SYDNEY:Lleyton Hewitt says the new Plexicushion hardcourts to be used at next month's Australian Open will help reduce wear and tear injuries for the players.
Plexicushion will replace Rebound Ace as the official court surface for this summer's Australian circuit, culminating with the year's opening grand slam tournament in Melbourne, starting on January 14.
The Australian former world No.1 was a strident critic of the Rebound Ace hard court surface and said heat was a major factor in playing on the surface.
Hewitt unveiled the new Plexicushion surface at Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre on Thursday ahead of next month's Sydney International, the major lead-in tournament to the Australian Open.
"I think the biggest thing about the Plexicushion is hopefully it can take out the different variations in speed that we've had with Rebound Ace over the years," Hewitt said after cutting a ceremonial ribbon on centre court along with his new coach Tony Roche.
The world No.21, who missed the last month of this year's season with an ankle problem, said he hopes the new blue courts will reduce injuries.
"I think the heat was a major factor in Rebound Ace, not only the way it played but also how grinding it was on your body, your hips and lower back, areas like that," he said.
"We saw a lot of twisted ankles over the years and that's due to the amount of heat that was held in the court and how sticky it got.
"If you just put your hand on the Rebound Ace surface on a 35 (Celsius) degree day you're nearly blistering straight away."
Hewitt, 26, linked with the experienced Roche this year in a bid to boost his sagging world ranking and will make another attempt at winning his home grand slam after playing the Sydney International from January 6-12.
"It's long hours, trying to get the miles in my legs but also working on specific areas and just adjust a little bit more before going into matches," he said of his new mentor's influence.
"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."
He said the injury lay-off meant he will be fresher than world No.1 Roger Federer and the other leading players come January.
"I'm going to be a lot fresher than Federer," he said. "Even when you look at (Novak) Djokovic, (Rafael) Nadal, (Nikolay) 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."
Hewitt confirmed he was planning to represent Australia in next year's Beijing Olympic Games.
"At the moment I'd look forward to playing hopefully singles and doubles with Paul Hanley," he said.
"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."