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Écrit par Jerome   




March 29, 1998


M. RIOS/A. Agassi

7-5, 6-3, 6-4

An interview with:



MIKI SINGH: First question for Andre.


Q. Did he play as well as you expected?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah. Never playing him before, you've got -- you don't go out there quite knowing. But he played better than I expected.


Q. Andre, it bother you so much crowd from Chile?

ANDRE AGASSI: I mean, you know, it's not an easy environment to play in, but it was okay.


Q. Do you feel like a Davis Cup game?

ANDRE AGASSI: A little bit.


Q. How do you see Marcelo Rios's game?

ANDRE AGASSI: Very good, played very good today. His serve was better than I was expecting.


Q. Do you think it's going to take you a few times playing a guy like him? Seemed like you were having trouble reading his shot. Was it your game being off or, "This guy is good, I'm going to have to play him a few times"?

ANDRE AGASSI: I definitely had trouble reading some of his forehands. When I would hit my backhand crosscourt, I had trouble having a sense for when to cut it off and take it up the line. Sometimes he was flicking it up the line. A little trouble reading his serve, his forehand, wasn't quite pulling the trigger on my own shots. He's the kind of guy that you can't wait for him to miss; you've got to be able to take it to him. I didn't quite do it. I mean, I was hitting the ball okay, but I wasn't stepping in and really getting good wood on it.


Q. Andre, how much did it hurt you not to have played a couple big finals, be on a regular roll when you come to this stage?

ANDRE AGASSI: Honestly, I felt like it had more to do with Marcelo than that particular situation. You know, you have to address him like a big player. I was going out there and playing him like he's five foot eight. I thought I could back him into the paint. The bottom line is, you know, he doesn't play his size. He has good stick, he moves well, serves better than you expect. You know, he puts you in a position to have to do something early in the point. That's to his credit.


Q. First, congratulations for a great match. Some people after today are going to say that maybe Marcelo doesn't deserve the No. 1 ranking because he's not won a Grand Slam. How do you feel about it and give me an insight of the heart of a tennis player to become the No. 1? How important it is for everybody on the tour to reach this stage? Do you think he's going to do it maybe this year or Roland Garros or the US Open?

ANDRE AGASSI: I mean, it's a great feeling to be No. 1 for the first time. I think Marcelo will enjoy the feeling very much. But, he's No. 1 right now. That's the extent of it. How he does in the Grand Slams, how everybody does in the Grand Slams, are going to determine ultimately the end of the year ranking. He deserves it now because he's No. 1. He'll have to win a slam this year, you know, to be No. 1 in the players' eyes. To be No. 1 in his own eyes, he'd have to win a slam.


Q. A match like this, long rallies, two guys who weren't six-foot-four hitting 180 miles an hour serves, how good is this for tennis in the United States?

ANDRE AGASSI: It's nice. You know, I never thought we'd see a player as good as Marcelo again after Chang. He plays well. Brings another dimension to tennis. It's nice for me as a competitor to get out there and play that kind of tennis. It really forces you to think, forces you to move, forces you to execute. I think it's good for the game. There's no question about it, especially in America where, you know, people tend to be a bit -- have more options for big-time sports, they don't want to tune into tennis if they're watching a big serve here, a big serve there. This is good for tennis all-around, especially here.


Q. Was a surprise for you Marcelo today?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, I had trouble reading his serve and I had trouble reading his forehand. You know, it's never been easy for me to settle in when I've never played somebody. I'm the kind of player that likes to have a feel for it. I never quite got settled out there. But it had a lot to do with he was hitting his shots effectively, and I wasn't.


Q. Did you have any particular game plan?

ANDRE AGASSI: No. I just went out there like a chicken without his head.


Q. Did you feel he had any particular weakness in his game?

ANDRE AGASSI: You know, I couldn't get to it today. His forehand is a much better shot than his backhand, no question. But he doesn't -- I couldn't get to his weakness today, which would have required me to be hitting my shots a little bit bigger.


Q. Andre, can you talk about his defense and how it might have affected the way you played?

ANDRE AGASSI: He has real good defense to his forehand side. Again, you know, being leftie is also another curve ball that gets thrown into the equation. My backhand crosscourt sets up a lot of shots for me, throughout the tournament. All of a sudden you're playing a leftie with your backhand crosscourt is going straight to his strength. Then I didn't serve particularly well today either. I had one side, I was really struggling with the sun. Every time I would toss it up, it was like I wasn't ready to pick up an early return, you know, because I'd come down from hitting the serve, I wouldn't quite be able to pick up the next ball as quickly as I wanted to. Paolo had a few highlights for himself today.


Q. In your overall comeback, is this a setback or a speed bump?

ANDRE AGASSI: It's okay. It shows me what I need to do to go to the next step. I feel like I've established myself in my own mind as a player that's playing one of the best right now. But in order to beat the best, you know, I have to take another step. There's no question. But I got plenty of not just time, I have plenty of room. I mean, this is early on for me, so I'm going to be playing much better come the Grand Slams for sure.


Q. Were you surprised with his reflex on that shot you hit directly at him, that he whipped that backhand crosscourt?

ANDRE AGASSI: No, no. I mean, it's happened a couple times this week. The wind was on his back, into my face. You know, he held his ground. I hit it pretty hard. But all he did was kind of stay firm on it, it shot crosscourt. Right when I saw him standing there, after it left my racquet, I knew there were problems.


Q. He have this really economical service motion. Is that part of what makes it difficult to pick up?

ANDRE AGASSI: He also kind of steps into it, too. It's not like he tosses it. He kind of tosses it, steps and serves. You know, he has good direction with it. You know, there's always that added benefit of being left-handed, too. You're serving all the bigger points in the ad court, your favorite court. A lot of lefties play, like Rusedski, same thing, his serve will be a solid step down if he was right-handed, even though he can hit it 145. It's being leftie, definitely an advantage, just based on the fact that you're not used to seeing the ball, all the big points are played in your favorite box.


Q. The Agassi from Chile beat the real Agassi. How do you feel about that?



Q. Would have been nice to win a fourth, but is it tempered a little by the fact that you're still climbing; you haven't hit your level yet?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah. There's no question that I can play better than this, which is helping me out here a little bit. Again, one of my worst nightmares is to play well and lose handily. That's not a good feeling. I know I'm going to get a lot better as I go along here, upcoming weeks. This was, you know, certainly a tournament that took me in the right direction. But I'm starting to think about winning these now. So it's still disappointing.


Q. Was the possibility of preventing him from being No. 1, was that worth anything in terms of motivation?

ANDRE AGASSI: You're just out there trying to win the tennis match. You can't do much more than play your best tennis, you know.


Q. Andre, what do you think you would have said beforehand if someone had told you it would only go three sets and you would lose?

ANDRE AGASSI: I would have said, "I didn't ask you."


Q. Did you see Rios staying at No. 1 or do you see it as a passing thing?

ANDRE AGASSI: You know, I think one of his assets is he can play well on all the surfaces. He has short swings. He has good returns. I can even see him playing well on grass. But to be No. 1 requires, you know, to win big events. He has to establish himself there. In the finals of Australia, it was kind of disappointing to see how he played there. You know, those elements. Today was much better, but not quite as big as a Grand Slam. You know, he's talented enough, I think, to always be competing at the top three. But for him to win and to establish himself as the No. 1 player, time will tell. It's impossible to say.


Q. What are your clay court plans after Russia?

ANDRE AGASSI: Monte Carlo, Munich.


Q. Just two?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, as of right now. I might play another one.


Q. Andre, where do you think the match turned?

ANDRE AGASSI: I got off to a little bit of a slow start, you know. Bad service game second game of the match. That was the easier side to play from, too. I donated my serve there. Then I worked myself back into the first set. At 5-6, I was serving with the sun. I had a long deuce game there. I felt like if I could have gotten to a tiebreaker there, you know, just gotten through that first set in a way that was a little bit more than 7-5, 1-Love, because right away he held serve there. That was a big pivotal point of the match. Then 1-All in the second set, he's serving 30-All, he double faults. The umpire overrules it. That was another turning point. He ends up holding serve on the difficult side. Then I went to the other side, you know. He plays a good game. Next thing you know, he's up 4-1. That was the game I needed to break him there. I had Love-30. Then at 30-All he double faulted, got an overrule, beautiful overrule. That was another pivotal point.


Q. Is it difficult to play him today because he didn't hardly make any errors, unforced errors, like in the second set, only two unforced errors, so you have to really make every point?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah. You know, he has a big strike zone. He can hit the ball well, if the ball is low, if the ball is up. On a windy day, that's a good asset to have. If you can make a lot of shots and not miss, that's difficult. I needed to pressure him in order for him to miss. I wasn't quite hitting the shots as big as I know I can. I was moving my feet, but I wasn't moving offensively as intensely as I needed to. I needed to, you know, get to the ball and hurt him. I was a little set back because I wasn't reading his shot that well. I wasn't getting to the ball early enough to hit my shot. I always felt like I was a step behind.


Q. Andre, he beat you, wins this tournament, becomes No. 1. Afterwards, you didn't see a smile from him at all. Knowing the way you react to things like this, is that odd to you?

ANDRE AGASSI: I would be smiling. I would be smiling.


Q. You had a short conversation with him at the net after the match?



Q. Share that.

ANDRE AGASSI: Just said, "Congratulations, man, you played well today."


Q. Nothing too profound?

ANDRE AGASSI: No, nothing profound.

MIKI SINGH: Any other questions for Andre?


Q. Until you were broken in that third set, did you still have a feeling that there's some way you could work out of this thing?

ANDRE AGASSI: You know, I felt like if I could just get up on him a little bit, start letting my strokes fly a little bit more, then I could maybe possibly wear him down, possibly start moving him. But, you know, by that point, a few things needed to happen. You know, it's never a pretty situation to be down two sets. But I definitely had room in my own mind that I could get a break, get up on him, start getting on serve a little bit, make him work harder, make some errors, get him a little bit ready tired, the whole thing. Things could turn. I didn't feel overwhelmed out there by any means.

MIKI SINGH: Anything else?


Q. Andre, do you feel that your performance this week is going to give you more confidence for the Davis Cup? Did you already have that?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, it's a step in the right direction, no question about it. I'm looking to win these events now. So it doesn't take away the disappointment factor.


Q. Andre, did you feel like you were at a Davis Cup?

ANDRE AGASSI: No, no. Felt like I was trying to win the tournament for the fourth time and didn't do it.

MIKI SINGH: Thank you.

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