
Hewitt told reporters at the US Open that "a lot of people lied" to save their jobs at the ATP, which has fined Hewitt nearly $200,000 for failing to do an interview with ESPN before a match he played in Cincinnati.
Hewitt has previously called the ATP a "circus" and threatened to play fewer matches next year, even at the expense of his No. 1 ranking.
Expanding on that here after an easy 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 first-round win over Frenchman Nicolas Coutelot, Hewitt said he thought it was "a known fact" that people were lying about what happened in Cincinnati.
"It was all one-sided. It was just absolute lies coming out. That was probably the most disappointing thing about it."
Hewitt said they put "little details into it, which tries to make their story a lot stronger. But it's basically just crap."
He said he did not want to "make a big deal about it. It sort of blew off. I felt like I was copping the brunt of it. I felt the ATP was sort of riding the wave and you know, there were so many guys just making stories up in there, I guess to save their jobs."
Hewitt has previously said that ESPN had agreed to postpone the interview until after his match, after he ran out of time to do it beforehand. He says that only the ATP was unhappy about that arrangement.
Hewitt said he would appeal against the fine. "I've got no doubt that I'm going to win. There won't be a fine at all."
ATP officials' only comment was that they hoped the matter would be resolved by the appeal.
Hewitt said he told ESPN that he would do the interview an hour before the match "but no one came back to us.
"Jason (Stoltenberg, his coach) could not find one person from the ATP to ask. When Jason eventually found someone, it was five minutes (before his match was due to start) and they said, 'No, it's too late now, you're going to get fined'."
Reporters here have tried to drag Hewitt's girlfriend, Kim Clijsters, into the debate over his popularity.
The first question she was asked after an easy first-round match was: "Regarding Lleyton, he has a bit of an image problem in America?"
The interview moderator stepped in to say: "Any questions about the match?" but there were none. She got: "Do you feel it's a little unfair, how Lleyton has been treated? Is he a nice guy?"
"I know he's a nice guy," Clijsters said.
Of the debate over the ESPN interview, Clijsters said: "I know if the (women's tour) would come up to me and tell me a few hours before my match that I had to do a half-hour interview, I wouldn't be happy either."
The only other question was: "Do you think people have a bad perception of him?"
"I don't feel that way about him," she replied.
"Maybe you have to ask some people in the crowd or something, not me."
the ATP organised one of those goodwill PR
thingys with Leyton the other day in which he knocked some balls with some kids who were disabled or ill or something like that. Anyway the press etc were there to take pics etc.
However discounting the press and ATP officails only 20 odd people were interested in watching Leytons knockabout with the kids