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Écrit par Jerome   




February 4, 2000

A. AGASSI/ W. Black

7-5, 6-3, 7-5

An interview with:


Q. You were there. What were the new Captain's first words of wisdom?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I mean I think that John's approach to it was to try to get to understand what it is I look for in my game, make sure I'm at my best. That was something we've talked about the whole week. So today was just about him keeping me focused on the most important part of my game, which is my footwork and my execution of my shots.

Q. Did you get unfocused near the end?

ANDRE AGASSI: No. I just never think it's easy to close out a situation in Davis Cup. I played a bit of a loose game. I just, you know, I was going with the momentum, I was hitting some big shots in the third, and pulled a trigger on a couple shots early in the point and made the errors and actually gave him a chance to believe he could break me there. Just donated it by double-faults. So I just had to get back to work there.

Q. Did you tire in that final set at all?

ANDRE AGASSI: No. I mean I think you go, you know, in and out of 100 percent performance because sometimes it's easy to make a mental error. But physically, I felt pretty good. It was quite humid, so we were sweating a lot. But I felt pretty good. It wasn't easy to catch my breath. I'm still not 100 percent used to the conditions.

Q. Lots of drums out there. What were your thoughts about the crowd?

ANDRE AGASSI: I thought they were incredibly supportive. I mean very, very -- a first-class crowd. Because, you know, they were being respective to good tennis, and yet they were pretty supportive of Wayne. So I was very pleased with how they handled themselves and the classiness of the event. I enjoyed that.

Q. Did that surprise you a little bit? Sometimes the US has gotten some pretty hostile situations on the road.

ANDRE AGASSI: You know, after spending the week here in Zimbabwe, I wasn't surprised it wasn't hostile. They're incredibly friendly people who are excited about tennis and supportive of their home players. So it was a great experience.

Q. I don't know if I was imagining this, did you actually start taking the ball later, further back behind the baseline because of the altitude and the bounce? Because you don't normally take it very early on the baseline and moving in.

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, but you can't play that kind of aggressive tennis here. If you take it early, you better make sure that the ball's up high, that you're hitting down on it. And so many times when I'm taking it early I'm picking it right off the balance, and it's hard for me to control those shots consistently in altitude. I still like to impose that threat every now and then. But for me, I felt like shot for shot I was going to come out ahead. I was moving well. I was executing well.

Q. You seemed to have trouble with Wayne's kick serve on the left court. He was just taking the pace off it about 100 kilometers an hour and kicking you wide. Is that because you were standing a bit too far back? Do you feel you didn't have a problem with it?

ANDRE AGASSI: No, that serve's going to give anybody problems. When he hit it, he hit it incredibly well. If I take that serve away, I open up just a hard deep one in my forehand and with the altitude, that one can get away. I felt like when he hit that kick, he got me out of position a number of times. By the same token, I felt with a little work ethic and a little discipline I could get back into that point. So even if he made it, I was still comfortable with the fact of making him earn that point. I would have hated to see some loose errors off the return. That could have happened if I really committed to taking that away. That is one of his most effective serves.

Q. How different is it starting a match like this in a Davis Cup tie? Is it different than going into the first round of a Slam, for instance? The kind of nerves you feel, how different is it here?

ANDRE AGASSI: I got to say, through most of my career I've always felt like it was incredibly different. I felt like the pressure was much more in the Davis Cup. The nerves were much more. But at this stage in my career, I feel really experienced with just dealing with the circumstances, dealing with my opponent. I mean, today I didn't even have a chance to get derailed from my focus because I was worried about Wayne, and that's when you know that everything is in its rightful place out there. It wasn't about anything except the tennis, and I thought it was quality tennis at that.

Q. What is John's greatest strength as a coach, and does it help to have someone out there who's won 154 titles or so?

ANDRE AGASSI: More than that, it helps us that there's somebody out there that's been in that environment a number of times. John's well aware of what is required to raise your level. And at this stage of my career, I'm not having a hard time staying focused, but if it was possible to get off track at all, he's ideal to keep you on. I mean he was saying the right things out there. He knew when I needed to maintain. He knew when to tell me, "Okay, step it up and hit your shots, let him feel you in a couple different ways here." He's well aware of my opponent and how he's feeling. He keeps a certain perspective out there that I haven't necessarily needed in the last eight months, but it's nice to know that it's there.

Q. Can you remember one example, one particular comment during the match that comes to mind?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I was a little frustrated when I could have double-broke in the third, for example, and made him work real hard to hold there. You know, you can say he missed out on an opportunity, or you could switch sides and John can say, you know, look what the guy had to do just to really hang on here. Keep establishing that kind of intensity and close, you know, close him out. While I didn't execute that game necessarily, it was kind of nice to feel like even though I didn't win that game to go double-break, I actually felt like I made huge progress just by establishing to Wayne that I don't care what the score is, you're going to have to work out here. And he helped me, too. I think I was guiding a few of my returns. He reminded me of how I returned when, you know, I played him. You know, that kind of thing. So it's a good thing.

Q. (Inaudible.)

ANDRE AGASSI: He makes some comments to put in to perspective that my game is about hitting my shots.

Q. You know, at that stage, you had about four chances to get the double break. You didn't get the double break. Then you lost your serve. And until then, your previous four or five service games, I think you had only lost two points. Did that affect you in any way when Wayne finally went up ahead 5-4; you had to hold now as well?

ANDRE AGASSI: While it's disappointing, you're always looking to the next point. I was just telling myself, "This guy has a long ways to go and he's not going to be able to keep it up." I was committed to making sure he played his best tennis for the rest of the match. And I got a little fortunate to break him at 5-All. But I thought the tennis was just getting better.

Q. Have you said anything to Chris at all between the matches? He's going to be pretty nervous out there.

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, he is. I assured him that when I was out there I measured the dimensions of the court and they're still the same dimensions they've always been. (Laughter.) So, you know, there's nothing you can really say beyond reassuring him of what he does best. He needs to experience it for himself, and he's going to take another step in his career today.

Q. How do you compare John's coaching style to Brad's? Obviously Brad's not out there with you.

ANDRE AGASSI: Two entirely separate approaches to the game of tennis. I mean, one guy had the game come very easy to him and didn't really need to think a whole lot. He played with an incredible amount of instinct and you can't teach that. While, on the other hand, Brad made a living for himself really dissecting the game of tennis. But the common denominator is they both have played a high level of competition enough to keep it really simple out there and to keep it about the game. But you can't just jump into my tennis in one week, you know. Brad and I have had a lot of time together. So John's been very respectful to all the players and the fact that he's just now getting to really get his hands on hands-on firsthand.

Q. Andre, a year or so ago, there's no George, no John McEnroe, you said you wouldn't play even if it was in your backyard. Now here we are 10,000 miles from home and you're leading the team. What does that say about life?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I didn't say I'd never play. I made it very clear that under those circumstances I would never play. And I was very impressed with Judy and how she stepped into the position of President and actually listened to the players and gave us a chance to feel like a team by making decisions to those areas that most affect us, which is our doctor, our captain, where we play, surfaces, the whole thing, where it's 100 percent our call. And that's the way it should be. Because we're the ones out there having to get it done. And when she took that step, brought George back on - because not just me loves George, everybody who's ever known him - we got together and we all decided on John. It wasn't me; it was the whole team. And that's what makes Davis Cup so special, because it is a team. And if you lose the feeling of a team, you're just asking for another week on the road in brutal conditions, and I don't need that anymore.

Q. Was she the first USTA President to talk to you that way?

ANDRE AGASSI: She was the first USTA President to actually do something about it, to step up to the plate and do something about it. The talking is something most of the presidents have been really great at, but she has backed it up with giving us the platform to succeed.

Q. So you're happy to be here?

ANDRE AGASSI: I'm happy. I'm happy to be part of this team, and while I'd rather be playing this tie in my backyard -- (Laughter.) -- it's been a great experience already. We still have a lot of tennis left, too.

Q. How are you adapting to conditions here? It's not a first-world country. You don't have some of the amenities, except perhaps in the hotel. One court here, not a lot of places to practice. How are you absorbing that?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I came here with pretty clear knowledge as to what to expect as far as conveniences. But I really believe that despite a few difficulties in practice availabilities, I believe that Zimbabweans have really made up for it with incredible hospitality, and I couldn't be more pleased.

Q. This has to be one of the longest itineraries of your career, trips of your career. How have you handled it? Are you homesick? Has it been tough, just being on the road this long?

ANDRE AGASSI: While the past few weeks have taken a lot out of me, it's given me a lot. It is difficult. I already feel the difficulty of it. But I think I've learned how to really take it one day at a time, and I know my excitement to get back will make up for a lot. I don't know how I'm going to respond to all the tennis, if I'm playing this much tennis throughout the year, that's a good sign that I'm winning. And I'm just going to have to rely on my experience to make healthy decisions for myself.

Q. Finally, what kind of a warmup is the Davis Cup for the Sybase Open?

ANDRE AGASSI: Absolutely the worst preparation a person could possibly have. You not only have altitude, but you're about 28 hours away from your destination, and God only knows how I'm going to recover.

Q. What day did you leave the United States?

ANDRE AGASSI: I left on the 28th of December.

Q. Is this the longest road trip of your life?

ANDRE AGASSI: It's hard to consider it a road trip when I started off in Hawaii and then went down to Australia. I really enjoy it down there. But what are we going on, six weeks? More? I've done six weeks in the early part of my career.

Q. Did you?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah. When I would go through the clay season in Paris, I did that a few times. Somehow, it doesn't feel like it used to, though. You know, I'll have time to be home in a few years.

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