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Écrit par Jerome   
19-09-2006

UNITED STATES TENNIS ASSOCIATION

1999 U.S. OPEN
Flushing Meadows, New York City

September 12, 1999

A. AGASSI/T. Martin

6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 6-3, 6-2

An interview with:

ANDRE AGASSI

USTA: Questions, please.

Q. How does this compare to '94?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I mean, I think every time you win a big one, it has its own special feelings attached to it. I don't think anything can really top the first time you win at a Slam, especially here at the US Open. But there's a certain special feeling I think I felt this time that it wasn't possible to be able to appreciate last time. It was much more emotional last time. This time, it feels quite real to me.

Q. To have a victory over an opponent like Todd, how special is that?

ANDRE AGASSI: To play another American in the finals is great. I think Todd deserved to be in the finals. The way he played, it was just disappointing that somebody had to lose. I mean, he played so well. I felt like I had to -- I was hanging on by a thread for most of the match. It was exciting tennis. When it was all said and done, it was hard to believe.

Q. Were you surprised at how well he played, especially off the ground?

ANDRE AGASSI: I was a little bit. You expect somebody to play well, but it's not easy to go out in the finals of a Slam and play your best tennis, unless you've been there a number of times. And even then, it's something that's not easy to do. So it really speaks a lot for his spirit because he knows how to boil it down to tennis out there. He was really executing in a way that was giving me all sorts of problems.

Q. After Paris, you must be feeling you can win any match you play, anywhere, anytime you play. Before Paris, did you really get to the stage where you felt that this was possible?

ANDRE AGASSI: No, no. I mean, I said that before. You know, I don't think it was till the middle of Paris that I actually felt like I started to really let my shots fly in the biggest of situations. When you don't let your shots fly, you're basically hoping for somebody to lose. It's tough to ever build confidence that way. It wasn't until after Paris that I started actually developing that sense of focus and confidence.

Q. Do you remember any final of a Slam that you played where you never lost your serve?

ANDRE AGASSI: I don't remember any five-setter that I've ever played where I didn't lose my serve, no.

Q. How do you explain that?

ANDRE AGASSI: You know, he was serving so well, I think the statistics really kind of reflect what a great match it was. I only had 22 unforced errors. Throughout the course of a five-set match, that's not easy with a guy that hits the ball as well as him on a fast court. He was serving in the high 60s for his first-serve percentage. His serve, the direction he goes for, he aims for the lines. When he misses, he doesn't miss by much at all. I explain it by just saying that I really had to make every point incredibly important. I had to take one at a time. It was that crucial that I took care of my own service games because I knew I wouldn't get many chances.

Q. On the other side of the net, you'd been searching for most of three sets for that second break against him. Can you go over that break you finally got in the fourth set that seemed to turn the tide.

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, the first game of the match, he made six first serves and I broke him. I mean, there was little luck involved with that. I guessed right; won a short ball that he could have easily put away. Reflexed a first-serve return for a cold winner. He hit a pretty big first serve on breakpoint. I hit a pretty big return. I found myself up a break early. There's still a lot to be determined. I think we played a little tentatively in the beginning of the match, trying to find our rhythm; found it pretty early on. We both hit a really good stride where we were both taking good care of our serves, executing our shots. I think ultimately it was just his legs a little bit that his service came down. I think if he had kept the same level of serving up, his service percentage would have been in the mid 70s. I felt like he dropped off a hair, and I was able to maintain, then even go up a little bit more in the fifth. It seemed to me to be a bit more physical than anything.

Q. No matter how the year plays out, it's obvious that you're the best player of this year with two Slam titles and a final. How does that feel for you?

ANDRE AGASSI: Good (laughter). This is what you play for. It does mean a lot to win when it really matters the most. I mean, it's hard for me not to keep things in perspective these days. I'm just thrilled to even be in this situation. I mean, coming in here today, I really was allowing myself to appreciate this time in my life because I can't think of a better place to be than in the finals of the US Open. You don't get to see too many of them. It feels good to accomplish that, definitely.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about American tennis, with the way you and Pete have been this summer, obviously Serena Williams winning The Open here?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, yeah. I think the women's is different. American women are just now starting to make a real step forward. I think the American men are kind of really rallying and playing some of the best tennis that we've played in a long time, between me and Pete and Todd, even some of the matches that Jim has played this year. But, you know, it's different because the women are young and they're going to get better. Us guys are kind of tapping into something that we kind of somewhere in the back of our minds believe won't be around too long. We'll play that one by ear.

Q. After you won in Paris, you were saying that you were aware you could accomplish more in your career. To what extent are you making up for those lost years and missed opportunities?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I don't know if you ever really make up for missed opportunities. The best you can do is not live and regret from here on in. That's kind of been my commitment, is that if I do lose or if I do miss out on certain opportunities, that I don't regret not at least being prepared and taking my fair shot at it. I think what I missed out on through a few years of my career I can never get back. But it is nice to actually get another shot at it.

Q. When Pete dropped out and Rafter got hurt, you were the odds-on favorite, does that put extra pressure on you over the course of a tournament?

ANDRE AGASSI: I don't really feel like it did, no. I mean, it's not like I'm confused as to what it takes to win every match, regardless who I'm playing. When you have seven guys to beat to win a tournament, to be quite honest, for the most part, it doesn't matter who they are. You've got to go out there and do it. It's one thing to talk about it; it's another thing to get out there and actually do it. I was ready to disappoint a lot of people. Come in here, "I should have won. I should have won." I wouldn't have believed that. You only deserve to win if you go out there and do it.

Q. Do you expect a phone call from Pete this time around?

ANDRE AGASSI: I don't know. The best part about it is, it's a surprise when it happens.

Q. Did the President call?

ANDRE AGASSI: Apparently so, but then he had to take a call from a prime minister. I guess he has more important things to do (laughter).

Q. Do you see yourself in the future taking some time off in order to make your career last longer, as you did before maybe?

ANDRE AGASSI: No, no, no. I've been there, done that. My career at 29 is lasting pretty long. I've got to make the most of the last few.

Q. You're going to be focusing on tennis as long as you can?

ANDRE AGASSI: As long as I feel I can get better, yeah.

Q. You've had some incredible peaks and valleys as well. What type of personal sacrifices do you have to make to maintain the level of game you're playing right now?

ANDRE AGASSI: You know, your days have to kind of be based around what your body and mind needs in order to be at your best. Some times of the year it's meant for actually getting better, and other times it's meant for recuperating and resting. But either way, you know, you have to work hard to get better. Sometimes you have to rest to stay good. It's weird, because in a lot of cases you consider rest work. That's difficult for me. That was the part I always kind of messed up on when I was off the court. It was time to rest; I wanted to go have a nice dinner.

Q. Was there ever any time, especially at the end of the third set, you might be getting worried?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, I was very worried. I was very worried. I mean, he gave me a lot to worry about. I felt like he was not only serving great, I felt like he was volleying magnificent. I mean, he was picking up balls off the pavement even, just half-volleying a lot of good returns. Then he was actually holding his own from the baseline. That probably concerned me the most. But my goal in the fourth was to hang in there and take care of my serve long enough, and maybe something good could happen. Maybe I could get a break, and the match could get a bit more physical. I knew I was ready to step it up. It's hard to step it up when you can't break a guy's serve.

Q. This was your tenth Slam final, his second, especially in a five-setter, does experience play a role today?

ANDRE AGASSI: I know that I handled the situation real well out there today, considering the fact that he was playing so well and that I felt like I was behind the whole time, even though I won the first set. I know it helped me to be in a lot of Slam finals. I can't honestly say that it hurt him not having that experience because I thought he played great. I thought he handled himself like a true professional out there. To say it hurt him would be tougher for me to say. I know the experience always, always helps.

Q. He lost a lot of tough matches. Can you feel for him, in all of these really close, dramatic losses that he's had?

ANDRE AGASSI: Two Grand Slam finals?

Q. And the Davis Cup.

ANDRE AGASSI: You know, it's hard to be good enough to even put yourself in that situation. You do that long enough and good things happen. I lost a lot of big matches. I lost a brutal five-setter up two sets to love against Brecker in Davis Cup, served for the match. Five-setter, went down in a big match that probably would have given us the tie. I lost my first three Grand Slam finals. I mean, the idea is to just -- things can go well sometimes, but other times you have to keep working and keep earning it. That's something I believe Todd can do. He's disciplined and good enough to give himself a lot of looks at the basket.

Q. You said earlier there are special feelings attached to each Grand Slam title you win. What specifically are the feelings attached to this one?

ANDRE AGASSI: I feel like New York, all the people here, have really made me feel like I'm at home. This is the most special place in the world for me to play. I'm convinced of it.

Q. What would you say has been your inspiration for your comeback these days? You're in excellent condition, out there looking like you have the fighting spirit to do anything.

ANDRE AGASSI: I mean, I just -- I had to make a choice if I was going to really play the game or quit, you know. If I was going to play, I had to do a lot of work. Once you start building momentum in your life, you know, you have to be proactive to stop it. I've just done my best not to interfere with the progress I'm making.

Q. Can you say to yourself now, "I'm the best Player of the Year for 1999"? If you are saying that to yourself, how does it feel? That might be the first and last time you can say that for your whole career.

ANDRE AGASSI: To be quite honest, I feel like you have to always prove that you're the best Player of the Year or the best player every time you step on the court. To accomplish two Slams, which is something that nobody else did this year, makes me feel like I certainly have accomplished the most. But that's less important to me than getting on that court and getting after it every time. I really feel the pressure and the responsibility of being No. 1, regardless what the situation is.

Q. If a couple of years or so ago before you stepped out for the first round of that Challenger in Vegas, someone came up to you and said, "In '99, you'll win the French, The Open, Wimbledon final and become No. 1"?

ANDRE AGASSI: I'd tell them to stop smoking the crack pipe.

Q. As good as you feel, you should feel, about coming back, do you look back on the valleys you've had in your career with any regret that you would have --?

ANDRE AGASSI: I'm sorry, I didn't quite hear the question.

Q. As good as you feel, and should feel, about your comebacks, do you look back on the valleys you had in your career with any regret, that now you would have a bigger piece of tennis history?

ANDRE AGASSI: Not really, because part of me is convinced that if it wasn't for those valleys, the these peaks wouldn't be this high. It's kind of how my spirit has always worked. I can't say that it would be that way, first of all. Secondly, I think there's been a lot of gain that I've received during those valleys on the court. I feel like I've always kind of like found a way to get the most out of my life. In that part of it, I'm quite, quite proud. To say I regret it would be inaccurate. I don't regret it. Who knows if I could have accomplished more. I don't know. But there's still time.

Q. You're showing no signs of slowing down. Do you believe in fate? Pete Sampras came in here and talked about his injury. He said, "I think this is a matter of fate, destiny." Serena Williams says, "I don't believe it's about luck; it's what you do on the court." Do you feel you're stronger than ever? What are your goals? Do you feel like you have another title in you?

ANDRE AGASSI: I definitely feel like I have more titles in me. I feel like I can get stronger. My goals are to win, regardless what I'm doing, where I'm playing, whenever I am. As far as fate goes, I mean, I think it's important in life to control the things you can control, and not worry about the rest. I can control how hard I work. I can control how focused I am. I can control how prepared I am, a lot of things. But there are other things you can't control, like how many first serves your opponent is going to make. You just try to put yourself in position for things that work out well for you by controlling those things and not worrying about the rest.

Q. Are you looking forward to playing Davis Cup next year?

ANDRE AGASSI: I am, actually. I am looking forward to it.

Q. How are you going to celebrate?

ANDRE AGASSI: I don't know yet. I would say drink out of this, but it's quite big (pointing to trophy). I might get myself into trouble.

Q. Why do you think the New York crowds, in particular, like you so much, even on the practice courts?

ANDRE AGASSI: You know, they've watched me grow up. It's hard not to care on some level when you watch somebody develop from a teenager who says and does a lot of the wrong things to a person who gets out there and appreciates the opportunities.

Q. Was there any gamesmanship involved in your suddenly deciding to run back to your chair in the fifth set when Todd was dragging himself back?

Q. Also, along about the middle of that first tiebreaker, they were spraying for the bugs all around. People were having problems. Did that have any impact on you?

ANDRE AGASSI: I didn't notice the spraying, to be honest. As far as sprinting to the chair, gamesmanship is a tough word. One thing I definitely felt was a lot of energy. The one thing that I think is important in a five-set match is if you do feel strong, to allow your opponent to know that you feel that way. You can't bluff that, so either you're going to run hard in the points or you're not. I had the energy, so it wasn't a problem for me.

Q. Some of the other Slams you won were more of a surprise: Unseeded in '94, maybe the French this year, nobody thought Wimbledon would be the first one. Is it a different feeling, more satisfaction when you come in with people expecting you to win?

ANDRE AGASSI: I can't say it's more satisfying because it's always incredible to kind of surprise yourself and to really find yourself in a place where you didn't expect you could be. There's another element of fulfillment in just asking yourself to step up to the plate in a way that you know you can. There's a different level of pressure there. It's hard being the underdog in many ways; easy in others. Other times, it's hard being the favorite, but it also has its benefits.

Q. By winning the French, that meant you had won all four Slams. At 29, after winning today, does that mean you're going to go through the cycle again? Do you still have that in you?

ANDRE AGASSI: That would be nice. I'd take it right now if you offered it to me, that's for sure.

Q. Do you feel there's a kind of dignity maybe that's come to your career at this stage?

ANDRE AGASSI: Dignity?

Q. Yes.

ANDRE AGASSI: I believe there's a lot of dignity in any professional that goes out there in that kind of intense arena, maintains a standard of professionalism and work ethic. I've been on the other side, so I can say now, looking back, that I do walk off the court mighty proud.

Q. Do you ever think to yourself after the third set in the tiebreak, any kind of like, "Oh, my God, I might lose this"? What was going on in your mind?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, you know you can lose before you get out on the court, so you shouldn't be surprised when the guy is playing well and is beating you. The question becomes, how are you going to deal with what's going on out there? Again, I was kind of looking at it in between the lines, very matter of factly, practically, which is, "How am I going to break him? What am I not doing? Where is he serving? How can I get to him a little bit?" It was more on that level than it was worrying about losing.

Q. We are used to seeing the players box, a lot of parents screaming, brothers, sisters. What happened with your family? I didn't see anybody.

ANDRE AGASSI: My family?

Q. Yes. Your father sometimes some years ago, so on. Are you still in touch with them? Do you see them?

ANDRE AGASSI: My brother used to sit in the box, but my father never. My dad only comes to tournaments on his own accord. He feels like he's going to interfere. My brother has a beautiful little girl. If I was him, I'd rather be with her.

Q. You spoke about New York watching you grow up over all these years. You've seen yourself grow up. How do you look back at the original Andre Agassi coming into town with all the swagger and hoopla?

ANDRE AGASSI: For starters, somebody showed me a picture recently of when I was like 16 years old. In the picture, it was asked to me, "Who is this person?" I looked at it. I said, "Wow, she's cute. She has a nice figure, very narrow hips, nice legs, long, good hair." All of a sudden I went, "Wow, that was me." I've changed a lot. I don't quite have the hair anymore.

Q. As the last Grand Slam champion of the century, having sort of experienced a lot of the excitement at the end of this decade in tennis, how do you see the new century shaping up for tennis? Is there anything you would like to see happen straightaway to make sure that the intensity continues?

ANDRE AGASSI: As far as changes with tennis, to me, it's most important that the fans understand the ranking system, that fans understand the schedule, that the schedule and the ranking makes sense, that the avid tennis fan, as well as a casual tennis fan, can follow it. I think sometimes it's difficult to understand the ranking system, the schedule, Davis Cup. I don't really claim to have that many answers.

Q. As confusing as the ranking system might be, tomorrow morning you're going to be at the top of those rankings. How satisfying is that for you?

ANDRE AGASSI: It's incredible. It's been a long road for me, one I'm quite proud of. It's going to mean a lot. It does mean a lot.

Q. Can you tell us something about your foundation? Is a party coming soon?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah. My event that I host every year is on September 25th. We have some great performers who are going to be there. Going to raise a lot of money.

 
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