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Écrit par Jerome   


March 17, 2001

A. Agassi/L. Hewitt
6-4, 3-6, 6-4

An interview with:


MODERATOR: Andre improves his match record to 16-2 on the season and he'll take on Pete Sampras. It will be their 14th meeting in a final. Tomorrow he'll also attempt to win his first tournament here in the desert. First question.

Q.. Talk about playing Pete.

ANDRE AGASSI: Looking forward to it. It's an incredible thing for me at this stage of my career to play him at any point. I think we could play in our yard, and I would love it. But to play in a big match in the finals, it's truly just a memory waiting to happen. You know, you don't get the blessing of a rivalry in your career. We've had many, many great moments. I look forward to that tomorrow.

Q.. Tell us a little bit about the third set tonight against Lleyton. How do you see that having played out?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I mean, it was an uncomfortable match for both of us. I don't think either of us played well. It was pretty choppy. I mean, it was like a football game where you're going into halftime, the score is 0 -0 it's like eight turnovers, two blocked punts, no scores. Nobody had any feel for how to step it up and start executing their game. The third set just started off the same way, except we were kind of holding serve there. Then I was down breakpoint. Had a good hold at 2-All. I just told myself, "See if you can make ten balls in a row. Count them, one, two, three. Good, good, you're doing good. Keep making it." Then he just made a couple errors. I hit a couple good shots. I got up the break. Finish line was in sight. But not for me today. I had to make it more difficult, really played a bad game at 5-3, serving for it. Then I was lucky to break. You know, it was just one of those that you're just glad to get through.

Q.. Were the conditions tough or why could neither one of you find your real games?

ANDRE AGASSI: Hard to say. I mean, I think we have a lot of respect for each other's game. We're both aware of what the other one can do. I wasn't committed to stepping up and trying to go through him. I wanted to work the point. But sometimes he hits the ball short. I could have stepped up, and I didn't. Other times, you know, I tried to hit it big, and I wasn't in position. I never found my rhythm. I don't think he was sure how aggressive he wanted to play. Sometimes he played a little bit more aggressive; other times he was just very content to put the ball in the court and run down a few shots.

Q.. Do you see a kind of younger version of you?

ANDRE AGASSI: You know, I think we play differently. I mean, I was a lot more one-dimensionally aggressive. He mixes it up more. He counterpunches. Sometimes he gets aggressive. I was pretty much coming forward and taking everything early, hitting everything big. I mean, I wouldn't say that.

Q.. In your earlier comments, you said the two previous matches were sort of ugly tennis. This doesn't sound like it was a pretty one. Do you expect a great match with Lleyton in the future?

ANDRE AGASSI: I didn't say it was ugly tennis the first two. It was actually good tennis down in Australia. The difference was I was 0 for 17 on breakpoints. It was actually really good tennis. We had a lot of great rallies, when he beat me 6-6. In LA, I was stepping it up, up a break serving for the set when he sprained his ankle. I think today was just a combination of not knowing each other's game so well in the last couple years, and a little bit of the conditions, a little breezy out there. It was dusk. It was kind of hard to really see the ball well. But I expect good matches as far as a lot of great baseline points. I think next time we play, the standard's going to get better.

Q.. Back to Pete. We asked him his first memories of encountering you as a kid. What are your first memories of encountering him, what you thought about him?

ANDRE AGASSI: Pete as a kid?

Q.. First time you showed up at a junior tournament, maybe saw each other, played each other.

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, I always remembered him more from a distance. His father had him playing up a lot. He was always playing the older kids. Me being a year older than him was actually, believe it or not, taller than he was (smiling). He never quite got to the later stages of tournaments because he was always playing up, playing even ahead of our group. So I don't even really remember playing him. I remember seeing him from a distance, seeing him with a two-handed backhand, just counter-puncher, running down balls, pushing.

Q.. Looked like you then at that time?

ANDRE AGASSI: No. I was crushing the ball (smiling).

Q.. He remembers you beat him the first time you played in Juniors.

ANDRE AGASSI: It's older. It's a huge advantage when you're that age. To be older is to be a lot stronger. It's the same with Michael. He was always playing up. There was never a match where we played as a junior until he got, you know, more developed himself. Yeah, I beat him somewhere like 2-3. Northridge maybe. I think we only played minimally in the Juniors at a young age.

Q.. Every player from like a 2.5 to a Top 10 player goes through some rough stretches. You talked about, "Let's see if I can get ten balls in." What other techniques, when your game is really going south, do you use to come back?

ANDRE AGASSI: It depends who you're playing. I could never get away with just keeping the ball in play against a guy like Pete, for example, because he's just going to take his chances and come in. He'll force me to find my rhythm in a much more aggressive way. Some players allow you to get away with a few balls. Today was a question of just getting a little rhythm, developing a certain sense for setting up the point, which ball you're looking for, to make sure you pick that one out. You get down to the basics. It seems like watching the ball is the first thing you learn, and the last thing you learn, in this game. "Just watch the ball, don't miss it," you're always telling yourself.

Q.. You've had some great wins and tough losses. When you're down to Pete, what are you trying to do?

ANDRE AGASSI: I have to execute my game. I have to take advantage of the opportunities I get. I have to make him feel the need to press. That's going to require me hitting my shots effectively. It's going to require me returning well. You know, there's not a whole lot of strategy when it comes to how I approach the match with Pete. I have to play my best tennis, especially in a final.

Q.. What are your memories of playing him in the '95 finals here?

ANDRE AGASSI: Not good. Not good (smiling).

Q.. It was Monday night, too, right?

ANDRE AGASSI: I believe so. It was three and out.

Q.. You played Pete now 29 times. Do you have one match that stands out between the two of you?

ANDRE AGASSI: Every one I won I remember as clear as a bell (laughter).

Q.. He could only remember Wimbledon at his greatest match against you.

ANDRE AGASSI: I'm sure. I'm sure. I can't say any one in particular stands out. Last time we played was incredible. It wasn't a final, but it was pretty special, just the standard of tennis. A couple times that probably weren't seen on TV we played I remember quite well.

Q.. Is there any player you have to get up more for to beat than Pete Sampras? Do you still look at him today as the ultimate guy that you have to face?

ANDRE AGASSI: I think week to week that can change and surface to surface that can change. But when Pete is in the finals, not only is he Pete, but he's also playing well. When those combinations come together, yes, there's nobody that concerns me more.

Q.. Do you feel like an underdog when you go out there against him?

ANDRE AGASSI: There's been times when that's the case.

Q.. How about tomorrow?

ANDRE AGASSI: No, I don't. I mean, I'm out there feeling like we're both going to have to play well to win. I would bet on myself, but that's because I like to do that.

Q.. He says on paper that the conditions here suit you better. You hit the ball flat, the backhand you have that, he doesn't have that. What do you think?

ANDRE AGASSI: Oh, he's crazy. I mean, you know, the altitude helps the second serve a lot. You know, I think it's possible that the conditions could help me in a couple occasions, if I get a good return, hard to control the ball in the altitude a little bit. But overall, we both love hard courts. I'd have to say a couple factors go his way and a couple go my way. I definitely play with more spin, but he's not looking to rally out there.

Q.. When Serena went out, she was booed. Even after she won, she was booed. Can you take a moment and comment on that? What are your thoughts?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I think it's a sad thing. I think it's a very unfortunate thing. Really the only loser is -- I should say the most significant loser is the game of tennis. You never want to see a default under any situations in the semifinals, let alone one that's surrounded with controversy. While you can understand people directing their frustrations towards her, she's also a girl, you know. She's learning as she goes along, as well. You only hope that the things that happen to a person out there in that kind of scope, that kind of spotlight, are things that you think about in a very significant way on your own personal time and make assessments and judgments as to how you want things to go in the future, to realize that those things are in your control. You know, what got directed at her today in some ways is unfair. But if I were her, I would just consider it an opportunity to understand what people come to expect when we're out there playing the way we play, making the money we make, traveling the world. There's a level of expectation, and you've got to be responsible and accountable for yourself.

Q.. And Venus wins 0-3 the day before, then comes the next day, has this injury. Does that cause your eyebrows to raise a little bit? What were your thoughts?

ANDRE AGASSI: I don't like guessing people's situations. I think it's the same thing with Venus. You can't control how other people handle themselves, can you control how you handle yourself. You're responsible for every decision you make.

Q.. Back to tonight's match. 19 or so months that you last played Lleyton. I know that was an abbreviated match. What's the biggest difference you see in him?

ANDRE AGASSI: Hard to say. It was a quicker court out there in LA when we played. But I think he has a few assets in his game that really give him an advantage over many guys he plays. I think, first of all, his competitive spirit and his concentration is as good as it gets out there. Every ball's important to him. That's rare. I think he's a great big-point player. I think when the pressure's on, he plays like he expects to win. And that's rare. I think he moves exceptional. I think he can be offensive and can be solid. Those are all factors that really lend to a great future. He does have to work hard to win, and will always have to. You know, I'm in that boat, too.

Q.. When you gave Pete that extra time at the Lipton in the final, years ago. He came back to win, if I recall correctly. Is that still a moment you feel pretty good about, that you allowed your opponent extra time to recuperate?

ANDRE AGASSI: You know, certain things are just right, and that's -- I've made a lot of decisions in my life that I regret. I've certainly made others that I'm proud of. That's one of the ones that I hope to always keep in perspective, which is this isn't about winning, this is about going out and asking yourself to accomplish something that is difficult to do, and being proud of the effort you put into that accomplishment, not to mention all that surrounds it, all the people there expecting to see a match, the game of tennis. That's definitely a decision that I'm glad I made, and I would make over again.

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