Allright, with a bit of a delay (and no, honestly, not intented at all. I've just been too busy to get in here...
Part 3 of the interview!
Smoked a sigar
transl. by Ingrid, ed. by Marly
Humo: Kim and Lleyton are known in Australia as the new Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. Isn’t there an astonishing amount of pressure on their relationship?
Lei: ‘I think they are coping rather well with this. I hear from Kim that there are continuously cameras in front of the Hewitt home in Adelaide. For the time being they still consider it a game to avoid those. Hopefully It will stay like this.’
Humo: How difficult is it for them that he isn’t loved in Australia?
Lei: ‘Lleyton doesn’t necessarily want everyone to like him. He is like me in this sense (laughter). And Kim, yes, Kim isn’t bothered by anything for the time being.’
Humo: What are you thinking when you see him raging about something on court sometimes?
Lei: ‘I think it’s splendid. He at least ensures that men’s tennis is still a bit appealing. It would be quite a boring thing without him. When Kim got incorrectly ripped off a point a few weeks ago in the final against Davenport in Sydney, she didn’t restrain herself either, and smashed her racket on the ground.’
Humo: That’s the influence of her boyfriend, an outsider would say.
Lei: ‘Nonsense! Kim has always been temperamental. When she was 10 years old, she was already breaking her rackets in anger. It’s even worse for Elke; she receives one code violation after the other. Ach yeah, that happens to be part of tennis. I go nuts when I hear talk that my daughter has a model role – to my eyes any inhabitant of Bree has the same important model role. When she wants to smoke a cigarette, she smokes one for my sake. It’s nobody’s business about the rest.’
Humo: Does she smoke secretly, Lei?
Lei: ‘No, thank god she can’t stand it, but Lleyton once got caught by a photographer with quite large a cigar in his mouth, after which half of Australia was crying blue murder. As if sportsmen have to behave correctly each and every moment of the day. Nobody could sustain that.
Because they are so well-known, you have to be a bit more inventive.
When Kim and Lleyton want to practise, I often rent three courts at different clubs. When they are spotted too much in one club, you immediately have 100 or 200 people courtside.
Another example: when they like to go to Antwerp for a day, I rent a hotel room under another name. And when they want to visit the zoo, I try to arrange with the management that they can enter through a back door.’
Humo: You’d like your daughter to enjoy tennis in all tranquility, and then one day she comes home with the future number one of men’s tennis. Did you never fear that it would hamper her career?
Lei: (laughs) ‘We have never been busy with planning her career, and she is allowed to choose her boyfriend herself.
Relationship or no relationship: Kim is still playing with the same mindset as when she was 12. Last year Justine lost at Roland Garros and immediately left for home ‘sick’. When Kim was defeated at Roland Garros last year, she was already playing with kids an hour later.’
Humo: You said it back then: ‘It’s maybe good that she is out early’.
Lei: ‘That’s right. Recently she played the finals of the singles and doubles in Sydney. She is the last one to realises how tired she is. That’s how it is with sports people. But if tennis is over in a few years, she will still have to be able to walk normally across the street and not have pain everywhere.
There are also doctors who prescribe all kind of things to postpone menstruation during an important match. I say then: ‘Keep your hands off it. Let nature have its way.’ If she loses a match because of it, OK, then so be it.’
Humo: At Nike they know you as an intractable negotiator. Last year, when negotiations for a new sponsor were required, you chose Fila.
Lei: ‘If they state that Kim needs to be available for promotion 10 days a year, then I say: ‘No way. Three is the top.’
Look, last week I was in contact with a Dutch chewing gum producer. They wanted to pay 4.5 million (= €112,500) for a commercial, but Kim had to be in Spain for two days during the shooting. ‘That’s not possible’, I said. They didn’t understand it. I then gave them the number of Justine Henin and Kim Gevaert.’
Humo: How long can you afford to have such an attitude?
Lei: ‘First of all I am the father of Kim and Elke. All is in consideration of them, and not of the money, like usual in top sport. We have in fact learned the most from the story of Anna Kournikova. Give that girl the team that Kim gets, and she will be in the top five of women’s tennis again. Her management has signed so many deals in the past years that she isn’t at ease for a second. She has hardly finished a match before a car is waiting to bring her quickly to the next appearance. Of course you become unhappy through this. One can earn millions a year, but if you’re not happy, it’s nothing really. No, when I see Kournikova, I don’t care that many people think that I’m an asshole.’
END of PART 3
PREVIEW next installment; part 4
(translated by Mark, aka Lynx)
Humo: At the end of last year you had been toying for a bit with the thought of Kim becoming Australian. Have you given up this idea once and for all?
Lei: ‘No. After the 'Sports Personality of the Year' Stefan Everts said to me: ‘I don't understand why Kim stays in Belgium.
Don't forget to come back for the next part!