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Hewitt's Competitive Fire Debuts In Brisbane

Brisbane, Australia

Hewitt© Getty ImagesLleyton Hewitt is making his Brisbane debut this week.

After a season that brought Lleyton Hewitt his fair share of challenges and disappointments, the Australian is ready to ring in the New Year with a clean bill of health and peak conditioning.

Making his debut at the Brisbane International this week, the 31 year old enters the event pleased with his off-season training in preparation for his 16th year on the ATP World Tour.

"I feel like I've had a really good off-season this year on the practice court and more so in the gym and doing off-court work," said Hewitt.

"I love competing… I've been able to freshen up though the last few years in terms of there has been four or five months at a time where I've had surgeries and had to recover. Mentally, I've been able to be a lot fresher and not burnt out as much. For me it's all about scheduling and not playing too many tournaments and obviously trying to play well where I want to play well."

Hewitt dropped as low as World No. 233 on 9 July, and despite playing a limited schedule throughout the year, he managed to work his way back into the Top 100, finishing at No. 83. The former World No. 1 will need to get off to a strong start in January if he wants to maintain his standing, as his biggest points haul from 2012 was courtesy of a fourth-round showing at the Australian Open.

The Adelaide native will open his title quest in Brisbane against the 2009 champion Radek Stepanek. The Czech won their most recent meeting at the Shanghai Rolex Masters in October.

"It's going to be a tough match," said Hewitt, who has a 3-1 lead over Stepanek in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series. "I've always played pretty well against him, and then lost to him a couple months ago in Shanghai, when he played really well.

"He's a tough competitor. He gives 100 percent every time he's on the court. He's got an awkward game style to a lot of other guys out there."

On Sunday, Hewitt partnered countryman Chris Guccione in doubles action. The two lost to top seeds Eric Butorac and Paul Hanley 6-4, 7-6(0).

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