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Écrit par Jerome   


January 17, 2003

A. AGASSI/N. Escude
6-2, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4

An interview with:


THE MODERATOR: First question for Andre, please.

Q. Are you concerned about peaking too early?

ANDRE AGASSI: My experience has always taught me in these Grand Slam tournaments that you need to play well at the right time. While maybe my second-round match was playing better than I needed to that given day, today was a day that was a pretty dangerous one for me. I needed to play well. I thought Nicolas was hitting the ball really well, timing it superbly on the returns, putting me under a lot of pressure. I needed to play well. So it's a good one to get through.

Q. Is the need always answered?

ANDRE AGASSI: Sorry, I don't understand.

Q. Well, you needed to play well. You need to play well on a lot of occasions. Sometimes you don't.

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, that's right. I think that's what makes a difference in these tournaments, is having that good day when you need it and getting through that tough day when things might not feel well. That's what decides it. Today was one of those days I needed to, I needed to step up and play at his level - or better.

Q. And didn't feel particularly well?

ANDRE AGASSI: No, I did. Felt real good.

Q. The seventh game of the third set was a turning point in the match. You served an incredible game. He had a lot of breakpoints.

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, the third set was pretty fortunate for me all the way around, to be quite honest. I was down many breakpoints throughout the whole set. I felt like it was love-30 or 15-40 every time I went to the baseline to serve. I hit a few good shots down breakpoint, hustled, he made a few errors. It's one of those where you live by the sword and you die by the sword. He plays dangerously, risky. He's going to hit his shots and he's going to miss them. You just hope that he doesn't make them at the most important times and you hope that you can step up and take control when you have to. I played the big points as well as I could have hoped today.

Q. At this stage in your career do you look forward to playing a talented baseliner or somebody who's talented technically?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I think it's always a great -- it's always a great matchup when you play somebody that sort of plays different than you. It brings alive many aspects of the game. It's one of the great joys playing Pete, or playing Rafter, was you're going to see how the game can be played in many different ways. That's always a lot of fun.

Q. Are you as obviously elated as you seem by this match?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah. I feel great. I mean, that's a great one to get through. You never look ahead in the draw. But he's not a guy that you ever want near you. He's dangerous. He can put destiny in his own hands. You always got to worry about guys that have that kind of talent.

Q. After two three-setters, having a four-setter today, preparation-wise, it wasn't bad timing for you?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, happy to get through it more than anything. Now in hindsight I can say, yeah, it was good to be out there a little longer, test yourself, put yourself in a lot of tough situations. And the fact that I'm still alive means I can use this for some more progress.

Q. Had to go to a hat?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, kept a hat on today. Was just... Don't want to burn anymore.

Q. I know the feeling.

ANDRE AGASSI: (Smiling) I can't take it. Hurts.

Q. What do you know about your next opposition, Coria?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, we've played once.

Q. Cincinnati, was it?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, that's right. A baseliner, good strokes up both sides, is very quick. I'm going to need to step up and play my game and stay in control of the match. A guy like that, if you give him a chance to hit his shots, he's pretty dangerous, so...

Q. Do you think Nicolas is going to eventually reach the finals or win a Grand Slam tournament?

ANDRE AGASSI: Who's that? Escude?

Q. Yes.

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, how can I speak to who can win or not win when it's -- you know, you're talking about a guy that has potential to play some incredible matches. You stick a competitor's heart and mind in there and anything can happen.

Q. Did you ever look at the tape of the US Open final with Pete?


Q. There was one point I think in the fourth set, 2-1, you had a phenomenal return, he hit that half-volley.

ANDRE AGASSI: Backhand behind him?

Q. Drop-volley winner. You ever think about - if that hadn't happened?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I am at the moment, only 'cause you asked (laughter). Actually doing pretty good forgetting about that. Yeah, that was a key point in the match, to say the least. I felt like I finally sort of got my teeth into the match. I was getting some more chances. Two breakpoints that game. One he did that, the other one I just dumped a backhand return, he had an average kick, stayed back. I just missed the return. You can replay points till you're blue in the face. You just do your best to give yourself the opportunity and to hope things go well when you get those opportunities.

Q. What's your reaction to Pete's decision to keep playing? Were you surprised by it?

ANDRE AGASSI: No, I mean, I didn't have any expectation one way or the other, to be honest. Like I've addressed before, when he was going through his "slump," I spoke very clearly about the fact that he's earned the right to play this game on his terms. He's done enough to earn that respect. If he wants to be out there struggling, if he wants to be out there losing matches, competing, trying to get better whatever level he happens to be playing on, that's up to him. I say the same thing at this stage of his career, which is he's earned the right to leave this game on his terms, whatever those terms may be, he has to live with. So whichever he decides, I know that he'll be clear-minded in it.

Q. You're happy he's still there, you can match up?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, you never really want to see a player like that go away. You never want to see it. It's inevitable for all of us, and you get the feeling like it's closer for some than others. But anybody you've grown up with, competing with, I was just talking about today in the locker room, you know, I've been playing against Michael Chang for 23 years.

Q. When you broke on to the scene, you played against those Juniors, Jim, Michael, Pete, who did you think would be your greatest rival when you were starting off on the tour?

ANDRE AGASSI: It was hard to say because Michael was always younger and playing up, and so was Pete. So they were always sort of smaller and always playing better guys and losing, so you never really had a feel for how good they were going to be. You always sort of were pushing yourself to get better, looking at those, and they weren't quite, in the early Juniors, on my level. I was a year older, and a year makes a huge difference when you're 10 and 12 and 14 years old. Jim was sort of the first one to -- that I felt his presence. The first time Jim came out I said, "This guy has a big game." Michael broke through, but I always thought Jim had a big game.

Q. When you started playing on the tour in the early days, who did you think would be your greatest rival of those three?

ANDRE AGASSI: I'm glad nobody asked me then, because I would have said it might be anybody, but not Pete (laughter). I played Pete in Rome in 1989 and said, "The poor guy can't keep a ball in the court. He never should have got rid of his two-handed backhand. I just don't see a good future for him."

Q. Darren Cahill, 12 months on from his appointment, what has he brought to your game?

ANDRE AGASSI: He's added a tremendous amount. If you really look at it for what it was, last year I left here not only in jeopardy of maybe never playing the game of tennis again, but I left here losing the win here at the Australian Open. I had the win at Palm Springs coming off, I had the win at Key Biscayne coming off. I was a lot closer to 50 in the world than I was 5 in the world with the future unsure. For him to step in and say, "Let's put our head down and go to work, I think there's things I can help you with," that doesn't just speak to him as a coach, because that's a given, but it also speaks to him as a man, somebody who's willing to step into that situation like that with potentially only downside. Unless I'm out here competing to win Slams, he's failed at his job. It takes a strong person to step up and do that, and I appreciated his commitment to me professionally and personally and still do. He's brought a tremendous amount of inspiration to my game, focus, and he's helped me get better.

Q. Wins like today, where it's very tight, the adrenaline is really going, sweeter now for you than they were ten years ago?

ANDRE AGASSI: I think so. I think everything sort of gets exaggerated as you get older. You realize there's less of everything out there to experience. That includes the disappointments. Unfortunately, you need a disappointment to appreciate how good it is to get through difficult matches. I definitely enjoy it more now.

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