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Écrit par Jerome   
20-09-2006

2002 US OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP

NEW YORK CITY

September 7, 2002

A. AGASSI/L. Hewitt
6-4, 7-6, 6-7, 6-2

An interview with:

ANDRE AGASSI

THE MODERATOR: First question, please.

Q. What made the difference today?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, it's every time we've played, it just always feels like such few points separate each set. He had many chances up there. He was up a break early in the first, served for the second. I should have closed out the third, but that's the way a match is going to go with a guy like Lleyton and with a game like mine, because we're both taking good cuts at ball after ball. And you just can't get discouraged when maybe the tide turns a little bit on you. I think that ultimately that was the difference, just a few fell for me at the right time.

Q. Did you feel you were a little cleaner today than he was in your execution and your shots? Did you get a sense early that it might be a good day for you?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, to be honest, you go out there with expectation of playing clean every time. As the match kind of unfolds, you never worry about assessing it too much until really the match has kind of established itself. I got down a break straightaway. I wasn't really concerned outside of the fact that I just really wanted to find my game. But, no, I wouldn't say that it was -- it was something that I was aware of, that I was just playing cleaner than him. I think that I closed out the first set and stuck my way back into the second. Up two sets to love is a big advantage.

Q. You followed the ebbs and flows of the game so much. What does it mean in the bigger picture of tennis that there's an Andre and Pete final in the US Open?

ANDRE AGASSI: I bet you there's 50 people in here that could put that into words better than I could. For me, it's just a -- I couldn't be more thrilled about it. You always question if it will ever happen again, you know. You have a career that you spend playing your best tennis against one of the greats of all time, and you're never guaranteed, even with the best of careers, to have that sort of rivalry and that sort of opposite that brings out the best in you over the years. This is less about -- to me, feels less about what we pull out of each other tomorrow, more about a nice toast to the past. Because this is -- it's gonna be a great day.

Q. Looking at the three meetings you've had in this tournament, if No. 1 was the young kid starting out, No. 2 was in their prime, complete the sentence for No. 3.

ANDRE AGASSI: I don't...

Q. You've met in this tournament three times now. First time, you're kind of on the rise, 1990. 1995 you're in your prime, kind of peak of powers. What is 2002? Complete that sentence.

ANDRE AGASSI: This is my prime. I don't know what you're talking about, '95 (smiling).

Q. The last point in the second set tiebreaker was -- had to be at least 20 shots back and forth between you two. Did that remind you at all of that '95 point with you and Pete? You came out on top of this one.

ANDRE AGASSI: No, actually, the point I played with Pete, it was -- we had a lot more moving going on. We both were being stretched, the point was almost over a few different times. The point today felt like it was hard for either of us to kind of stretch the point open. He just ended up forcing it and making an error. So I would say no, that wasn't...

Q. When you were in the locker room, you saw this was the match you were about to play, Pete's already finished. You look up, are you thinking, "I'm playing to beat Lleyton," or, "I'm playing to get a chance at Pete tomorrow"?

ANDRE AGASSI: You cannot take a second for granted out there at any stage, especially semifinals, especially against a competitor like Lleyton. I mean, as far as I was concerned, I had a long afternoon on my hands and I can't worry about tomorrow unless I take care of today. I was going to do everything I could to get through the match today and then worry about it from there. Didn't really think about it too much. Still feels like a long ways away before you play a match.

Q. In the second set, you had a crucial break to go up 6-5.

ANDRE AGASSI: There was a one-sided breeze out there. The side that I was trying to serve out the second set from was against the breeze. That was the side both of us was having more difficulty holding from. I broke with the wind on my back, which happened a number of times to each of us out there. So I felt like if I could sneak a hold at that 6-5 game and find a way to play and execute a great game, then that would really give me the momentum. I still had yet to feel like that was in my hands.

Q. What, if any, attention did you pay to the way Pete was playing earlier in the tournament? Were you rooting for him, even, if only on the inside?

ANDRE AGASSI: Sure. You always root for somebody that you -- I mean, we've grown up together. You know, you hear all this talk about his game, where he's at, where he's not at. Sometimes, unfortunately, you even hear it from peers who should have a heck of a lot more respect than they've shown. So, inside my own mind, I have been pulling for him. I think it's only right that somebody that's accomplished what he has deserves to play the game on his terms regardless of how the ball seems to be bouncing that day.

Q. Some of us might find it astounding, you go back to the first Monday in Wimbledon. Here you are in the next Grand Slam playing each other.

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, I don't think this would have been -- you would have gotten some great odds on making this bet before the tournament (laughter).

Q. In your town, huh...?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well...

Q. How do you do it? It seems incredible that you can turn that kind of situation in the first week of a Slam, then suddenly the next one you're at the peak of your powers again.

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, we're back on hard court, first of all. The French is a very specific surface, and designed for a specific player. Grass is the same. You're always -- I'm always trying to make little adjustments in my game that can keep my game where it needs to be to compete for the titles at those tournaments. There's a grind that happens, you know, point after point, that maybe a lot of people aren't aware of. Just subtleties that make it difficult over the course of two weeks to win those tournaments for a player like myself. When we're back on the hardcourts, I can count on the bounce, step in and execute my game. I can simplify everything and take good cuts at the ball and start bringing my strengths out. I think it helps to be back on this surface. I think this surface allows two kinds of players: It allows somebody to be patient, it allows somebody to be aggressive. And every point's an opportunity to kind of make something else happen out there. So I'm not surprised that I'm playing well. I think you always go out there and feel good when you pull off a win like I have over the last few weeks. But I'm not surprised that I'm playing a much better Grand Slam at the US Open than I did in England.

Q. You said you worked hard all year for tomorrow. Is this a special goal for you, this Open? Was it any Slam this year?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, any Slam is awesome, so... I mean, tomorrow is an opportunity for both of us, and you work hard to give yourself the look. And, again, this is gonna be a great day. Hopefully, while I hope things fall my way, I hope, more importantly, that it's a great day for tennis.

Q. Did you have any doubts mentally, given your record against Lleyton, that you would be able to wear him down in this match?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, I think there's always doubts. I think you see doubts go in and out of your own mind as well as your opponent's mind through the course of every match. Again, the question I have to ask myself is if I play my best tennis, do I expect to win? Do I feel like I can win? And that's the -- that's something that at this stage of my career I can still confidently say that there are things I can do to put the match in my hands. You know, while today went my way, I felt the same way in the matches that I lost to Lleyton. Every day's a new day. He knows that as well as anybody else out there.

Q. Pete said earlier today he never feels like the underdog, no matter what seedings or rankings are. Is that the same for you? When you're playing a guy who's No. 1 in the world, do you ever feel like an underdog at this point in your career?

ANDRE AGASSI: I think it's safe to say at different stages of the year it's pretty clear who's playing the best tennis. But again, I go out there with the knowledge that if I bring my game together, I do expect to find a way to win. That's something that ultimately I need to have in order to see through the moments that don't feel so self-assured.

Q. Do you remember watching the final, McEnroe-Connors match and wondering, "Will I ever see these guys again," in the same way that perhaps a lot of fans who watch this match tomorrow will wonder, "Will I ever see these guys again?"

ANDRE AGASSI: Again, you're asking me to be objective on something that is so personal to me. I don't have the ability to do that. I can say that it's something I'm very much looking forward to. For me it's very special for a lot of reasons.

Q. If this was asked already, I apologize, but Pete was in here earlier saying when he plays you, you bring out the best in him. What does he do to your game when you go head-to-head?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I think in many cases it does the same thing. So it's -- I've played some of the most memorable matches of my career against Pete - come out on both sides of that. We're just opposite. We're opposite in everything we do. Out there on the court, we're two styles that are going against each other. It allows for many aspects of the game to kind of reveal themselves. And it's exciting to play against it, because every point, something special seems like it can happen.

Q. Is it the greatest rush that you get, whenever you're on a tennis court, when you are facing Sampras?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah. I can definitely say that there's been nothing like it in my career that compares to playing against Pete. Pete, in my opinion, is the best that I have ever played against. That forces you to get that rush of blood that makes you do a little something special.

Q. You mentioned great days in tennis just a moment ago. Many people feel the Borg-McEnroe Wimbledon final with the fabulous tiebreak was the greatest day in terms of a men's Slam final in the Open era. Did you see that match? Do you have any recollections?

ANDRE AGASSI: The long tiebreak one? Yeah, I saw the match. I was as impressed with it as everybody was, because it's not even a function of breaking down points. It's a function of the moment and how each person deals with it and when those points happen. It was pretty special how each guy was raising his game to get the job done. Then to lose that tiebreaker and win the fifth was another example of a competitive spirit.

Q. The fans, the two of you, the sport of tennis. Can anybody lose tomorrow?

ANDRE AGASSI: Hard for me to see how. It's -- again, it seems to be only good. You know, we both have a wonderful opportunity ahead of us. I think one of us will be more disappointed than the other tomorrow, but ultimately I think the game will be better off for it.

Q. In the third set today, 4-1, you got him Love-15, he gets four first serves in, all which were pretty good, getting back to 2-4. Did you feel yourself maybe slowing down at some point in that set, him getting confidence?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, I think that was a sensitive part of the match. Because, again, I was serving at 4-2 with a little breeze on my back. All I was really hoping to do was take care of business, execute a good game there. And made a couple errors, then he stepped up on a few opportunities that he got. He got the break back really when he was probably least expecting it. I think that helped his confidence and helped settle him into the match. There's a lot of tennis left to be played after that.

Q. In the fourth set, when he seemed to also still be on a little bit of a roll, you suddenly came back in those last four matches. What did you draw on?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, yeah, I was serving Love-30. He was pretty comfortable there. I think when I held from Love-30, I loosened up a little bit and I raised my game. I did notice him taper off at that point. He didn't really step up from that point. He kind of -- normally he has a tendency to do that.

Q. You're 0-3 against Pete here, the two finals and the quarters. Tomorrow might be the last time you ever play him here. How important is it to you personally to beat him?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, it would mean a lot. But beating him has to be a result of doing a lot of things good. So I got to focus on that. You know, I'm going out there and bringing my game. He's going to have to beat it. And then at the end of it all, I'll look up at the scoreboard and see if I should put my arms up or shake his hand.

Q. The extra hours that Pete had of recuperation, how will that affect the final?

ANDRE AGASSI: I feel good physically. I don't know how -- I'm sure that he feels fine, he had three sets. So I don't think the physical issue will detract from the quality of play tomorrow.

Q. How much of an advantage was it having Darren Cahill on your side today?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I mean, it's no secret that Darren has known Lleyton for a long time and certainly knows his game well. But let's call it like it is: Everybody knows the No. 1 player in the world's game after years of being out there. I think Darren is a phenomenal coach. I think he helps me to do a lot of things well. There's nothing different playing Lleyton.

Q. Can you see him as a dominating player for the years to come?

ANDRE AGASSI: Again, Lleyton has phenomenal strengths. He's asked to bring those every single time. It's a competitive spirit that he has shown that he does have so far. Over the course of the career, how can you speak to that -- to the human spirit? That's why we play the game. That's why we don't just phone in the result. Because anything can happen out there. You always got to leave room for somebody doing the unbelievable.

Q. When you walked off the court last year in that match with Pete, did you wonder at that point that maybe this was the final chapter for you and him here? Did you look around and say, "Maybe this will never happen with us again?"

ANDRE AGASSI: Sure, I think it's always easy to wonder that as time moves on. But you also think of the positive. You also think of how many times you have gotten the opportunity to play, so you don't really get too disheartened by it.

Q. Do you remember when Boris and Pete met at the net and Wimbledon. Boris whispered, "I wanted my last match to be with you," and walked off the court. Could you see that happening with you two?

ANDRE AGASSI: What exactly... You mean quitting after the match tomorrow (laughter)?

Q. I guess that was outlandish, huh? Would you wish, in your wish list, would you want your last match at the US Open to be against Pete, whether it's tomorrow, five years from now?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I think part of the beauty of retirement and ending a chapter of your life that has consumed your whole life, it's all I've known, has been tennis. I've been playing it for half my life as a professional. The other half, playing it. So it's something that I consider very important, how things, say, were to come to an end. I think one of the special parts about it is truly not knowing. I think every story's different. Every one has to mean something very personal to each person. If I could draw it out, I would want to put some thought behind it. But I won't be able to draw it out. I'm committed to this game as long and as hard as I can possibly do it. I'll try to always make the decisions that allow me to do it as long as possible and as hard as possible. And always try to go out there and give it my best. So the rest will take care of itself.

Q. You said earlier, kiddingly, "I'm in my prime now." Evaluate for us what you consider to be your prime and how close are you to your best now?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, it's hard to really compare yourself to yourself. But I do feel like I've improved. I feel like I still can improve. I have that sort of motivation and I believe potential to get a little better. My body feels great. My eagerness feels right where it needs to be in order to live up to the -- all that has to happen in order for you to be at your best when you get out there on the court. So I couldn't ask to feel better right now.

Q. Have you seen Pete at all in these two weeks? Have you talked to him at all? Is there anything you can share with us? Was there a point, maybe in prior times when you played here, that you wouldn't have been sitting there so gracious, so excited, so kind to Pete in terms of excited to play? Has the relationship kind of changed?

ANDRE AGASSI: No, I mean, I think as we've gotten older I think we both have grown in our capacity to appreciate what the other one has meant to each other and to the game. We've played on off days here, so we haven't seen each other much. But I think for the most part we've always maintained a high level of respect and appreciation for the other one.

Q. He played the second semifinal the last two years. He said it took a little bit out of him in the final the next day. Do you expect any of that to be a problem? He even said in here earlier it was an issue for him.

ANDRE AGASSI: Again, I have to base it on how I feel now, and I feel like a day should be plenty enough time for me to go out there and fire my legs and my jets a little bit one more time. So I don't feel like it's gonna detract from the standard of tennis.

 
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