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Écrit par Jerome   
20-09-2006

THE MASTERS SERIES 2001
THE ERICSSON OPEN

MIAMI, FLORIDA

March 22, 2001

An Interview With:

ANDRE AGASSI

THE MODERATOR: First question, please. Andre comes into this year's Ericsson Open with a 17-2 match record. Of course on top of the ATP Champions Race.

Q. Andre, I know it's not quite what Greg was just previewing there, but we just had the CEO of the WTA Tour sitting in here for half an hour talking about the Williams sisters controversy. Do you have a view at all on the potential for fixed matches? Could you ever conceive of that happening in tennis?

ANDRE AGASSI: I mean it's -- I think it's one of the worst things that can possibly be said about an athlete, that you would either fix a match or fake an injury. And for those accusations to be treated lightly on anybody's part I think would be disruptive to a great sport. I would only be guessing as to the inner workings of anybody's particular situation, and would be more critical towards how somebody handles accusations as opposed to what any speculation is that's going on.

Q. Do you get a sense, just from reading or listening to people about the Williams family that they may have decided that they're bigger than the game of tennis themselves?

ANDRE AGASSI: I can't -- I can't speak to that. I don't know what they think of themselves or the game, you know. I know that they're two great athletes who play the game incredibly well, and will hopefully always feel a responsibility not just to their family but to the sport that's been so good to them.

Q. Do you think they would have been better off offering a more vigorous defense to the suggestions after what happened at Wimbledon instead of letting it go on month after month? And, I mean, when they're asked questions about what they thought about suggestions they might have the matches between them arranged, they were just saying things like, "Well, everyone's got freedom of speech." Had it been put to you, I imagine you would have been furious?

ANDRE AGASSI: I can speak for me. If anybody accused me of having some kind of interest in throwing a match, that wouldn't fly for very long at all. But, you know, I don't know the position they've taken because I haven't seen it directly, first of all. I can only imagine, and it's one thing I can speak to is watching them play. And every time I watch them play there is always an additional element of sibling and sibling going on that I couldn't even bear to imagine for myself. How you deal with that is something I could never understand because I've never had to. So I know it must be difficult and not easy for them as a family to actually compete against each other in such a big arena. But with that being said, there is a responsibility in choosing this as a sport to have to do that, and that's where the speculation begins. I mean, that's where I stop. I can't speak to anything else.

Q. Did you and Phil ever compete as kids?

ANDRE AGASSI: In practice we did, but not actually in a match. I mean, first time I beat him was probably the most difficult transitions in our home.

Q. Were you like how old?

ANDRE AGASSI: 14. He was good. He was a good college player.

Q. I know.

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah.

Q. Jim Courier's not your brother, you were friends 23 out of 24 hours of the day. You go out and play a match and try to beat each other's brains out. It was highly competitive when you come off the court, and you're friends again. Is it entirely a different thing from being a sibling? Is there a comparison?

ANDRE AGASSI: I don't think you can compare it. You know, the closest you get is playing a good friend. And that's a far cry from playing somebody that you actually want to see win as well, and I can't even imagine being the older one or the younger one or I can't imagine being the parents. I can't imagine any of it. It's -- none of it is an easy situation. But family gets double the prize money, you know... Double the pain, double the pleasure. You know, it's a lot of times that it works the other way, you know.

Q. They signed a double mint contract.

Q. Did you ever lose to Phil after you won that one transitional match?

ANDRE AGASSI: We never played again, which was calculated on both our parts.

Q. You wouldn't risk it?

ANDRE AGASSI: No.

Q. Where were you when you played that?

ANDRE AGASSI: Out of our indoor racquet club in Las Vegas.

Q. On another subject, how do you feel coming into this event? Obviously you've won the first Slam of the year, the first Masters Series of the year, you must feel pretty good?

ANDRE AGASSI: I do. There's no question about it. You know, you can be in a great place with your game and lose and you can be in not such a great place and somehow win those right points. With me, it was a question of both. I really like where my game is and I happen to have won. It's so competitive out there and it's not easy, especially these tournaments. I believe in many ways to win these tournaments, the Tennis Masters Series events, are more difficult than a Slam. You get nine chances at them during the year, but you have to play five matches in six days, they're two out of three sets which means sometimes a careless service game can cost you the match, and your body has to respond only to play the three-out-of-five on the last day. So things have to go well for you. You can't play a few rough matches and come back and be at your best.

Q. In a sense you can prepare for a Slam perhaps a little easier than you can prepare for one of these? You're not quite sure of the schedule or you say playing five games in six days takes a lot out of you?

ANDRE AGASSI: A Slam takes probably more ultimately out of you if you win it at the end, but you know what to expect in the Slam. You know how to negotiate your time. In these events, you're never quite sure. You just hope that when it gets taken out of you, you get time.

Q. The conditions here are slightly different weather-wise from last week. Where would you prefer to play of the two? Or does it not matter to you?

ANDRE AGASSI: Ideally for me, medium paced hardcourt, extremely hot and windy. (Laughter.)

Q. So you're happy anyway?

ANDRE AGASSI: It happens to fit here, I've always spoken of that being a good scenario for me.

Q. Five matches in five days last week to win Indian Wells. 30 years old.

ANDRE AGASSI: 31. It counts. It counts. Just preparing myself now.

Q. As hard as you're working on your fitness, are you a bit astonished at how you're able to outlast all the young players that are on this Tour right now?

ANDRE AGASSI: Physically, I'm not sure if it's been done, at least to my knowledge, that I could call on anybody else's physical presence as a 30- or 31-year-old. Lendl comes to my mind. But at 30 to 31 was when he was starting to become a different, different player and a different quality of physical presence. He was getting injured. But I tend to view it less about my age and more about work and what you can come to expect if you do work hard. So it doesn't surprise me, no. It doesn't surprise me, no.

Q. Given your durability and Pete's durability, are you surprised that a guy like Rafter would announce at the beginning of this year that this was probably it even if he does ultimately change his mind?

ANDRE AGASSI: I would be surprised to announce that just because you'd have to deal with farewells every week for the rest of the year after announcing it. I never understood why Edberg did it the way he did. Every week I saw him, they're giving him flowers.

Q. A lot of presents, a lot of gifts.

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah. But I can also understand why somebody wouldn't want to do this, you know, and it seems to be more of that with Rafter from what I've heard him say about it than he can't do it anymore. I think really his performance in Australia and Wimbledon last year and even last week in Palm Springs shows that he can. The fact that he might not want to, that's not hard to believe.

Q. You played some wonderful matches against him. Are there any that stand out? What will you miss most when he's gone?

ANDRE AGASSI: I think he brings just a great rawness to the game, you know. I think he's a true competitor, true champion, true grit, always punches in the clock, always class act, always professional on the court, always first-class person off the court. And, you know, you want a person like that on the Tour. You want a person like that working for you. You want a person like that related to you. You want a person like that around. The game will miss him when he goes.

Q. Any matches that stand out?

ANDRE AGASSI: I remember all of them with him. I mean, I really do. There's so many. But needless to say, the last one was the most recent and the most vivid and the most probably dramatic.

Q. Why Tiburon and how did that fall into place?

ANDRE AGASSI: I've been up there for about seven-years-plus with Brad now and love the area. I always dreamt about having a place that I can go to there and get away and enjoy the nature and everything that that area has to offer. I believe it has as much to offer as any place in the world.

Q. Do you have a view of Angel Island from where you are?

ANDRE AGASSI: A view of it? Yeah, yeah. Yep.

Q. Last week it was pleasantly obvious to most of us that you were playing as well as you've ever played and as fit as you've ever been. Realistically, how long do you expect that or want that to continue? What are the sort of things that will make you stop playing eventually?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I guess I would hope for just nature's kind of plan to stop me from playing. I hope I can continue to give to this game and take from it as long as possible. I think it's an incredible opportunity to be able to do this. I can't speak to my want-to's, because I've experienced them changing according to priorities in my life. But I think I can do this as long as I'm healthy and well into my 30s. I believe there are some athletes that have proven that you can still be at your best then if you do it right. I think I got to be a lot smarter than I've ever been to pull that off, but I do think it's possible.

Q. The health and fitness carried on, would you really want to do a Jimmy Connors?

ANDRE AGASSI: To do a Jimmy Connors?

Q. Go into your 40s.

ANDRE AGASSI: Ahh, I would have a hard time seeing that, yeah.

Q. Were you surprised then to hear Pete say he could play another five years? He said in Indian Wells he might be back for five years?

ANDRE AGASSI: I'll be more surprised if he doesn't. To say it, do it is a different thing.

Q. The ATP wants players to play all nine Masters Series plus four Grand Slams. Probably unrealistic for players who are trying to space out their schedule so they can stay fresh week to week. Can you play all 13? If not, which will you risk?

ANDRE AGASSI: I don't think it would be ideal for me to play all of them. I think I could, but I don't think I'd be putting myself in the best position for the ones that mean the most to me. I don't know which ones I miss, I'm going to miss. I know that these two weeks are surrounded on both sides with room, after a Slam and before a Slam. As you get closer, things get more delicate and more sensitive, it's always a negotiation with your body and mind as to where you are. I think that balancing act is more important for me now than it's ever been.

Q. The sort of joy on your face when you won the Australian Open, I wondered if that was absolute delight or almost surprise that you'd won it. Can you categorize perhaps where that particular championship fell at this time in your career?

ANDRE AGASSI: I got to say that when I'm playing my best tennis, I'm focusing on every point and when it's ovary look at the score board. It never ceases to not surprise me that I won. It always surprises me. I really just can't believe it.

Q. Of all of those great victory surprises, down the years, we think that Wimbledon in the early '90s, your reaction to that. Then you take it nine years further on down the line, even Australia, and your reaction to that.

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, it's twofold, though. It's emotional, you know, which is what you saw in Wimbledon when you're just overwhelmed with the fact that you can't believe you've done it versus the real knowledge of what it is you're accomplishing and how difficult you know it is to do, and then to do it. Like it's much more of a -- it's much more of a mentally just a hard thing to believe. It's just long, it's hard and when it's over I'm always surprised.

Q. Are you most surprised that you're in this elite group of five players who won all four?

ANDRE AGASSI: That's really, really absurd to me, yeah. Yeah. It is. Because what's had to go --.

Q. Why? Why should it be absurd?

ANDRE AGASSI: Because I don't know if it has to be. It just is. It's like what's gone into it has been a tremendous amount of not just work and perseverance, but also the other side, the dreaming of winning the biggest ones and you can be objective about everybody's career except your own. And when I think of myself as winning all of them, it just -- it amazes me. I can't...

Q. In Melbourne, you said that after winning the Slam that this was going to be a very good year for you. Then you prove this in Indian Wells. Does it mean that besides being so well physically and tennis-wise, you are so well mentally, this means that your life, not only for tennis, is getting a sort of balance and that's why this happens?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I work at balance every day and it's not an easy thing for me. But I think how I perform on the tennis court is a reflection of a few things because so much has come together to win. I can't just play well and not be there mentally, and you can't be focused and not have the matches or the confidence or the -- so a lot has to come together. So it's easy to see when things come together because then there's your opportunity to win. It doesn't mean you're going to, but when you do, it means a lot. A lot is in place.

Q. You mentioned Ivan Lendl, you mentioned winning all of the Slams at one time in your career, and you mentioned work ethic. All of those go in with Lendl. Can you feel for a guy who worked so hard during his career and just fell short at the end?

ANDRE AGASSI: I lived ten years thinking that was going to be me. I had come to accept it. You come to realize it's not an easy thing to do. I'd have to be a great champion to do it, like Lendl was. You have to get lucky. And I really believe that. I can't imagine the disappointment. You know, I've talked to Johnny Mac about his frustrations with Paris and I know that wasn't easy. But he has a lot to fall back on. I mean, the guy had an incredible career and he did a lot for the game. I think he showed people how being a better athlete can help you do it better, how being stronger and fitter can help you play tennis much better.

 
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