SYDNEY - A month-long layoff due to an ankle injury has put Lleyton Hewitt in a good position to challenge for next month's Australian Open, the former world number one said on Thursday.
The 26-year-old, who missed the last month of the 2007 season because of the injury, said the year-ending schedule for most of the world's top players, including world number one Roger Federer, could take its toll in the heat at Melbourne Park.
"I'm going to be a lot fresher than Federer," Australian Hewitt told reporters. "Even when you look at (Novak) Djokovic, (Rafael) Nadal ... (Nikolai) Davydenko were getting tired at the Masters Cup so I'm going to be a lot fresher than those guys but I've just got to try and get some matches under my belt."
The world number 21, who annually carries the weight of his country's hopes of a first home champion at the Australian Open since Mark Edmondson in 1976, has been working with Federer's former coach Tony Roche to climb back up the rankings and prepare for 2008.
"It's long hours, trying to get the miles in my legs but also working on specific areas," he said of working with compatriot Roche, who helped Federer win six grand slam titles before they parted in May.
"The hard work's probably been done up until now and the next week or so and then try and taper off a bit more."
Hewitt, who will warm up for the Australian Open by appearing at the Sydney International event which starts on January 6, added he would also compete at next year's Beijing Olympics.
"At the moment I'd look forward to playing hopefully singles and doubles with Paul Hanley," said Hewitt who represented Australia at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
"I feel like we've got a great opportunity of winning a medal.
"Grand slams for a tennis player are the priority and we have the US Open about a week after the Olympics.
"It's fortunate it's on the same surface but it is a lot of flying, a lot of travel and you've got to still have enough in the tank."