Hewitt's mentally set to smash Stepanek in tough match

LLEYTON Hewitt opens his assault on the Australian tennis summer with a first-round match-up with fellow tour veteran Radek Stepanek at the Brisbane International tonight.

Hewitt has fallen to number 83 since reaching the pinnacle ranking of number one in 2001 as a 20-year-old, but is confident a good off season and some match practice in Europe indoor tournaments has him in good stead leading into the Australian Open.

Hewitt said he faced a tough opponent in Stepanek, who comes into the tournament with confidence after helping the Czech Republic win the Davis Cup in November.

"(I've) always played pretty well against him, then lost to him a couple of months ago in Shanghai. He played really well," Hewitt said.

"I probably wasn't 100% in Shanghai so hopefully (tonight) will be different."

Entering his 15th year on the tour, Hewitt shows no sign of slowing yet.

"I love competing, obviously. You're retired for a long time I guess as well," he said.

"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's match will follow Serena Williams' second round outing tonight on Pat Rafter Arena.

Third-seed Williams takes on Alize Cornet of France.

Other Australians on court today include Matthew Ebden who takes on David Goffin of Belarus and qualifier John Millman who is up against Tatsuma Ito of Japan.

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