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Écrit par Jerome   
19-09-2006

UNITED STATES TENNIS ASSOCIATION

1998 U.S. OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP
Flushing Meadows, New York

September 8, 1998

K. KUCERA/A. Agassi

6-3, 6-3, 6-7(5), 1-6, 6-3

An interview with:

ANDRE AGASSI

Q. What do you think made the difference today?

ANDRE AGASSI: You know, the whole match had some momentum swings to it. In the fifth set, obviously I went out there and was playing well, got up 2-0. 15-40 was a big game right there, 2-0. That's to go double break. Then he held serve. That was another big game at 2-1. You know, after the 2-0 game, that's an important game to hold, to keep the control of the match. I had three game points. One I hit a double-fault, one he hit a big shot, and one I serve volleyed. He made a one-handed backhand slice, back cross-court return winner. It was too good, you know. He ended up breaking me there. I think he relaxed a lot, started playing better. And I rushed a little bit at 2-3. It doesn't take much for one set to get away from you.

Q. Any extra tension because of what went on last night? Did you feel it out there between the two of you?

ANDRE AGASSI: No, no, no, I don't think so. I mean, it was a tough day for everybody yesterday. You know, certainly we had some frustrating moments for both of us during the match. But, you know, nothing that carried over.

Q. You felt last night that he was doing that on purpose, that he repeatedly was catching it to play with you?

ANDRE AGASSI: No, I didn't believe that at all, actually. But it doesn't mean that when you toss the ball and don't hit it 18 times, that it doesn't have an impact on me. So at some stage, you know, whether he meant it or not, it's not acceptable. But I don't believe he meant that, no. I think as he got nervous to close me out in the third set, the worst part of his game started getting worse.

Q. Going into today, what was your strategy? What did you and Brad talk about coming into the second half of this match?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I mean, you never know what each day presents as far as elements. We were dealing with some pretty different elements yesterday in our match. I mean, we went out there, it was a long day. It was very humid. It was obviously under the lights, which we weren't anticipating. There was no wind whatsoever. You know, I was trying to take it to him, and hitting with pace. He was just keeping a lot of balls in, I was missing a lot. You know, then I got back into the match by just slowly kind of not making errors, keeping the points a little longer, finding my range. You know, he does a lot better with pace. I went out there today to not make any careless errors early, wait for the right shot to execute. You know, I was doing it well. I think at 2-0, when he held, he relaxed a lot. He started hitting some big shots on balls that he wasn't quite doing a lot with yesterday. You know, he came up with some good shots. You know, I can't say that I lost it today. You know, he definitely stepped it up. I didn't respond there in the middle of the fifth when I could have continued to make it tough on him.

Q. Did you appeal to Norm yesterday about the ball tosses?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yes. I was just inquiring with him if there's any rulings about how many times he can do that. I mean, Norm said that there's no rule on it. Then I just requested that the clock continue then. Because, I mean, you know, you get 25 seconds to get the ball in play. If he's tossing it and not hitting it, I mean, that's distracting.

Q. What did he say about that?

ANDRE AGASSI: Nothing. I mean, I then asked him if I did it every time, if that would be all right.

Q. Did he say "okay"?

ANDRE AGASSI: No. He just gave me that stupid look he gives.

Q. Do you somehow regret that you imitated him three times in a row then at 3-4?

ANDRE AGASSI: No. Why would I regret that?

Q. Well, is that the way it should be played?

ANDRE AGASSI: Listen, man, the guy is tossing it up and catching it, right? Is that the way it should be played?

Q. You yourself said that you didn't think he did it on purpose.

ANDRE AGASSI: Right, but there's still ramifications.

Q. I understand.

ANDRE AGASSI: What he does, whether it's on purpose or not, has a direct impact on me. I overlooked it the first eight times, and then I inquired with Norm. Then I let it go another five times. And then by the time we get 16, 17 times, I had a problem with it, yeah.

Q. You did get the crowd in it by that way.

ANDRE AGASSI: No. I got the crowd in it because I started actually playing a little bit better.

Q. Given the fact that you were in danger of losing straight sets, did you have fun last night with what you were doing?

ANDRE AGASSI: Have fun? What do you mean?

Q. Did you have fun when you were trying to disrupt his game and get back into the game, and the crowd was getting into it? Was it fun?

ANDRE AGASSI: I mean, I'm not out there, you know, to have fun. I'm out there competing. You know, I mean, no. It was competitive. Competition's fun. But, I mean, I don't quite know how you mean that.

Q. I guess what she means is, did you loosen up, attitude, "I have nothing to lose." I think that's maybe what she might have meant.

ANDRE AGASSI: Is that what she meant?

Q. I'm just guessing that may have been it. What I actually meant, Andre, it looked somewhat like you were enjoying yourself in a way. Were you or were you not?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I mean, I certainly wasn't enjoying the way it was going up to that point. And, yeah, it did feel good to at least make the stage even out there, have him deal with a few -- you know, a few focuses on the ball, then have to pull up and have to watch the guy say I'm sorry for the 18th time. Again, it doesn't matter whether I meant it or he meant it. The bottom line is, when that happens, there's a direct impact that happens on the match. I mean, Brian Teacher used to throw up a lot of bad ball tosses. Out of respect that he didn't have a consistent ball toss, he would hit a lot of ball tosses. Karol Kucera wasn't hitting one he didn't like. When you get to 15, 16, 18 times, that's unreasonable. It's not to say that he's a bad guy for it. It's just not -- it's asking a lot of a player to put up with that. I think he would agree with that, too, that it happened a lot more than he would care for it to happen.

Q. The last time you put so many moon balls in a match, been a while?

ANDRE AGASSI: Quarterfinals of the Boys' 12 Nationals.

Q. When you look back at the year, do you consider it a good year considering what happened in the Slams or is it a bad year?

ANDRE AGASSI: By my normal standards, it's certainly been a bad year. I've got to keep it all in context because of how long it's been since I've even been competitive. You know, the year has definitely gone to set me up for what I'm hoping to be now, the next level in my game, which, you know, I'm talking a few years of great tennis. So in that respect, you know, I'm definitely going to go into next year with a platform of going into these tournaments believing I not only can, but should win them. If I can accomplish that, then it's been a great year. And I feel, you know, there's been some great strides made for me.

Q. Given the way you were playing at the end of last night, were you sorry to see that rain delay come?

ANDRE AGASSI: Obviously anybody who has control of the match at that particular time, it's a disadvantage to stop. I felt like, you know, I was definitely starting to change the tone of the match, and I was going to move away with it. But, you know, I mean, I couldn't have hoped to beat him worse than 6-1 last night. I came out here, was up 6-1, 2-0, 15-40. That's when it slipped away. It was a combination of me not executing effectively on a couple of shots there, and him stepping up his game once he relaxed. But I would have liked to continue playing last night, certainly.

Q. Do you think that you pretty much had that match after winning six of the first seven today?

ANDRE AGASSI: No, you never feel like you have a match. I mean, I certainly knew I was in control of it, you know. I mean, I didn't consider losing at that point.

Q. Did the rain delays and the change of court, all that stuff yesterday, do you think that contributed to sort of irascibility that you may have had in this match?

ANDRE AGASSI: Certainly to start with. You know, any time you deal with elements, and curve balls, two players have to deal with it. I think he dealt with it a little better than I did. You know, I was not ready to play on a different court. I haven't practiced out there. I didn't anticipate going out there at all. So the court was different. You know, playing at night, all of a sudden the ball was heavier, but the court was still quick. You know, it was difficult on both of us. He moves better than I do. He just kept the ball in play. That was enough to give him the first two sets. What happened from there, it was a different story. I still could have gotten through it, but again it boiled down to a couple points of the fifth set there.

Q. Because it has been so long, what was the reasoning behind the moon balls?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I mean, you know, I'm not used -- see, when you play a great counter-puncher, which is what Kucera is, he's a phenomenal counter-puncher, they hit the ball well with pace. They don't give you much pace. When you try to take control of a point, they move to the ball and all of a sudden they do hit balls with pace. So I found myself really pressing and making some rough shot selections because I was forcing the issue a little too much. And I guess all I needed to prove to myself at that particular time was the guy can't hurt you if you don't make mistakes, so just wait for the right ball. And I just -- you know, I was just changing it up, trying to get myself back to a frame of mind that, okay, work the point, work the point, execute at the right shot. You know, there was nothing more to it than that. I had to just -- I had to regroup entirely. You know, it definitely aided me in getting back into the match.

Q. In light of these 18 false tosses, are you going to petition the rules so this never happens again? Is there a committee that can be appealed to?

ANDRE AGASSI: No, I'm not going to do that. I'm just going to prepare myself next time I play for the fact that it can happen again.

Q. After the kind of summer that you had, how disappointing is it to go out in the fourth round here?

ANDRE AGASSI: I mean, from that perspective, it sucks. When you think about the fact that I played a good player who has been playing phenomenal this year, Kucera has been playing great tennis, he's a real good player. I mean, I don't have any problems losing to a guy who is really good and plays even better. So, you know, I can only do so much and hope that it's enough. In this case, it wasn't. The big picture, yeah, I lost in the Round of 16 at The Open. I don't want to be going home, but.

Q. How would you handicap a Sampras-Kucera match-up?

ANDRE AGASSI: Kucera beat him in Australia in the quarterfinals. You know, again, it's a difficult match-up for Pete in a lot of ways. But you always have got to give Pete the advantage here on the quicker courts, the fact that he can hold serve. You know, that's going to make a big difference. It's not quite as slow as it was in Australia. You know, I think Pete will handle him. I think Pete will probably win like in four sets, if I had to guess. There's no question, though, that Kucera will present him problems. It wouldn't surprise me for an upset to occur. But I would still bet on Pete. Maybe give him the edge by 67%.

Q. Hannover is not a Grand Slam, but you're still in the hunt for that.

ANDRE AGASSI: For what?

Q. Hannover, ATP Championships. Does that have any real serious meaning for you, if you do well there, if you get into that?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, it does. Because, you know, the ATP weights it so heavily in the rankings. If you make the tournament, then you do well in the tournament, you obviously got the added points that other players don't have. I wouldn't mind to establish myself a little bit higher, you know, in the rankings at the end of the year. It's in position for the Slams next year. So I would want to be there just because the best players are there and because is it's, you know, a good way to improve, a good way to get my ranking a little bit more in position for the tournaments that matter the most, which are the Grand Slams.

Q. Talking about Grand Slams, is there a chance you might get a wildcard to the Compaq Grand Slam? Would you play in that?

ANDRE AGASSI: I would hope so. I'm hoping to play a lot this summer -- I mean, this fall. I definitely would like to play there. It's where the best players are, so hopefully they could cut me a little slack and pretend like I deserve to be there.

Q. Did that match remind you, back in '89, a match with Boris Becker, did that have any kind of resemblance?

ANDRE AGASSI: No. That was straightforward great tennis that match against Boris. It was great tennis start to finish. I barely won the first two. He barely won the next two. The fifth was back and forth a little bit. But, you know, the fifth set is usually very different than the whole tone of the match, because it's just because it's the fifth set, elements come into it that aren't in there in the other sets. But not really.

Q. What as good a level of competition as there is in the men's game, do you feel you have to add new elements to your own game to win another Slam?

ANDRE AGASSI: I think the game is always asking you to improve, definitely, there's no question about it. But, you know, yeah, I do. I mean, I think it's possible to win a Slam without it if things go well for you. But your chances certainly get better the more -- the more you improve. A lot of matches I've lost this year have been a lot more to do with just the familiarness of being in those situations. You know, I can't -- I can't complain about that because I put myself in that position over the last couple years. So it's nice to at least be back in the thick of things, to get a sniff at it. I certainly know always will play a part, maybe to accomplish a lot more. I know I have a lot better tennis in me, that's for sure.

Q. How much were you looking forward to playing Pete? I know you want to win the tournament, but nonetheless.

ANDRE AGASSI: Not as much as everybody else was. You know, I mean, I was thinking about Karol Kucera. I had to get through a tough match, and I didn't do it. So I wasn't thinking about Pete at all.

Q. Did you ever think about going back to the moon balls today in the fifth set because of the way it disrupted him last night?

ANDRE AGASSI: The moon balls didn't win me the match. Moon balls just got me to at least start hitting my shots more effectively. I was playing pretty well today. It wasn't like I needed way to start finding a way to hit my shots better. Today he established if I did hit a ball too short, he was definitely going to hurt it. Last night had its own elements. He was just returning the ball, winning points. All of a sudden when I returned the ball, he wasn't ready to hurt me. Today he was, and he did.

Q. It just seemed like at times you overhit a lot, trying to put some pressure on him, sometimes people go back to that when you start pressing.

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah. I didn't feel like I missed that much. I felt like today was a lot closer to a normal match than certainly last night was. We had a lot of good rallies. You know, he was definitely out of sorts there for the first eight games, and he relaxed and started playing better. You know, I mean, I wasn't going -- I wasn't going to think about winning the fifth by dropping my standard of play. I mean, yesterday to keep a few balls in play it was a step up.

Q. How would you say you're playing now compared to '94, '95?

ANDRE AGASSI: I mean, it's about shot selection and how you handle the moment when the moment's there, you know, the opportunity to really sense in what part of the match is the part of the match to step it up. You know, in '95, second serve, 15-40, Love-2 in the fifth, I would have ripped it, you know. You know, I just kind of got it in play, and then he hit a good shot. Next thing you know, he's relaxed a little bit, started hitting bigger. It's all about how you play at the right times versus where my game is. My game's right there. I mean, I can beat the top players, you know, on days. But I've got to put it together and win when it's, you know, at the right time. To win a tournament like this, I had my chance there at 2-0, 15-40.

Q. Is this guy's service returning remind you something of yourself?

ANDRE AGASSI: Not at all. Not at all.

Q. How good is he as a returner?

ANDRE AGASSI: He's very good. I mean, I haven't really watched him serve and volley. He return serves well, returns well. He plays a lot like his coach, Miloslav. He has good balance on his return, and he has good direction and he has good wheels. If he doesn't hit the ball real well, he can still get to the next shot and give you worlds of problems. That allows for a margin of error that he has that a lot of other players don't create for themselves.

Q. Did the serves surprise you, 18 aces?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah. Because I wasn't sure whether he was going to hit it or whether he was going to catch it.

Q. You said today was a lot closer to a normal match. How would you characterize last night's?

ANDRE AGASSI: I mean, we could have done anything. Last night, you know, it just got to the point where it was so competitive, we could have put on boxing gloves, thrown darts, we could have done anything, not to do with tennis. It just kind of had to do with competing, doing whatever you had to do to win the next point. Today, you know, was all about tennis. I was trying to execute game plans. He was, too. You know, trying to put him away there at the end. That's how it was different.

Q. Was it written in Winning Ugly?

ANDRE AGASSI: I don't know. I didn't read it.

 
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