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Écrit par Jerome   


January 28, 2001

A. AGASSI/A. Clement
6-4, 6-2, 6-2

An interview with:


MODERATOR: Questions for Andre.

Q. Did you ever think you'd win a tournament over 30?

ANDRE AGASSI: Tournament or a Grand Slam?

Q. Well, this is the first tournament you've won since you turned 30.

ANDRE AGASSI: That's true. I was hoping I would, but I guess you can never be too sure. You know, it's been 12 months since I've won. But I picked one heck of a spot to do it again.

Q. A new experience for you to actually defend a Grand Slam title. How does that feel?

ANDRE AGASSI: You know, I was thinking coming into this event that it's one of the first times being a defending champion feels less about pressure and more about knowing that you can play well here. I came into this week, this tournament, feeling like my game was very solid, I was in good position physically, then it did get better by each day. Winning it felt special. Defending it again didn't really occur to me till now. That certainly is a good feeling, as well.

Q. Can I say you wanted to win this tournament as much for yourself as for your mother and sister? Can I say the courage of your mother encouraged you and made you more determined?

ANDRE AGASSI: No, I don't think that's fair to say. I think they're two separate things. I think as far as courage and determination goes, I think my sister and mom have more of it than I do. You know, you've got to focus on one part of your life at a time. Being down here was about the tennis. That's what my mind was on.

Q. In a strange way, is tennis becoming easier for you now?


Q. Yes. It's almost as if you know exactly what you're going to do all the time. Once you're in the groove, it just looks as if you can go effortlessly through what you want to do.

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I can say that I don't self inflict and throw curves at myself as much anymore. I don't make it tougher on myself. To say it was easy would be misleading.

Q. Probably the wrong word, but I think you know what I mean.

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah. I'm certainly experienced at what keeps me at my best and what puts me in position to be at my best for the biggest matches, and that's clearer now than it's ever been. I think when you've been through it a number of times and you've had your share of successes and defeats, you kind of know where to file it all a little bit easier. And I think the end result is a lot easier to accept. I feel, win or lose, that ultimately my goal is to be proud of myself out there in how I competed and how I conducted myself. That part is a lot clearer to me than it's ever been.

Q. We're used to seeing you play Slam finals against Sampras, Kafelnikov. How difficult and different for you was it playing somebody like Arnaud Clement in a Grand Slam final?

ANDRE AGASSI: I never really enjoy that time leading up to the final in a match like this, because really all you want to do is just get out there and tee them up. When you're in a position where you've been there so many times, you know what to expect. I have a lot of appreciation for how dangerous a player of Arnaud's speed and capabilities can be. Having the two days off, you know, I felt edgy and anxious, wanting to get out there. That part I think is a lot more difficult than, say, if I was playing Pete or Rafter or somebody of that nature because, really, you're just a lot more relaxed when you play guys like that because you know you're going to have to be at your best. There's really just no two ways about it. So I was really anxious to get out there. But once you get out there, there are a number of times it occurs to you that you're glad it's not Pete, you know, Rafter. You feel like you have the edge in certain respects with experience. And I had to deal with the game today. You know, I had to answer his weapons and establish mine. I felt like I did that pretty effectively.

Q. Can you get better?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, I think so. I hope so. I mean, that's my goal. That's what I want to do.

Q. What do you have to do to achieve that?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I mean, I can always move better, I can always be more aggressive, more consistently. You know, I mean, if you can hit one pace ball and not miss, then maybe you can pick up the pace and get to the point where you even hit it bigger, not missing. You're always striving for that perfect, perfect game.

Q. Other than hard work, what do you put down your longevity to?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I think the year-round nature of our sport and the individual nature of our sport takes its toll on each person in a very aggressive way. And if you don't know how to cut yourself those areas of slack where your body needs it or maybe your mind needs it, I think the toll can get overwhelming in your late 20s. But for me, I think it's always come pretty natural for me not to make tennis my entire life, and I've taken time to kind of get away from it, so it's kept my mind and my body probably a lot fresher than where I would be at 30 if it had been week in, week out, year after year.

Q. Those down periods in your career, do they come somewhat as a bit of a blessing, do you think?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah. I think you can always second-guess what you're doing and why you're doing it. But I've definitely come to not regret those times. I think they've played a big part in my ability just to now be healthy and to be determined, and I feel that sense of hunger.

Q. Can you comment on the interplay between tennis life and the rest of your life? It seems that we see with different players where they are maybe in their development, that they do define their life by tennis. If their tennis isn't going well, they're not happy. You've made comments such as it's not everything that you judge your life by. Do you think that that comes with playing for so many years, that you're able to say, "If my life off court is great, that's what's important, and tennis is a bonus"?

ANDRE AGASSI: I think it's a difference between being 30 and being 18. I mean, you're dealing with a very young sport. It's a huge sport, it's a huge business, huge opportunities, huge accomplishments. You see kids, you know, fighting to accomplish certain things. It's easy to understand the pressures and the miscalculations of how it all plays out at the end. But I've lived through that. I've been through it. At this point, I can't say I ever had the perspective in the beginning as if I had some kind of foresight. I think I just -- just my heart never allowed me to be consumed by it. But now I use that as an asset, as a tool.

Q. You seem sort of an anomaly in that you are fully aware of what's happening in the women's game, you can speak intelligently about it. We've heard you on TV. Some players, the women sometimes don't want to comment on the men's game, and vice versa. Do you feel you are just surrounded by tennis all the time and you're interested in these things?

ANDRE AGASSI: I enjoy tennis. I enjoy how it's played, how people play it. I feel like you can learn from everybody. Sometimes you can learn from the way somebody is on the court and what it is they do, and you can learn that that's what it is you want to be, what it is you want to do. Other times you see what somebody does, how somebody plays, and you realize, "I can get better by knowing that's not what I want to be and that's not what I want to do." You can strive to be something or you can strive to not be something. Either way, I feel like you're learning and you're making progress in your game. You know, I enjoy watching the women's game. I enjoy seeing how it plays out. You know, I don't many times have a choice - I'm waiting to play after them. You know, it is tennis, something to be aware of.

Q. You had an exchange, small conversation, with Clement just before the award ceremony. What were you guys talking about?

ANDRE AGASSI: I just asked him how he felt, you know, being in his first final, physically after his great match, and gave him some credit for the incredible match he played the other night, the other day. I just made mention how much they're going to appreciate him when we get to Paris, back there in France.

Q. When Jimmy Connors was 29 or 30, he said he'd play maybe two or three years or something. You probably feel that way, but do you think you'd ever slip into what happened to Connors, play 39, 40?

ANDRE AGASSI: You know, I would be probably more shocked than anybody if I played longer than a few more years. I would be shocked. I mean, how can you really speak for what you're going to do or not do? I have no intentions of playing as long as he did.

Q. How do you see the future of Arnaud Clement? Can you say a few words about what you thought of his game?

ANDRE AGASSI: Arnaud is a talented player, and he has a game that's strengths are ones that players don't see too often. I mean, he's small and he's probably the fastest player on the tour, and he can really hurt you with his speed. There's a lot of guys that are bigger and more powerful. You don't play against a player like him very often. When you do, there's a whole different rhythm to the match. That's working for him. He's always going to have to work hard to win. That's where the heart comes in. He's proven to be a great fighter, certainly down here. How long a player like him can keep up that standard is a question that only time can answer. But as long as he has the passion and the heart, and he's willing to work like he has, I think he can continually be a threat to all the players.

Q. Do you leave here feeling about the same way you did a year ago at this time? Are there differences? To what extent is this a stepping stone into the rest of the year?

ANDRE AGASSI: I feel better because I'm going home instead of Zimbabwe. This is a great stepping stone. I mean, this is what you play for. This is what it's all about. Last year, at the end of last year, when I played in The Championships, Lisbon, I was thinking about being down here. It doesn't always work out like you plan. When it does, you really feel proud about the work you put in. So this has been a great stepping stone for me. I think I'll be a little smarter this year. I think I haven't had as much tennis as I did after this tournament last year. I felt very tired and physically struggling. This year I don't. I think if I really played my cards right, this can be the start of an incredible year.

Q. How much do you think about your place in history, all-time lists of Grand Slam winners? Where do you fit into it all?

ANDRE AGASSI: I guess you think about it when it's over, you know. Stats don't lie. You know, records don't lie. Either you do it or you don't. No sense in spending much time thinking about it before you step on the court. I mean, it's a wonderful feeling to be the champion here three times. Things like that really impact you. But somehow they don't play a part when you're stepping out there to play. Arnaud today, I had to take care of business. In some respects, it makes you feel very proud, but in other ways, it's quite irrelevant.

Q. Flipping over the cards, when you were playing those challengers, did you really think you had four more Grand Slams in you?

ANDRE AGASSI: No, definitely not. At that stage, it's been much -- that stage is much more reflective of how it is I function as a person. It wasn't about winning; it was about getting better. It was a process. That process is something that I really enjoy. I enjoyed it every bit as much then as I do now. I couldn't even tell you if I felt like I had any more Slams in me now. I have no idea. I mean, that's really the way I approach it. I feel like you have to be good to win, you have to be lucky to win, and things have to fall right for you. But that process that happens day in and day out, asking yourself to get better as a player, is a process that I enjoy on the court and off the court. I think that time playing the challengers really, if anything, just speaks volumes for how important that process is in my life.

Q. Are there any specific things you still want to achieve before you retire? Is it just a question of continuing whilst you enjoy it?

ANDRE AGASSI: You want to achieve more. I mean, how can you not want to win? It's hard not to want to win, especially if you can.

Q. It's that drive to win as opposed to enjoying playing the game?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I enjoy a lot about it. I mean, you know, a man needs to work. If I do this well, I might as well work here, you know. It's important to me just to pay a price, you know, to assess how your day was at the end of it. I can't think of a better way to do it than playing the game of tennis.

Q. Yesterday Stefano Capriati told me that nobody can become a tennis champion without a parent, father or mother, struggling a lot at the beginning of the career for his son or daughter. He was mentioning the case of Williams, Hingis, himself, others. With you, we never hear anything about your father. I believe he had some importance at the beginning of your career. Do you ever think about it? Do you ever tell us anything about it?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah. My father was very crucial to my success. I mean, he has a passion for the game that is more now than when I was a little boy. I mean, he plays every day. He's either working on the court, working on the ball machines, playing with his friends, teaching kids or giving me an earful about how I can be better, which is great to see his passion for the game. I do believe as tough as the sport of tennis is, in order to succeed, you have to start early. If you have to start early, there's a heck of a chance one of the parents are supporting or nurturing you in your direction. So that is important. I think a parent plays an important role in many ways. I don't necessarily feel like they have to be consumed with it or make it the end-all. I think it could be a very positive experience. But I think you always risk those lines getting crossed when it starts so young and it becomes so important.

Q. Speaking of Jennifer Capriati, can you give your thoughts on her accomplishment? It was a long time in coming for her.

ANDRE AGASSI: Long time and well overdue. I thought of her game a long time ago, when I saw her hit the ball, that she can strike the ball with the best of them off both sides. I hope she uses this as a stepping stone to stay fit, to stay strong, and to really believe in what she's capable of doing. It's going to be hard for her not to believe what she's capable of doing with what she's been through. I think that is also a testament to her spirit. I think it's a lesson for all of us to learn from. It was story book and it was a beautiful thing for the game of tennis and a beautiful thing for anybody that knows her story to sit back and watch it unfold. She's a great champion, and more than just what she did on the court.

Q. When you finally do put away your racquet professionally, what do you want to be remembered for?

ANDRE AGASSI: On the court?

Q. What do you want to be remembered for? This has obviously been your career up to when you put your racquet away.

ANDRE AGASSI: Hopefully there won't be a marking point where once the racquets are away, that that's when -- hopefully what I want to be remembered for will continue. I mean, I just think ultimately making a difference in people's lives is what I cherish the most, you know, from an individual level to a broader base. However that changes, I hope I never lose the desire or passion for that.

Q. When you win, which is the moment you enjoy most? Is it just straight after the match point? Is it when you lift the trophy? Is it when you review the victory later?

ANDRE AGASSI: That's a tough one to answer. I feel like you relive it every time you share it with somebody close to you, you know. It would be hard-pressed not to say the first moment, you know, when you hit the winning shot because that's it right there. But that has a strong ripple effect, you know, that you get to experience a lot of joys from that one success. I would say the greatest feeling is certainly right afterwards, but somehow the ripples just keep going. It's not like they ever go away. You know, it's history. That part you can always call on and feel great about.

Q. Can you enjoy such a title for a long time or, let's say, in a few days it's already the next goal?

ANDRE AGASSI: I think the more experience you get, the more you allow yourself to enjoy it. I got a hunch I'm going to enjoy this for a few weeks (smiling).

Q. When you hear somebody like on court it was brought up winning the Grand Slam again, it seems in today's world that would be really impossible for anyone to accomplish?

ANDRE AGASSI: I think to myself, "This must look a lot easier than it feels." It's a crazy thought. It's been a year since I've won. I'll do my best not to make it another year till I win again. But who's to say?

Q. Before you serve, you seem to look carefully at three balls. Is there a method to how you select the ball for a first serve?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah. I'm nitpicking a little bit out there. Depending on what kind of serve you plan on hitting, to me, I tend to pick certain balls. Some balls are heavier than other balls, they've been used more, they're going to travel slower. If I'm going to hit a kick serve with the wind, I'm going to go with a heavier ball because I'm going to force them to generate pace with a little bit heavier of a ball. If I'm going to hit a slice up the middle that I want to get away from them, I'm going to go with a thinner one that's going to travel through the air a little bit quicker. But that's all probably just to make myself feel better. I'm not quite sure it really manifests itself in a great advantage.

Q. If I didn't miss words during the official speech, you say thanks to Brad, thanks to Gil. You didn't mention Steffi. Is it because you're shy? You don't want to put her at the center of attention.

ANDRE AGASSI: Because I know people like you will only write that (laughter).

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