Hewitt says Games too close to U.S. Open

Updated: December 17, 2003, 5:25 PM ET
Reuters

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Australian former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt will miss next year's Athens Olympics because of a scheduling clash with the U.S. Open, Melbourne's Herald Sun newspaper reported on Thursday.

The Olympic tennis tournament from Aug. 15-22 next year ends a week before the U.S. Open starts in New York on Aug. 30.

"The big thing is when we had the Sydney Olympics in 2000, it was after all the four majors had been played," Hewitt was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

"Athens is being held right before the U.S. Open, and it's got the same feeling as the Atlanta Olympics (in 1996) when a lot guys were missing because it was just so close before the U.S. Open.

"I've sat down with (coach) Roger (Rasheed) and we've come up with a schedule designed for me to do well at the Grand Slams and Davis Cup.

"They're my priorities next year. I would like to win at least one major and help Australia successfully defend the Davis Cup."

Former U.S. Open and Wimbledon winner Hewitt, 22, said for many athletes the Olympics were the ultimate prize.

But he added: "For a tennis player, you can pack up your bags after losing at the Olympics and be on cloud nine two weeks later if you've had a win in New York.

"For me, Davis Cup is about representing Australia in a team sport and I love it. Although you're still representing Australia at the Olympics, you're doing it as an individual."

Hewitt said his decision had nothing to do with his Belgian girlfriend Kim Clijsters' plan to miss the Games, the newspaper reported. The women's world No. 2 said earlier this month she would miss the Olympics due to a clash of clothing sponsors.

Hewitt helped Australia to win the Davis Cup final against Spain at the end of November in Melbourne after a disappointing year in which he slipped from No. 1 to 17 in the rankings.