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Hewitt: Women wouldn't last five sets

6/23/2009 - Tennis

WIMBLEDON, England -- Making women play best-of-five-set matches at the Grand Slams would be a waste of time because they are not fit enough to last the distance, former Wimbledon champion Lleyton Hewitt said Tuesday.

"I don't think a lot of them would last five sets," said the Australian after setting up a second-round date with fifth-seeded Argentine Juan Martin del Potro.

"The training you have to do to last five sets, especially seven best-of-five-set matches, it's a lot more than three-set matches. There would obviously be question marks [over whether] a lot of them could last that much," he said.

After years of resisting calls to award women equal prize money, with All England Club officials believing men provided more value to the fans, Wimbledon introduced parity in 2007.

But since then there have been murmurings from media and some of the fans that women are making easy money.

After sharing his views on the fairer sex, Hewitt turned his thoughts to being the only Australian in the men's draw.

The country that dominated Wimbledon from the 1950s until the early 1970s by producing champions such as Lew Hoad, Ashley Cooper, Neale Fraser, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson and John Newcombe is down to one representative in the men's draw for the first time at a Grand Slam since tennis turned professional in 1968.

Despite flying solo, Hewitt was relishing the challenge of doing well at Wimbledon.

"I'm absolutely aware of it and it doesn't put any more pressure on me because it has been a couple of years now where I've sort of been the main focus since Flip [Mark Philippoussis] and Pat [Rafter] haven't been at the majors," said Hewitt.

"Most of the majority of the focus has been on me anyway. So that doesn't worry me. It worries me that we don't have players, absolutely," he said.

According to ITF records, the previous worst showing by the country that has won the Davis Cup 28 times was when there were two Australians at the U.S. Open in 2006, at the All England Club in 2008 and at this year's French Open.

In Paris, Hewitt was joined by teen prodigy Bernard Tomic. But the 16-year-old failed at the last hurdle in his bid to become the youngest man to qualify for Wimbledon since Boris Becker 25 years ago.

"It's frustrating. Obviously, we want Tomic to improve," said Hewitt, who is one of only two former champions in the men's draw along with Roger Federer. "We can't throw all our eggs in one basket either. Ten years ago when I first came on tour, there was a good group of guys. Maybe some of those weren't going to win majors or be in the final but they were going to be competitive and were going to go close to making second weeks of Grand Slams.

"Somehow we've got to get back to that," he said. "We still have to try and identify the right kids. We're fortunate in Australia to be spoiled for choice with a lot of different sports. We've got to try and somehow get the best athletes."