Hewitt bemused at Aussies` stage fright

Sydney: Lleyton Hewitt can milk a crowd like few others, the energy from the bleachers infiltrating his own bloodstream.

And so it is with a mixture of mild bemusement and disbelief that Hewitt is witnessing the stage fright paralysing Australia`s best female players on the eve of the first grand slam of the year.

"I love it," Hewitt said of the pressure that world number six Sam Stosur, number 34 Jarmilla Gajdosova and number 71 Jelena Dokic have all blamed for recent losses in Australia so far this year.

"The Australian Open in 2005 was unbelievable. I came to Sydney and everyone expected me to play well, and I won Sydney and played exceptional tennis the whole week.

"Then I went to Melbourne and just rode a wave for two weeks.”

"As I`ve said many times before, I think it was the toughest grand slam draw that I`ve ever had, seven matches in a row against the guys that I had.”

"To reach the final and be two sets away from winning the tournament, I think I handled the pressure reasonably well.”

"It comes back to personalities and situations.”

"Look at Andy Murray. He handles it pretty well in London. Everyone says he hasn`t won a slam yet but you keep making semi-finals, you`re giving yourself a chance every time.”

"Everyone is different."

While the former world number one may thrive on the pressure, the fact the Australian women are freezing before the Australian Open gets underway at Melbourne Park must be a concern for local fans.

Gajdosova cried on the court while losing 6-0 6-0 to France`s Marion Bartoli at the Hopman Cup while Stosur said she felt struck by a "bombshell" of pressure while losing 6-4 6-2 to Italian Francesca Schiavone at the Sydney International.

Most recently, Dokic admitted she was so nervous in her 6-0 6-3 capitulation to Bartoli in Sydney that she could barely move her arms or legs.

"I just really froze out there," Dokic said.

"It was not about tennis. It was not about her being the better player. I just really, really got nervous."

"My legs and my arms and everything, I just couldn`t move. It`s tough when you get so nervous and tight, when it kind of overtakes your whole match and you`re not able to actually play the match that you want to."

"I think it`s hard. You see it with Sam also. It`s very hard to play for us at home because we want to do so well."

"I think it`s like that for a lot of players and you feel the pressure."

"So it`s really about us wanting to perform so well in Australia because we love it here and the crowd is so great to us and the whole country is behind us."

"That`s all it is. We just really want to ...do well."

Bureau Report

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