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Écrit par Jerome   


March 18, 2001

A. AGASSI/P. Sampras
7-6, 7-5, 6-1

An interview with:


MODERATOR: Andre wins his first title here of course in the desert. It's his fifth Tennis Masters tournament, and 11th of his career. He'll also increase his lead to 156 on the ATP Champions Race tomorrow.

Q. I say you're a better tennis player than you've ever been, but what do you say?

ANDRE AGASSI: No question. Again, I feel like it always boils down to my movement and fitness. I feel like I'm a better athlete than I've ever been. I'm stronger, fitter, move better. I have more options. When you're physically holding up and you have the years of experience, it seems like it all comes together a bit easier, in some ways.

Q. How does it feel when your stats are read off by Sharko, first title here, still heading the Champions Race?

ANDRE AGASSI: I don't listen to Sharko ever (laughter).


ANDRE AGASSI: It's all crazy, you know. It's always relative, too. It's easy to get carried away with stats and opportunities and lives, you know. You're out here playing an incredible sport for a living. It's a crazy thought just pulling up to the arena, looking left and seeing the parking lot. It's absurd, really, if you think about it, to be the one going out there to do it. You know, it's like anything. It's like when you're on the court, you're telling yourself, "Just execute, do what you know how to do. Watch the ball, watch the ball." You learn that 30 years ago, you're still not doing it. "Watch the ball, watch the ball." Then it gets done. It's kind of the same thing, you just sit back and you feel proud, but you also kind of know where to put it. You keep trying to ask the most from yourself.

Q. How much is playing Pete not just an inspiration? But when you can play like, how much is it an even greater joy?

ANDRE AGASSI: It is. It's incredible. I mean, I've been on the other end of it so many times with Pete. I've got to say, it's more enjoyable at this stage of my career to play against him and to actually play well and to win in a big match. It just feels wonderful. I feel very proud of the way I've played this week, and especially today.

Q. I interviewed Holly Hunter at the end of the match. She said you played like Pete. Any comments on that?

ANDRE AGASSI: I played like Pete?

Q. Yes.

ANDRE AGASSI: I wouldn't understand what she means by that. I'd have to ask her.

Q. You had to play last night, had to play today. Didn't look like you broke a sweat. What did you and your trainer prepare for?

ANDRE AGASSI: Didn't look like I broke a sweat today? Wow. I work hard to make it look like that then (smiling). I thought it was tough conditions today. It was pretty hot. There's no escape from the sun. I mean, you've got to prepare smarter as you get older. Not necessarily train longer, but train smarter. I put a lot of work into myself and I'm responding. It feels incredible. But you have to be fit and you have to be prepared. Those are two different things.

Q. Do you think you broke his spirit a little by getting out of the tiebreaker?

ANDRE AGASSI: I think in hindsight, that seemed to be a huge factor. I mean, it always is, a set, when you're playing three out of five, is one down. I knew it was big to win the first set, but it was still a long match to be played at that point. We still hadn''t broken each other's serve. You know, he hung in there and played like a champion all through the second set. I played a great game to break him. I mean, I had him Love-40 earlier and he answered with three first serves. Then I played a great game to break him for the set. I mean, I hit like cold winners. So he made me play special to win that second set. I would think at that point it was a lot easier for me to pick up my game than it was for him. I think I elevated a little bit and he got probably a little careless on a couple second serves early in the set. Once you're up two sets and a break, that's a long ways back.

Q. Talking about getting older, what are your plans for the future? You're 30, playing a hell of a good game. What are your plans?

ANDRE AGASSI: Plans? I mean, I don't --.

Q. Do you plan to keep on going?

ANDRE AGASSI: I hope so. I hope to play in the game as long as I can, go out there and give the people who really care about the game and support me the possibility that I can actually win the match. That's a good feeling. As long as I can still continually ask more from myself and play with the best of them from any kind of realistic standpoint, I hope I can be objective. Everybody's time comes differently. I don't know how mine's going to or when.

Q. Has Gil helped you maintain this level up there?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, it's everything. I mean, it's been years of a foundation of strength, real special focus now to take care of myself in a different way at 31 than I did at 25, than I did at 20. It constantly changes. It's a big part of my game.

Q. Are you reading Pete's serve better these days than you might have in earlier years?

ANDRE AGASSI: No (laughter).

Q. Does any other long-range rivalry, like Pete and yours, come to mind? Laver-Rosewall? Who would you compare this to?

ANDRE AGASSI: I can't be that objective about it, to be honest. I wish I could for you, but it's a very difficult thing for me to kind of step back and view me with greats of the game, great rivalries. I don't have that ability, nor do I actually feel motivated for that. For me to continually offer my side of the bargain, which is to play well, to be out there competing hard, it requires specific focus. I wouldn't know, and I don't really think about it.

Q. Why is it so hard for him to break you?

ANDRE AGASSI: I wouldn't say -- hopefully it's always been hard to break. You know, he had many opportunities in the first set, and I got through that. I think when I'm playing my best tennis, you'll see me fight to hold as I try to break down my opponent early in a match, then you'll see me start holding easier, get my aces and free points later in a match. I think that's indicative of a day that I'm playing well, first of all. You know, Pete is a very experienced player. He knows how to put pressure on you at the right time. He made me come up with some good shots. I was handling him from the ground, and I was controlling a lot of those baseline points. That's the most important part for me on my service games, is to be executing my shots better than my opponent, because that's how I hold. I think I did that well today.

Q. On court you had some very nice words about Pete. As a person, is there one quality that you most admire in Pete?

ANDRE AGASSI: You know, I don't know. I mean, I don't know. Just call it like it is. Unless you spend a lot of time with somebody. I mean, I still make it a commitment of mine to understand the people closest to me, let alone somebody I don't really spend a lot of time with away from the courts. I think we can all sit back and marvel at the character that it takes to accomplish what he's accomplished. You know, he's focused on one thing, and he's done it great for many years. That's an incredible spirit.

Q. Uncommon number of 80-mile-an-hour first serves today. Were you focused on getting the first serve in, hitting a lot of spin?

ANDRE AGASSI: My thought process was, "He can't hurt me with a high backhand return." Occasionally he can come in on it. But with the altitude and court jumping, I feel like I'm going to hit a quality first serve, get the first look at the point. That's what I wanted to do. I didn't want to make it a long day. I wanted to execute my shots. I didn't want to start going for cheap points and give him a lot of looks at my second. The conditions, the court, these things changed those subtleties. I can't get away with that obviously on grass. I can't get away with that necessarily indoors. But here's a place where I can use my kick serve and start controlling the baseline points. That's what I didn't want to do. I didn't want to see him have too many opportunities to hurt my second, because when he senses a window of opportunity, he's the best in the world at capitalizing on it.

Q. A little while ago Pete was asked if losing gets any easier. He said it's just as hard, just as disappointing. Does winning get better?

ANDRE AGASSI: Winning gets better. Winning gets better because it's a whole package. You know, I mean, you just have more of an ability the older you get to sit back and really be thankful for your life and what makes up your life. You know, I sit at dinner now looking around, as people ask me for autographs when I come in, as people wish me well for the next day, as people tell me how much they enjoyed being there that day. I mean, these are things that just make you sit back and go, "This is an incredible time in my life." I think to win, you have much more of an appreciation later in your career to also know how much work it's taken and how you can't just plan on winning and win. You can work your tail end off and not succeed. That's all part of it. That's what makes winning so good, is that there is that side of it, which is losing stinks.

Q. Definitely you appreciate it more now than you did in the early stages of your career?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, oh, yeah. No question about it.

Q. You spoke about approaching the stadium, seeing the parking lot, all the cars. You said it was absurd. What is your feeling? Do you feel, "This Vegas kid has come a long way"? What is your thought?

ANDRE AGASSI: It just feels incredibly surreal. Regardless, everybody in their life has the opportunity to experience priding themselves on something, working hard for something, and accomplishing something. Whatever degree that is, whatever scope that's on, I believe it's something that everyone can sit back at and feel is part of what makes life so special. I just think in my arena, when you pull up to a place that there's 20,000 people, you know, it's like it feels incredibly -- I would say it feels separate. It feels like it's not even you. But yet it boils down to everything you're going to do out there. It's a very strange feeling, and one you start to have a better appreciation for the more time you spend.

Q. Would it be impossible for you to win the Grand Slam this year or do you give yourself a chance?

ANDRE AGASSI: I mean, "impossible" is -- I can't say in sports many things are impossible, because special things do happen. So, no, it's not impossible. But I'm just answering the question the way it was asked. It's not impossible.

Q. What do you feel about it?

ANDRE AGASSI: I feel like I have to win 21 matches in the biggest of situations on three different surfaces. I feel like that's very difficult.

Q. But not impossible?

ANDRE AGASSI: No, it's not impossible. It's not impossible.

Q. I would like to know about your recent charitable venture, academy to prepare kids for universities. Right now they're accepting applications.

ANDRE AGASSI: It's a college preparatory academy that my foundation is doing. It's a $4.1 million dollar project to start with, to open up a charter school that will bring a standard of education to a child's life that they deserve. It's my belief if you expect a lot from a child, they won't disappoint you. If you don't expect a lot from a child, they won't disappoint you. You need to give them the platform to know that a lot is expected from them. That's what this school is going to do. It's a high standard of education, meant to prepare kids starting in third, fourth, fifth and sixth grade is what we're coming out of the block with, but every year we're going to add another grade. From third grade, they're preparing for their lives. With all the things that I've learned through my foundation, it seems like it's all come back to like the saying goes, "Teaching somebody to fish versus giving them a fish." This is what we're focusing on. Education is teaching children how to take care of themselves, how to plan for their future, how to change other people's lives. That's what's going to change the world.

Q. Will you go and speak to them yourself, give them inspirational messages?

ANDRE AGASSI: I don't know. I've never quite considered myself -- considered that being my strength. I feel like putting them in a position to have the opportunities has been the main focus. But that wouldn't surprise me if I get involved more day to day at some point.

Q. You're playing the best tennis of your life. You're probably in the best physical shape of yourself. Do you sometimes feel your body is 30?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, I don't know what it's like to be 31, for example. It's like I don't know what I'm supposed to feel at 30. I know I feel good, which is a great thing. But I also know I have concerns. I have to address my body differently. I can't just ignore it. You know, who's to say if I had done all this earlier, as far as my training, intensity, I don't know if my mind or focus or even body could have held up through all the years that I'd still be doing it. There's kind of the regret that I could have done more, but there's also the satisfaction that I'm still out here. That's what I try to focus on, is that I'm still out here doing it. That's a great thing for me.

Q. You've talked about trying to win this tournament, come to this tournament a lot of years. How does it feel to finally get this one?

ANDRE AGASSI: It feels good, yeah (smiling).

Q. Was there a point a month or two ago when you made this tournament a top priority?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I feel like I've said it every year coming here that it's what I want. But after Australia this year, I didn't play Davis Cup, which allowed me the opportunity to rest, recover, and prepare for the upcoming goals. This is certainly a big tournament. Next week is a big tournament. I've wanted to win here. I played in Scottsdale and practiced in Vegas, hitting the ball machine, hundreds and hundreds of balls just to get used to the altitude, that I could like my swing when I got here, was training. Just came here and laid it on the line with the hope that I could win, but the realization that it's hard to beat these guys.

Q. Do you take pride in the atmosphere that you and Pete generated out in the stadium as compared to the atmosphere yesterday with the Williams controversy?

ANDRE AGASSI: It's overwhelming to me, to be quite honest. I have to fight to stay focused on what I'm doing. In many ways, I'm aware of just how special it is. When you feel the rush of the crowd, walking on the court, you have to quickly regroup and remember it is about the tennis. The reason why we both have established ourselves is because we thought about the tennis. "What do you want to do today? Move your feet, watch the ball." You'd be surprised how quickly it comes back to that.

Q. Have you made any decisions yet as to what you might be doing in the two weeks between the French and Wimbledon or does that depend on what happens in Roland Garros?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, I don't know. I mean, one of the things that's changed at 30 years old, 31 by then, I've never had to worry about, is really constantly assessing where you're at physically, mentally, all of it. Play that one by ear.

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