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Écrit par Jerome   



October 4, 1998

M. RIOS/A. Agassi
6-4, 2-6, 7-6, 5-7, 6-3


An interview with:



Q. Congratulations on playing a great match, and bad luck. Was it difficult to play against somebody who looked at one point as though he might default?

ANDRE AGASSI: I think under normal circumstances, when that happens, it's difficult. But to be quite honest, I mean, I didn't -- I didn't really believe he was close to defaulting. I try to base it more on his performance than what he's doing on the side of the court. Quite honestly, I felt like he ran incredibly well. I didn't see any problem. He served well. He won at one point like 26 straight points on his serve. Ran well. I wasn't too confused as to how he was feeling. He looked pretty good.

Q. How were you feeling after a pretty long, tough match yesterday?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, I mean, I got to say, I wasn't feeling too good, you know, all day really. I mean, it's hard to kind of recover in 15 hours or so. But I definitely was a little off physically. But, you know, I certainly was committed to trying to get the job done. And I found myself just kind of, as the match wore on, wasn't going for my serve as well as I'd like. I think in the fifth set, that hurt me, breaking me a couple times. I just lost that little bit of extra leg strength on my serve. That seemed to cause the most problem in the fifth. But held up good. I mean, I certainly had a sniff at it.

Q. It seemed at one period during the match, maybe the second set, that both of you looked as if you were perhaps trying to conserve a bit of energy, maybe thinking it was perhaps going to be a long haul, there were shots that might stretch you occasionally. This was fairly early in the match. Was there any part of the match when it went like that?

ANDRE AGASSI: I don't think so. I mean, I can't speak for Marcelo. He has a tendency to kind of look a little lethargic at times, but more out of attitude than out of, you know, self-preservation. For me, I wasn't worried about it. I knew, you know, really the best chance I had was just to go hard. If it turned out that we had a long match, just do my best not to die. You know, that's kind of my attitude. I tried to go hard from start to finish. Certainly when I got up in the second set, he looked like he kind of idled down a gear. But I knew that was only going to last as long as the set, that he would stir it up again in the third, which he did. So it wasn't as physical of a match as I played against Kucera, just based on the fact that we both are shot-makers, and we were both hitting some pretty enjoyable shots. But ultimately, when you play that kind of level of competitive tennis, it does take its toll on you. I don't think we were feeling it, though, at all till later on. I'd be surprised if he felt it that much. He had a relatively routine match yesterday.

Q. He seems to hit some terrific serves almost effortlessly. What is it that he does with the ball?

ANDRE AGASSI: He has an effective serve, especially for his size. He has a high ball toss, hits it on the way down, gets a lot of action. He can hit four corners. Anytime you got a guy that can hit four corners with the same ball toss, you got to say that's a pretty good serve. He follows up his serve well. If you don't hit a good return, he can hurt you on that first ball. A lot of times you are looking to do a bit more with the return than you might normally do. That causes you to lean certain ways, that causes you to get aced, and sometimes it causes you to take advance chances and miss returns. I went through a stretch when I wasn't returning as well. That was a little bit to do with my legs as well. I didn't feel like I was getting off the mark quite as effective as I normally do. He served pretty well, but I wish I kind of grooved into that serve a little bit earlier. That would have helped me.

Q. Apart from the money, what have you got out of this week?

ANDRE AGASSI: Great question. I kind of feel like it's been a real good week for me. I started off this fall really hitting out of my shots. I feel like I'm playing aggressive tennis again. That's the key to my game, you know, taking it to my opponent and not waiting for them to miss. I think this week was the first week I really started feeling like I can be the best again. I started really hitting my shots. I enjoyed this week very much on that level.

Q. Do you think that Marcelo is playing as good as in the first part of the year?

ANDRE AGASSI: You know, I'm a much different player now than I was in the start of the year, so it's tough to say. If I had to say, I'd say no, not yet. Beginning part of the year, I felt like he was a bit more commanding, maybe moving a little better, too, in the beginning part of the year. But he's very talented, so he can take it up and down quite easily, it seems. I certainly know what that's like. He can step it up, I believe, at any time. It's just, you know, he has to believe. If he doesn't believe, he's a different player.

Q. But do you think that he has chances to beat Rafter and Sampras up to the end of the year?

ANDRE AGASSI: Sure, anything's possible. I mean, I think he's a good indoor player. I mean, he's one of the guys that can pretty much play on all surfaces. He didn't play that well on the grass, but his game seems like it would even be okay for the grass. He returns well. He could give Rafter some problems there. If he's competing hard against Pete, it's certainly not going to be easy for Pete. But, yeah, I think he has a chance. He's very talented.

Q. You probably answered this question in the last two questions, but when he beat you at Lipton and went to No. 1, you said at the time to really legitimize him as a great player, he needed a Grand Slam title. Have you reviewed that point of view or do you still think that way?

ANDRE AGASSI: Sure, I still think that way. It depends what your standard of a great player is. If you're talking about somebody that can hit great shots and win some tournaments, yeah, he's definitely a great player. But if you're talking about a great player in the standard of the best players in the world, I mean, there's an element to the game that he still needs to achieve. And that's not an opinion; I mean, that's the fact. He hasn't won a Grand Slam yet. But he's certainly talented enough to do it. He has to put it together for two weeks, physically, mentally, and accomplish it. He's still young. He has a lot of years left. I'd be surprised if he didn't. But until he does, it's hard to consider him, you know, up there with Pete and Rafter. Don't present that as if I'm dissing him when he comes in here.

Q. You've played 13 sets now in 48 hours. You're not going to have too many back-to-back five-setters till the end of the year. Does that kind of assure you that you physically are ready for all the next tournaments?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I would have liked to have believed I've been physically ready for a long time now. But, of course, you never know till you're pushed, till you respond. Even beyond the amount of tennis and sets, it's a very difficult court. It's a very physical court. Every time you stop, your legs take a lot of shock and a lot of trauma. So it's definitely a difficult court to play five sets on. I feel fit. I feel ready. But, you know, I also want to win. If I'm not winning, I don't care how long I can play. I mean, I can be in great shape and lose in three sets. That doesn't do me any good.

Q. I read that at one time this year, it had been your target to reach No. 1 by the end of the year. If that's not now possible, is it still a target? If so, when?

ANDRE AGASSI: I mean, you can answer that question on a technical level. If I went out and won everything, is it possible? I don't know. I mean, you have to look at the rankings and the points. I would imagine that if anybody in the Top 10 in the world won every tournament here on in for the rest of the year, it would be possible. I'm interested in establishing myself as one of the best players. I certainly want to do that before this year is over. If it doesn't happen this year, as far as me being No. 1, that wouldn't surprise me. I mean, I've kind of needed a year to get things back in order again. But the most important thing for me this fall is to get in position to start winning the big tournaments next year. We start off with the Australian Open. So I want to finish this year establishing myself as a guy who can win these tournaments, which is going to require me to go out and win a few of these.

Q. You said earlier that this week has shown that you really feel you can be best again. Is it consistency, the one thing you've got to improve now? What is it that you're still lacking that you had when you were at the top?

ANDRE AGASSI: I think consistency, obviously, needs to be there. But I feel like I've worked real hard this year. I had a real disappointing clay season, the French and Wimbledon, you know. At the risk of making excuses, injuring myself in Paris didn't help me, because I didn't play for three weeks for Wimbledon. In a sense, I can kind of overlook that and say I've been pretty consistent this year as far as my own standard. I think what I've needed to do is step up and take my game to people. I can go out there and be solid and beat a lot of guys, maybe even win a few tournaments being solid. To win the big ones, you have to step up, you have to take control of the points, and you have to get aggressive when the match gets its closest. That's something that I haven't quite stepped up to the plate and done this year. I've beaten a few guys bad in some finals, like in Washington, or LA, where I just got on top of them early and stayed on top of them. To win the big ones, you have to go through that part of a match where it can go either way, then rise above by hitting your shots and hitting them the way you expect to. That's what I felt like I was doing this week. First time this year I'm swinging at the ball freely and really feel like I'm hitting my shots.

Q. In your training today, it seemed like you had problems with your knee. Had that any reason for your play today?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I was having a bit of problems with my knee. No, I'm not.

Q. Rios told us that he has a new coach. Do you think it could be perhaps important for his winning today? Do you know what I mean?

ANDRE AGASSI: Marcelo having a new coach?

Q. Yes. Nick Bollettieri. Do you think that could be important for his winning today?

ANDRE AGASSI: I mean, I don't know if Nick can help Marcelo. Only Marcelo knows that. I mean, everybody knows my game, as well as Nick. I've been playing for 12 years. I don't think that was a factor, no.

Q. At this time last year, you were heading towards the month where you would hit about 141 in the world, possibly reevaluate where you were going. You must have had a lot of satisfaction over the way you pulled yourself together over the last 12 months?

ANDRE AGASSI: On the court, obviously the last 12 months has been a lot more satisfying than the previous 12 months, which is an understatement. It's been a lot of hard work. I think the hardest work after the start -- because when you start, I had to physically work, and that has its own difficulties, but getting your body ready to really work on that level. I think there was also another adjustment I had to make, which was just the mental discipline and the mental commitment. When you're at a tournament that isn't the best tournament in the world, your mind isn't thinking about other places, your mind isn't thinking about other things, you're actually looking at your work as something that you want to be nowhere else but out there on the court. That part has been a bit more difficult for me. But I feel like I've accomplished it. That's very satisfying.

Q. At the last part of the game, Marcelo was playing a little bit of psychological game, looking where the ball was going. Did you get upset or lose concentration with this kind of psychological game?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I got upset, but I didn't lose concentration. I think at 1-All in the fifth set, breakpoint, second serve is not the time to stall. That's just what I think. I have a tendency to voice what I feel. I thought that wasn't -- that wasn't an ideal time. I thought better judgment should have been used there.

Q. It's part of the game.

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, 2-1 when he was serving breakpoint, I did the same thing to him. That is part of the game. It goes back and forth. You've got to be careful what you do and what you don't do. You've got to be sure ultimately at the end of the match that every point you're trying to win with your game, not with any antics or anything. I wouldn't categorize Rios as using antics, but certainly that was an uncomfortable time to watch somebody be distracted when you're about to hit second serve on breakpoint, 1-All in the fifth set.

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