Happy Holidays everyone!
26/12/2002 18:18 - (SA) E-mail story to a friend
Hewitt geared for Hopman Cup
Navratilova to play doubles
Melbourne - The 2003 season of world number 1 Lleyton Hewitt begins in earnest on Sunday as the Australian leads team-mate Alicia Molik against Italy at the Hopman Cup mixed team event.
Hewitt has been back in training for several weeks for the eight-nation tournament, which begins the New Year campaign on Saturday as Uzbekistan and Paraguay play a shoot-out tie for the eighth spot in the field.
Hewitt has reportedly been working out with special emphasis on weight training under the watchful eye of coach Jason Stoltenberg and a specialist fitness trainer taken on to help the 21-year-old build up stamina for the long haul.
The Aussie was pronounced in his best recent shape before Christmas by his childhood coach Peter Smith, who groomed the Adelaide player for greatness.
"He's recharged the batteries and lifted the fitness to another level, Smith told Australian media. "There's been some serious weight work going on at the gym."
Hewitt capped a second straight season as world number 1 with a thrilling five-set win over Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain for the title at the Masters Cup in Shanghai last month.
The Aussie then returned home for the first time in months and was soon joined by girlfriend Kim Clijsters, winner of the women's year-end event on the WTA Tour and also playing for Belgium at the Hopman Cup, now in its 15th edition.
Second seed Australia will play the host's traditional opener on Sunday, facing the veteran Italian pair of Davide Sanguinetti and Silvia Farina Elia.
Hewitt has a score to settle in Perth, where he had to pull out mid-way through last year's competition after coming down with chicken pox which compromised his Australian Open.
Winning the home Grand Slam, to be played in Melbourne January 13-26, is a top priority for Hewitt, who has never reached the second week of the major.
Australian sensitivities have apparently been bruised by the inclusion of Molik, who is ranked 100 in the world - some 51 computer places below national women's number 1 Nicole Pratt.
Pratt has grumbled that the photogenic Molik might have been included for more than just tennis reasons. "I'm disappointed not to be there, but I understand that tennis is about entertainment and they need to sell tickets," she said.
Playing in Perth for the American is the other world number 1, Serena Williams, making her debut in Western Australia. She is paired with compatriot James Blake.
Holder Spain's winning combination from last January has been broken up with the retirement of Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, leaving Tommy Robredo to team with Virginia Ruano Pascual.
US, 1, Serena Williams, James Blake
Australia, 2, Alicia Molik, Lleyton Hewitt
Czech Republic, 3, Daja Bedanova, Jiri Novak
Belgium, 4, Kim Clijsters, Xavier Malisse
Italy, Silvia Farina Elia, Davide Sanguinetti
Slovak Republic, Daniela Hantuchova, Dominik Hrbaty
Spain, Virginia Ruano Pascual, Tommy Robredo
Playoff for eighth spot:
Paraguay, Rossana de Los Rios, Ramon Delgado
Uzbekistan, Iroda Tulyaganova, Oleg Ogorodov - Sapa-DPA