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Écrit par Jerome   
19-09-2006

THE 1999 LIPTON CHAMPIONSHIPS

KEY BISCAYNE, FLORIDA

March 20, 1999

D. HRBATY/A. Agassi

1-6, 6-3, 6-2

An interview with:

ANDRE AGASSI

MIKI SINGH: First question for Andre.

Q. What does a match like that tell you about where you are right now?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, it certainly frees up a lot of time for me at the moment. A long week ahead. Just got to -- the idea is to play matches. When you don't have them, it's tough. I'm not in a great place at the moment, that's for sure.

Q. Fair to say that your serve let you down today?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah. I mean, my movement was a bit sub-par. Not feeling completely a hundred percent. That forced me to not feel like I was in position a lot of shots. You know, I just have to kind of suck this one up and figure out what I'm going to, you know, do to make it better next time. Very disappointing.

Q. Can you feel the injury in any way?

ANDRE AGASSI: It's not so much that, no, that it's painful. You're always concerned about it till it's all the way gone.

Q. So it's like maybe in the back of your mind?

ANDRE AGASSI: It was definitely in the back of my mind.

Q. Are you starting to feel old in tennis years?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, I felt that way about four or five years ago, starting then; it's only getting worse.

Q. How do you fight that?

ANDRE AGASSI: Nothing to fight. It's good. A lot of experience.

Q. What about in terms of getting back to where you once were? Do you feel like time's running out on you?

ANDRE AGASSI: It's running out on all of us, isn't it?

Q. But all of us haven't been where you've been.

ANDRE AGASSI: You know, you just -- are you asking me if I still feel like I'm capable of it, I do.

Q. Do you think this was more mental or physical, this match?

ANDRE AGASSI: It's being physical. I was out there trying to make something good happen and it wasn't happening.

Q. What impressed you about him today?

ANDRE AGASSI: He was taking some chances. I didn't think his backhand was going to be such a strong shot. We got in a lot of backhand-to-backhand and he managed to stretch me a little bit. That surprised me a little bit. He served pretty well at some key times. He was willing to pull the trigger on his forehand, his big shot.

Q. He said he went out there hoping to overpower you, that you hit so heavy, he wanted to hit it even heavier.

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, he did that.

Q. What would it take to get you back into a Davis Cup tie?

ANDRE AGASSI: Absolutely nothing. They just fired George Fareed and told him he's not part of Davis Cup team anymore. That's the last straw for me. I'll never play again.

Q. When did that happen?

ANDRE AGASSI: Pretty recently. I didn't hear about it till last week. His family was a legacy there. Good old Omar, God rest his soul, was there for the team on every level. George came in and did the same exact thing. The players loved him, appreciated him. He goes to the wall for you during Davis Cup weeks, away from Davis Cup weeks. Just another example of how players aren't consulted about anything that happens. I'm done with it. I never say never. I'm never playing again.

Q. Who fired him, do you know?

ANDRE AGASSI: I don't. Everybody seems to say, "It was not me."

Q. Until that happened, did you have some hope or desire to play again?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, you always want to have more great memories. Davis Cup has been wonderful to me in many ways. I wasn't planning on playing in the first tie. I was going to play the rest by ear, knowing a lot depends on where my game is, what I need for it, scheduling, all that other stuff. It's always a concern when it comes to playing Davis Cup. That's where I was with it. I was pretty honest and open about where I stood all along the way. And I'll continue.

Q. How did you find out? Did George call you?

ANDRE AGASSI: No. Judy called the offices, spoke to Perry and said that they have some concerns about him. That was it.

Q. Concerns, as in medical?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, I guess, some legalities. Find out from them. They'll explain it better, I'm sure.

Q. With you and Pete not playing Davis Cup, Todd and Jim almost religiously committed to playing it, is it causing any kind of personal strain or professional strain between the American players?

ANDRE AGASSI: Certainly doesn't feel that way, no. I mean, it's an individual sport where everybody tends to take a very single-minded approach to their careers. I can understand somebody's devotion to Davis Cup. I've had it myself. I don't feel any friction from the other players at all. I can't honestly say it's gotten to that point, no. I know there's strong obvious disagreements with the approach towards it, but it's not a personal one.

Q. How hard has it been for you to find a groove so far in '99?

ANDRE AGASSI: It's been very tough. It's been very tough.

Q. What do you think has been the biggest reason?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, playing well in Scottsdale, didn't help to get injured and miss out last week, come here with a lack of practice even. That didn't help, but I'll get through it.

Q. What's the clay season schedule?

ANDRE AGASSI: Actually, I might pick up a couple extra tournaments here in the next few weeks in the orient. I'm not sure yet, hard courts. But Monte-Carlo, Prague, Rome, Paris.

Q. Do you feel you're in a risk of a Catch-22 situation whereby you get an injury, so you miss out, and when you come back, you're short of match practice, you force yourself a bit too much and risk a further injury?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, there's always that concern. That's why it stays in the back of your mind. The Catch-22 just comes from, more than anything, needing the matches to go out there and play well, but not getting the matches if you don't play well. Yeah, it's something you've got to get through by just continuing to play and plug along. There's not much else you can do.

Q. Does the point system have anything to do with that in terms of the mental approach? Do you feel, "I have to get in this tournament to save the points I have"? Is it more just the level of play?

ANDRE AGASSI: Sooner or later you realize if you get your game in the right place, the rankings take care of themselves. You know, you feel that your sophomore year.

Q. In other sports you see older players still performing at or near the top. Like golfers, you see Mark O'Meara win two Majors, Elway wins back-to-back Super Bowls. Why is it different in tennis? Is tennis always going to devour the older?

ANDRE AGASSI: Golf is a game. Anything that you can drink and do better is not a sport.

Q. Football is a sport, though.

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, it is. Anytime you can pass the ball, take a time-out, spend half the game on the sidelines, it helps. It really helps. When you can just call time-out and go sit down. There's difficulties in a team sport that a sport like tennis doesn't have. It's all you. You don't have to worry about -- you can play well, and the team still loses. You can actually hurt a team. You have to learn how to work together. There's a lot more going on. But tennis is a brutally physical sport. The age has gone anywhere from 16 to 34 pretty successfully, give or take a few with different players.

Q. If there was one thing you could do to improve the popularity of the sport, especially on this side of the Atlantic, what would that be?

ANDRE AGASSI: To improve the popularity?

Q. The popularity of tennis.

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, we would need to get some good American players, some fresh hope for the best. So many young players now, Australia having some great young players, Spain has a lot of young players now, Russia with Safin is a very strong player. They're a lot of young guys who are establishing themselves in a very significant way, going out there and winning tournaments, beating top players. Americans don't have that hope. I think that always makes a difference.

Q. Is the onus still on you as a very popular personality to keep going?

ANDRE AGASSI: On this side of the Atlantic, and other places, too. When people are familiar with you, they don't want to see you go, which is nice.

Q. So you don't see any of the people that people, like Justin, Jan-Michael, they might be competent players, but they're not going to be No. 1, big personalities?

ANDRE AGASSI: Great guys and great tennis players. It's saying a lot to be one of the top 40 players in the world, that's saying a lot. It's a great accomplishment. When you're talking about the best, you're talking about the best. No, I don't think they have the ability to be one of the best.

Q. Population-wise, facility-wise, United States should be worlds ahead of every other nation in producing great players. Why is it not?

ANDRE AGASSI: You know, I think to some degree things go in cycles. It's not always easy to have the best players. I think anytime there's me, Pete, Chang, Courier, we all followed John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors and got a lot from them. I think other players are doing that now with their own countries, countrymen. It's great to see in many ways. It's hard to pinpoint the problem. I think we need more money that's raised from the US Open and Davis Cup and all that to go into real grass-roots, get racquets in hands of kids who might not normally afford to play.

Q. Do you think it's part of an unwillingness to work hard enough?

ANDRE AGASSI: Who?

Q. Americans.

ANDRE AGASSI: You mean the actual players?

Q. The players. It's easier to do something else.

ANDRE AGASSI: I can't generalize. I don't know everybody.

Q. Do you think it's more on the men's side than the women's side? We have Lindsay Davenport, Venus, Serena. They're taking a lot of the attention here. It's giving a lot of attention to tennis. On the men's side, within this country at least, it's a little different.

ANDRE AGASSI: There's no question the women are going through a great time in American tennis. I think they're going through a great time, period. There's a lot of competitive matches out there. That's a nice change of pace. I've watched the women's game for a lot of years, waiting to play matches. You could plan it like clockwork. If the match starts at 11:00, you're walking on the court 12:01. That's not the case these days. They're going through a good time. Certainly American men's tennis is not -- it's hard to have the same hopes for it as there once was. But I'm sure it will come back around.

Q. When you hit with Steffi the other day, was that spontaneous or a planned thing?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, it actually worked out quite well. Just kind of happened.

Q. Did somebody's partner not show up?

ANDRE AGASSI: I think Heinz was a little bit out of shape maybe. She was hitting the ball pretty well.

Q. How was that?

ANDRE AGASSI: It was awesome, great. I loved it. It was truly a treat.

Q. She aced you?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah. I can't deny that.

Q. Do you see some of the rule changes being discussed helping the popularity of the game? Specifically, what do you think about no ad?

ANDRE AGASSI: I mean, I've personally always felt like no ad is a step in the right direction for a number of reasons. No. 1, it's a scoring system that people understand. No. 2, it's going to speed up these matches, make better air time for TV matches. And I think you're going to see at the end of the match, you're going to have 12 to 16 points that seem to make the difference as opposed to just two or three. I think there's a lot more crucial -- there will be a lot more turning points in a match. I think it also will bring the server and the returner a little closer together so that it's not just big serves. If you're serving 15-40, you're down two breakpoints. If you're serving 1-3, down three breakpoints. That's a big difference. It doesn't make such a difference that you take away a server's weapon, they still have the serve. I think it does offer a number of good points. Really the only possible downside in it I could see is if one argued that the physicality of tennis took a step back. Tennis would get quicker, not those long deuce games. That just doesn't seem to be as strong of a point as when you have four or five other benefits to having it.

Q. If you're playing no ad, it's 3-3, you're the server, is your mentality at second serve at 3-3 than it would be at breakpoint second serve in regular scoring?

ANDRE AGASSI: It might be. I've never really played it to know it on that level. I know obviously you would choose your side based on who you were playing, what the strengths of their serve were, the strength of your return. I can honestly say I would imagine there's a certain amount of nerves that would go along with knowing if you lose this point, the game it over at 3-All. I'm thinking in some case, depending on who you're playing, the idea would be to get the ball in the court. In other cases, it would be if the ball is in your strike zone, take a good cut at it. It all depends who you're playing and how strong they are mentally and what their weapons are. I'm sure that varies.

Q. Is that good for the fans to add that element into the game?

ANDRE AGASSI: I think it's great. They'll see which side the returner chooses. I think they'll have a great understanding to the pressure that goes along inside a match. I mean, sometimes only the players are aware of where the crucial points of the match are. I think with no ad, it would be a lot more obvious as to what was going on.

Q. If, as is possible, there might be a third week of grass between the French and Wimbledon next year, do you think that would benefit tennis as a whole, an extra week of grass court tennis?

ANDRE AGASSI: I can't see grass court tennis benefitting the game. I think Wimbledon is the greatest tournament to win, if you took a census of all the players. But I've always contended that the longer you play on grass, the worse you get. I feel it's certainly not as enjoyable tennis to watch. I think what makes Wimbledon so enjoyable is not necessarily the quality of the play, but what you're witnessing. You're part of a sporting event. It's quite awesome

Q. You don't think it would help preserve its rarity in a sense?

ANDRE AGASSI: You asked me if I thought it was good. I think it would help preserve it, no question. I feel like Wimbledon can hold its own, though.

Q. No time-outs, no halftimes. Where do you rate tennis players as athletes?

ANDRE AGASSI: I think it's a sport where the better athlete you are, the more you distinguish yourself from the rest. I don't think tennis has seen the quality of athletes that other sports have seen. But I think that's changing. Now you're starting to see guys who ten years ago, guys who were six foot four couldn't move at all. I mean, they couldn't get down and hit low volleys. Now you have guys six foot four that actually cover some pretty good real estate out there. It's brutal. I think it's getting more and more as the game moves on. If I had to rate the quality of athletes that exists now compared to other sports, it would still be probably a step down. But that just speaks a lot more for how many people put racquets in their hands when they're young. I'd hate to see Michael Jordan at six foot six with 37 inch vertical going up and slamming a serve, covering every part of the court. That would be nasty.

 
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