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Écrit par Jerome   


January 13, 2003

A. AGASSI/B. Vahaly
7-5, 6-3, 6-3

An interview with:


THE MODERATOR: First question for Andre, please.

Q. Great to be back after last year?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, it did feel real good. I even felt a bit nervous going out there because it's, unfortunately, been a lot longer than I wish it was. It was good to get out there again.

Q. You can't get that time back, but coming in now, the way you're feeling now, can you compare that to how you felt before the wrist went? Were you feeling just as good coming into it last year?

ANDRE AGASSI: I sort of had the same preparation and the buildup that I've had over the past number of years, but certainly the night before the event was about to start there was a lot more concerns on my mind last year. It turned out to be a big tournament to miss; it always is when you miss a Grand Slam, but even more so last year because it would have helped my chances at finishing No. 1. But in hindsight I managed to stay healthy through the year, and that's sort of a priceless effort.

Q. Is the kid keeping you awake?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, first few days of jetlag, but he's doing great.

Q. How much does that help, to be in a family situation? Or does it help?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, I think overall it does help. I think it gives me the opportunity to rest my mind in some pretty special ways. Whether you've had a good day or bad day doesn't seem to matter when you see your little boy. Everything's slower - it's a down side. Travel takes more time and effort. Getting over the jetlag, it's not just you, it's your little one, too. So a few things get tougher, but most of the things get better.

Q. You mentioned over the weekend you're in favor of the new EPO blood tests. What do you think about Marat Safin's comments that the testing, the blood testing, is too invasive?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I wasn't speaking to what I think of EPO or what I think of -- if players use it, if it's a sort of real concern. But my contention is, is that the sport of tennis is a great sport and it's filled with a lot of great competitors who just work hard to prepare themselves. And if there's one question in anybody's mind as to how clean our sport is, that's one question too many. So I would have no problem, personally, going the extra mile for the sake of removing any question that may exist. That's my feelings about it.

Q. Even before the tournament begins, people like to predict who they think will play off in the final. Can you just imagine for a moment what the occasion would be like if the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds played off in the final.

ANDRE AGASSI: Oh, it would be great. I believe the last time that was the case, with me, was in '95 with Pete, and it was a pretty spectacular final day. But I think one thing that everybody would agree on, it's a lot easier to give your opinion as to who's going to be in the finals than it is to actually go out there and get to the finals. Unfortunately, Lleyton and myself have the task of beating a lot of players, and so do all the other guys - 128 of us in the draw.

Q. Martina Navratilova thinks you're going to beat Hewitt in the final. Is that an endorsement you appreciate?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, again, I think Martina will be the first one to agree that giving an opinion is a lot easier than doing it. So for me, I'm complimented by anybody's opinion that they think I still have it to be out here competing against these guys, but it has no relevance on what I need to do.

Q. Can you just say what the rivalry is like now between you and Lleyton. You played, I think, three times last season. How is that rivalry for you now?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I feel very motivated and inspired by Lleyton's game. It forces you to get better. It forces you to improve. It forces you to earn it. That's always a great thing. Because at the end of the day, it's what you live with, you live with the work you put out on the court, and it's a great feeling to have a win over him. We'll have to play many times for me to sort of assess what the rivalry's all about, but I can say that every time we do play you're going to see a lot of quality ball-striking. That's not quite the same as playing a guy that's sort of the opposite of you, like a Pete or Patrick, but it does offer for a lot of great tennis.

Q. How much have you seen of Lee, and how surprised have you been by his results lately? What are his strengths that you'll have to deal with in the next round?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I have played him before, but he's a talented player. He's a good mover on the court, a good ball-striker; obviously, a great competitor. To say "surprised" at anybody's results these days would be overstated, because really nobody surprises me these days. I'm never really surprised. I think I'm impressed a lot of the time, but "surprised" would not be the choice of word for his performance in Sydney.

Q. Can I just ask, the chance of you winning a fourth title here, does that sort of motivate you, your sense of tennis history, to see only a few people managed to do that here?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, it would be an accomplishment for me to win here based on what's required to win. I don't ever really take an approach towards the history of where my career fits, because it's not for me to do. It's for me just to try to give everything I can to accomplish everything I can. But to win here is a great achievement one time, and to do it again at this stage of the ball game would even feel that much better.

Q. Have you sorted out your program yet between now and, say, Wimbledon, the tournaments you're going to play?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, we make the schedule pretty early. You always have to leave room for the adjustment. So while I'm scheduled for a lot, you can never be too sure as to how it's all going to unfold.

Q. Are you going to play, say, in the buildup to the French? Will you spend much time on European clay this year or not?

ANDRE AGASSI: Again, I got to say that my hope is that I feel strong physically, mentally and ready to sort of play all the events. But, realistically speaking, I don't know if that's possible anymore for me, so I don't have any real expectation. One thing I do know is that I'll give myself the best chance to be ready for Paris considering my circumstances.

Q. For Wimbledon, presuming you will just play one exhibition title, will you, or will you go home? What do you think, as things stand in an ideal world for you?

ANDRE AGASSI: In an ideal world, I win Paris, take a week off and then go win Wimbledon (laughter).

Q. Can I just ask about conditions out there today. It was a bit humid. I don't assume it was as hot as you've played in.

ANDRE AGASSI: It wasn't too hot. It was a bit breezy. I think the breeze sort of played a bit more havoc on the match than the heat. But it was sort of a one-sided breeze that would pick up at different stages of the match. It always presents its own problems.

Q. Coach Darren said the other day he can see no end in sight for you in terms of your career. How do you feel about your fitness and will to get through seven matches here?

ANDRE AGASSI: I think at this stage I'm very prepared for whatever's required of me physically and mentally to get through a tournament like this. The day of recovery is crucial. I think in many cases it's harder for me to play a tournament where I'm playing six matches in seven days, even if they're two-out-of-three. Just the recovery time and the way your body starts responding as you get older definitely changes. But I still feel good coming in the Slam. I feel good in my matches, I feel somewhat lousy after my matches, then feel somewhat better the next day and then feel ready to go again. So it's good.

Q. As you look around the game compared to when you came into it half a lifetime ago, are you amazed, or how do you feel about all "That's the guy from Korea, the guy from Thailand"? Does it make you feel good to be a part of it? How do you regard all that? Do you think about it at all?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, from one standpoint I think about it, which is on behalf of the game. And I think it's a great thing for the game of tennis when it's taken around the world, when you see the response that Guga gets in Brazil or Marcelo Rios in Chile or Lee in Korea or Srichaphan. It's exciting to see the game of tennis work itself into the inspiration of the children all through the world. But with that being said, I've always found my focus to be very short-term in how I look at things. For me to still be out here doing it, the amount of energy that I put into respecting my opponent's game and what I'm going to need to do or not need to do that day is sort of where my perspectives end. I think one day I'll have the luxury of sort of looking at it from the outside, but as of right now I feel like my head's always down and I'm trying to clear the brush that's right in front of me.

Q. Speaking of Srichaphan, did it occur to you that you might have played him into form at Wimbledon last year?

ANDRE AGASSI: I didn't get a Christmas card from him, I thought I'd get some sort of thank-you...(Smiling). But he's earned his place all year. While his result picked up towards the end of the year, he played some pretty good tennis that day against me. So he was in good form going into the match, and he's continued it since.

Q. You keep talking about this stage of your career. You sort of said in Shanghai that you really didn't think you had it in you to be No. 1, that that kind of year-long commitment wasn't where it was for you, that you were probably playing for the Grand Slams. Is that a fair assessment of where you kind of are right now?

ANDRE AGASSI: I think it's fair to say that my focus is not being No. 1, my focus is being No. 1 at the end of a two-week tournament in one of the Slams. So to be No. 1, why it's such an accomplishment, what Lleyton's managed to do, is because really it's all year, it's different surfaces, it's overall. You have to not only play well, you have to play well and you have to play a lot. I'm not convinced I have that in me anymore. The fact that I had a shot at it last year came as a pleasant surprise to me, and, therefore, owed it to myself to take that chance. But going into the year, I'm, again, I keep my head down and I'm thinking about one tournament at a time. If I can keep my game sharp for the biggest events of the year and really give myself a chance to win, then I feel like I'm doing the most I can.

Q. So the only opponent that surprises you from time to time is yourself?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, I surprise myself quite often, even away from the tennis court, and not always in a good way.

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