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Écrit par Jerome   
20-09-2006

2003 TENNIS MASTERS CUP
HOUSTON, TEXAS

November 9, 2003

ANDRE AGASSI

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Andre, please.

Q. Last year you were in Shanghai. This year you are in Houston. I'd like to ask the difference about the two cities.

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, the best difference is that one of them's two hours away from my home, so... It's a lot easier traveling, for me, here. But, you know, it's hard to say. You go to Shanghai and you're there for work so you don't get the chance to really take in the city like you'd want.

Q. Last year when the Shanghai tennis fans hoped that you can win the championship. So what about this year?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I hope so. It's what I'm here for, so... You know, you got to beat the best players in the world. Last year wasn't great, nor was the year before. So hopefully I'll be ready to step up this week and keep myself at the top.

Q. Would you play in Shanghai next time, maybe next year or some time?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I look forward to playing there again. I've enjoyed my time there. I don't know when that opportunity will happen.

Q. Could you say some words to Shanghai tennis fans?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, just "Thanks for the years of support, and I hope to see you again. If not in Shanghai, somewhere close."

Q. I'm a documentary producer. I was wondering about your charter school, the academy. What motivated you to do that? I know you have a lot of other philanthropic endeavors with children. But it is a big project.

ANDRE AGASSI: Specifically that one or the whole, overall sort of charity?

Q. Just the charter school. I just finished a documentary on education.

ANDRE AGASSI: Okay. Well, I think that through my experience in helping children, I've quickly realized that the greatest help you can give them is to educate them, sort of give them a platform for their lives and to make better decisions for themselves, and to learn to count on themselves. It's the old saying about teaching somebody how to fish, you know. That's sort of the mindset. So education, to me, is the greatest thing to focus on when it comes to changing a child's life.

Q. Was there something in your personal background that made you focus on that?

ANDRE AGASSI: No. My foundation started in '93, and my goal was to help the children that don't have opportunity. We've done it in a number of ways. I mean, we clothe over thousands of children a year, but we're involved heavily with the Boys and Girls Club, which is a great national organization that gives children a place to go during afterschool hours. I'm involved with Child Haven, which is a shelter for abused or abandoned, neglected kids. You sort of quickly focus, "Okay, how are we making the greatest difference?" And education was certainly where we were led.

Q. Do you ever reflect on the fact that some of your roughest years were when you were at the academy in Florida, and now some of the most satisfying work is with an academy in Vegas?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I think it's two different things. One is a tennis academy and one is a college prepatory academy. So the importance is -- the distinction is really important. One is about an opportunity to play a great sport, and the other is about the fundamentals of life. So I don't know if I draw any sort of parallels there. I know that regardless of the opportunities I had or didn't have, I think that's sort of a whole separate issue to anyone's given responsibility to give back to society. So my choice to give back, I don't think is very sort of correlated with my personal experiences.

Q. Could you sum up a little bit your tennis schedule since the US Open; how did you prepare?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I've just been training. But, obviously, not competing. So the competing is an important element to it, needless to say. But there's also an upside to it. I finally feel good again with my body. I feel like I'm in great shape. I've been practicing really well. So now it's about getting out there and throwing yourself in the fire and hoping everything comes together in a very quick period of time.

Q. Having said that, is there a matter of concern of having not played a tournament between the Open and now?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, I think so. There is concern there. But I think with where I was, there would probably be more concern had I played everything, just because, you know, again, my body wasn't feeling great. The birth of my second child was something that -- it was obviously very important to me. So it was sort of the best decision for me. Being here is a chance for me to keep myself in position for, hopefully, another great year.

Q. These babies come along at the Tennis Masters Cup each year.

ANDRE AGASSI: (Laughing). It's good timing, you know, after the Open and...

Q. Could you go into depth about that?

ANDRE AGASSI: (Laughing). Yeah, it was tough timing this year. It was the day before my foundation event so it was quite a fun-filled weekend. Not a whole lot of sleep. But it's all worked out pretty well.

Q. You were talking about conditioning. A lot of attention was drawn to the conditioning that Justine Henin-Hardenne did in Florida, then came on with this great year. She went through an incredible routine with Etcheberry. She was asked the other night, "Are you looking forward to another session like that with all that pain," and she said, she hoped it would be more painful. Do you find conditioning -- are you into a place in your conditioning where you appreciate the pain, or is it just... Could you talk about that?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, sure. I think there's always going to be a certain amount of sacrifice involved any time you push yourself to cross boundaries. But there's a couple of crimes in training. There's a crime of sort of having such commitment and desire and running yourself into a wall, and having it sort of come back to bite you in the backside. The other crime is that you have such desire to sort of strive and to make gains, but the program itself doesn't allow you to accomplish that. So, you know, you have to know what you're doing. You have to know why you're doing it. You have to know its effect in the short term and in the long term. If she's looking forward to pain, I would just caution her to keep her mindset on a career, not on just another great tournament or a great year.

Q. You talked about trying to come back, get back here at this time of the year. How important is it to be here and how about the change that's happened here basically since you left?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, this is incredible to see what Mac and Linda have built, what they have created. To see what they give to tennis. This is a great place to be. You get the best players in the world together. It doesn't matter sort of where you play them, you're gonna have a great event because of the competition and the quality of play. But you stick them in sort of an arena like this, that is that nice, and then in an environment with a crowd that I have personal experience with that is so enthusiastic, and you just get to sit back and look forward to a pretty incredible week of entertainment.

Q. You talked the last time you were here about wanting to come back for them for all they've done for tennis. You're here now. For yourself, what does this mean to be able to come in here and win this? What would it mean to you?

ANDRE AGASSI: It means a lot. I mean, every year it gets tougher and tougher. If I can keep myself in a position where my best tennis can still win, that's everything I need to continue what it is I do. So I get a lot of weeks to try to prove that, and this week would be the greatest proof of it because you're -- you have to beat the best players in the world.

Q. How important was it to come in a week early and kind of just settle yourself down?

ANDRE AGASSI: It's important for me. I mean, I came here ready physically. But, again, getting on the court in the new environment, playing some practice sets, sort of getting your tennis legs back under you is a whole other step in the process of preparing yourself. Being here a week early was necessary, and quite productive. Where I am today versus where I was a week ago is a considerable difference.

Q. What are your thoughts on the court and stadium itself?

ANDRE AGASSI: I think it's a great stadium. I looked around there, it has a great feel to it. It's still intimate, even though it's sort of inspiring. It's intimate. You feel like when that place is full, you're going to have a nice connection with the people. I think it's a great size stadium for tennis.

Q. You enjoy the Round Robin format?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, I do. It's a format that I think works well for the players because it gives them a chance to really work into their game. It gives them a chance to match up against different players. It's great for the spectators to get to see how different players bring out different parts of each other's game. That's all sort of part of what makes tennis so special.

Q. You had your charity event here a few years back on this very court. Andy was here. At that time, very few people knew who Andy Roddick was. You knew that he was a talented player, but did you have any sense of how far he would come in such a short period of time?

ANDRE AGASSI: We can all sit back and sort of guess when we see talented players. There's no question of his talent. There's no question of his firepower. There was no question of his desire. The only thing you can question with anybody is where their own sort of competitive heart is going to take them. That's where I leave a lot of room for great things to happen. So to say I expected it, it would be impossible because you can't expect that level of achievement from anybody. You're beating the best players in the world. But to say that it surprises me would be misleading, too, because I don't think it surprises me.

Q. The other Americans - Blake, Dent, Ginepri, Fish , some others - who would you put near the top one or two slots in terms of future potential?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, as far as the Americans go?

Q. Uh-hmm.

ANDRE AGASSI: I think -- I never played Fish, so I sort of don't have a good feel for his game. I played Blake a few times and he's a phenomenal athlete that I've seen play some pretty spectacular tennis. I mean, I really think, again, you're talking about such differences that over the course of a career, that competitor's heart is going to come out. I couldn't even speak to who has a better shot at that.

Q. Question about the ranking. According to you, what is the most significant ranking, the race or the entry system? Which one do you check first on Monday morning?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I don't really check either, to be honest. I mean, the ranking is only a function of what you're doing on the court so I try to spend my time thinking about what I do on the court. The 52-week ranking is a reflection, obviously, of how you've done over the course of the last year, which is probably a bit more accurate to the overall picture. But the race itself and the points on the year is a great indicator of sort of where guys are right now, and that's also important information. As a competitor, you want to know where people stand, who's playing well, who's not. It really all depends on what you're referring to. For me, it's about what you're valuing. If you want to know sort of the bigger picture, you look at one. If you want to know what's going on today, you look at another.

Q. Everyone likes to stay in the now. For the fun of it, we're asking the top players to envision what kind of options they might have in the distant future, 20 years down the line. Could you imagine where you might be that far down?

ANDRE AGASSI: 20 years, kids in school, kids away.

Q. Kids going to college?

ANDRE AGASSI: God willing.

Q. They'll be playing tournaments (laughter).

ANDRE AGASSI: They might be sitting at this table, you know (smiling). No, I can't. It's impossible.

Q. Are you going to encourage your kids to get in the game?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, I think that's -- I think that's an accurate way to say it. I'll encourage them to experience the game because I think there's a lot that the game has to offer. But I do believe what you get out of the game is what you put into it. I think that's pretty true with most areas in life.

Q. Greatest teaching aspect of the game? Do you get more from losses, from practice, from the human relations? Where do you get the real teaching?

ANDRE AGASSI: It's all part of the same animal, which is sort of problem-solving, you know? That's the skill that I think tennis teaches you that carries on off the court. It teaches you how to figure things out yourself. It teaches you to admit your weaknesses, to be willing to work on your weaknesses. It teaches you to have confidence and belief in your strengths and how to utilize those strengths. It's a sport that teaches you how to problem-solve.

Q. And the weakness Andre Agassi had to work on most?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, currently it's getting more sleep (laughter) at home but... You know, it's a marathon; it's not a sprint, the tour. So it's been a life lesson for me to learn how to treat my career as a long race; not as a 100-meter sprint. It's a lot of times where certain results or certain performances can leave you with a sense of urgency, and that's when I've needed to learn how to just take a step back, figure out where I'm going to go and then start working my plan again.

Q. Coming here a week early, what was the most important thing, to get some sleep or get the practice in?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, the first night I was pretty excited to be here from a sleep standpoint. And then you get your rest and you start missing your family, so it takes about, you know, a good 12 hours for that to happen. But the on-court stuff has been crucial, so...

Q. Speaking of the sleeping patterns of Andre Agassi, can you possibly compare being in a household where there are two young kids and trying to get some sleep with sleeping with a gold medal around your neck and possibly strangling in the night and so forth? Is there any comparison?

ANDRE AGASSI: One is -- no, I mean, listen, it's all good stuff. It's all good stuff.

Q. May I ask, do you allow people to visit the academy if they're in Las Vegas?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, absolutely.

Q. In the media? Would I contact the foundation?

ANDRE AGASSI: You can contact my foundation for that. We encourage this to be spread everywhere.

Q. I know it's a model.

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah. It's, hopefully, a footprint for many more.

Q. Have you had time to enjoy being a dad, a new dad for the last couple months? What's the difference the second time around?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I've enjoyed the parts that are there to be enjoyed. I think you get a bit of both, you know, in the first stages, things to enjoy, things that sort of, you know -- it's also difficult, balancing the two. Introducing a new one to a 2-year-old. But your second question, sorry, was what?

Q. Was about sort of how is it the second time around.

ANDRE AGASSI: To me, I mean, Jaz is sort of a lot more calm than Jaden was. I don't know if that's a function and a reflection of her parents now versus two years ago. Because I think the second time around, you realize a baby's cry (laughter).

Q. How's mom doing?

ANDRE AGASSI: She's doing great. She's doing great. She is truly a great mom.

Q. How is Jaden taking to being a brother for the first time?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, he's doing real good. He has a great disposition, a great spirit about him. But, apparently, now that I'm not there, he's focused more on mom and mom doesn't quite have the same time. So it's been more of an issue since I've been gone than the first month.

Q. How is it going to be traveling with the two small children compared to one?

ANDRE AGASSI: I'm hoping somebody here can tell me (laughter). I don't have any idea!

Q. Brad said he'd only give you advice when you got to three. You still have a ways to go. He hasn't volunteered anything?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, they say after having three that two's easy. That's a pretty scary thought.

Q. Now that you're the great elder in the game, what's the best part about aging? What's the not-so-best part about aging?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I just think you become more efficient with how you -- what you choose to spend your time on. You sort of lose the fat, if you will, and get straight to the good stuff. That's what I think getting older does for you. I think the not-so-good part is just sort of the constant adjustments that have to be made in any given transition in your life. It always can sneak up; you always have to sort of be objective and aware as to where you are career-wise as well as everything else. I mean, you just got to know when to say, "This isn't me anymore."

Q. Do you miss some of the frivolous, the edgy stuff, or is that sort of behind you?

ANDRE AGASSI: I don't think so. When I look at younger guys, I think to myself, "You have a long ways to go, and I don't want to go back there."

Q. Been there, done that, right?

ANDRE AGASSI: (Laughing) Yeah.

Q. Can I ask you a question about the conditions here, on the center court. The court, the balls? A couple players said it's a bit uneven in places?

ANDRE AGASSI: I haven't experienced that too clearly, no. I think every court has its sort of personality. You know, wind always blows a certain way, court always drains a certain way. It leans one way or another and you realize on this side of the court the wide serve is more effective than on that side of the court. You figure out a few subtleties with the court. I think it's a beautiful arena. I think they've done a great job with it.

Q. In terms of the pace of the court?

ANDRE AGASSI: I think it's somewhere in between US Open and Australia. I mean, the balls get chewed up. So when the balls get pretty heavy, obviously it changes how the court plays. Because the court's pretty gritty. It's the first time we've played on this surface outdoors. It does get -- the balls do get chewed up. I would give it a medium.

Q. How do you see that? Is that an advantage or disadvantage for your game?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, my game is designed on adjustments anyhow. I mean, I haven't played on a surface yet where I don't complain for a while and then claim how much, you know, I can do on it. I try to figure out what part of my game I need to use. The footing I like. Any time I'm on a hard court. You know, there's -- definitely gives you a chance to play aggressive. It definitely gives you the opportunity to be patient. I think for the spectators it's a great surface.

Q. What are the advantages and disadvantages of having not competed for the last few months?

ANDRE AGASSI: The disadvantage is that there's a good chance I'm going to play some shockers on some crucial times. But, hopefully, that won't last but a set or so. I think the advantages are, you know, that I actually feel pretty fresh and ready to go. I mean, my mind is excited, enthusiastic, and my body feels good. I haven't won a match in two years in this tournament, so I can only improve from that.

Q. What is the key to keeping fresh year after year, tournament after tournament, airport after airport? What are the keys?

ANDRE AGASSI: I think first listening to your body. I think the body is an amazing thing. Pain is a great indicator of things, and our body tells us a lot of things. It tells us when we're thirsty, it tells us when we're hungry, it tells us when we need rest. You just have to make sure you listen to it so that when you tell it what to do, it listens to you. That's the part you have to really concentrate on.

Q. Paying attention to body, conditioning, are really key to the mental freshness; is that what you're saying?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, a strong body, a strong body makes you a lot more positive in your mind.

Q. Last year in Shanghai you were talking about having to keep the physical commitment all the time. Once you drop out of it, it's very difficult to get it back again.

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah.

Q. Has that been the same since the US Open? Have you worked as hard physically?

ANDRE AGASSI: I'm stronger now than I've ever been, absolutely. Every indicator I can use tangibly shows me that I'm better prepared now than I've ever been as far as my own strength and body goes. The next indicator, which is the most important, is how everything comes together and how quick it has to come together, because you don't have room. You look across these tables, you see Coria, Federer, Roddick. You look at these guys and you go, "It has to happen quick."

Q. Your commitment to that sort of physical excellence is just the same as it has always been?

ANDRE AGASSI: My commitment to it, yes, because I don't have a choice, to be honest.

Q. Good days and bad days as far as your brain is about doing the work, are there more bad days now than say last year?

ANDRE AGASSI: No. But the reason why is because I make adjustments to keep myself from having those bad days. Everything does change. The day that I feel like I can't get better, and my best isn't good enough, I think I'll be pretty clear about that. As of right now, everything would suggest that I'm still feeling pretty good, so... Can do a lot of talking, but I'm going to have to go out there and do it.

Q. Can you talk about that, the group you're drawn into, three Slam champions and your opening against Roger.

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, that's right. Yeah, that's quite challenging, huh (laughter)? Not much more to say, really. I mean, Roger is a phenomenally talented player. He has great firepower, plus he has a great feel and flair for the game. I'm going to have to bring my best tennis and I'm going to have to bring it quick and bring it often, so... Why not? Just let's get on with it. I'm ready to go.

Q. Important to get him running?

ANDRE AGASSI: Important that he's not getting me running, you know. So, yeah, if I had a choice, as to who does more running... But he's a great runner on the court, too. I'm going to have to be committed to all my shots, hitting everything well. Again, my goal is to make sure that I end that match better than I started. And then I know I've taken a big step forward and I'm prepared for the next one. Because this is what it's about; it's not just about Roger, it's not just about my side of the draw or this tournament. It's about how everything fits in keeping myself, hopefully, at the top of the game.

Q. Having said that, it is a tough draw aside of the tournament. Could you talk about the role of luck in tennis and sort of your luckiest moment and your least luckiest moment.

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I mean, 17 years of moments, I don't know if I could... Well, that's not true. I could probably pick my luckiest moment. I made a shoelace forehand volley at 4-all down two sets to love in the third against Medvedev in the finals of the French that drifted back and fell inside the baseline. I could have hit that volley anywhere.

Q. Brad just said that your winning that, the French, changed your career. Then you went on to win the set and the French. Is that true? If you didn't win that French Open, is Andre's career and life very different?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I don't know about my life. I mean, but I can say that, you know, I can say that as I look back on my career, after that day I had no regrets for anything. I mean, you can accomplish great things, but a competitor wants to win. A competitor wants to win everything. They just do. Being so close so many times and to not know what it feels like to win there would have left me with some regret. Now, it's about more, and that's a whole different animal than regret. So it's changed my career tremendously.

Q. So you must have practiced that shoestring volley a lot in Vegas?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, I just, yeah... That one could have gone anywhere. Breakpoint.

Q. Are you staying here every day or are you going home?

ANDRE AGASSI: Going home back to Vegas? No, no. That's a two and a half, three-hour flight, yeah... I've done some crazy things, but that would be right up there (laughter).

Q. What's the best thing about Vegas? It has its certain images. But you're so pro-Vegas. What is the best thing about your town?

ANDRE AGASSI: The best thing about Vegas is what a visionary the city is. People actually believe that if we dream it, we can do it. And that's the mentality that I respect and I appreciate and I try to sort of emulate in my life. There's no limitations they set on themselves. Goals only limit. It's endless, endless dreaming. That's a pretty incredible city.

Q. So the guy who put a big casino in the middle of a desert years ago, he was really making a pretty good contribution to what we're doing these days?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I think that, you know, it sort of reflects a part of the human spirit I admire a lot, which is creativity and vision and, you know, listen, we all have these qualities inside ourselves. They manifest themselves in different ways. To suggest if life would be better or worse with or without a casino is not the issue to me. The issue is a city that believes in striving to create a world that you can't even imagine until you see it.

Q. Can you imagine living anywhere else?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah. Sure.

Q. So it's not...

ANDRE AGASSI: I've been around the world, you know. I think there's a lot to appreciate about a lot of different places.

Q. But the connection to Vegas, your appreciation for it?

ANDRE AGASSI: My living there is a function of my family. It's a function of my office. It's a function of my foundation. It's a function of my training center. It's a function of traveling 30 weeks a year.

Q. Connected?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, it's my life right now.

Q. How has Steffi adapted?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, when people ask me sort of how she's responded to it all, I sort of answer it by saying, "She loves me very much."

Q. Your favorite show on the strip?

ANDRE AGASSI: One show, there's actually -- there are many. The couple that come to mind is the O Show, Cirque del Soleil.

Q. The diving?

ANDRE AGASSI: Danny Gan Show is an incredible show. I love that because I just love music.

Q. Will your son watch you on TV if you are playing?

ANDRE AGASSI: If his choice is me or the Monsters, I think he goes for the Monsters or Buzz Lightyear. But, hopefully, he'll watch a little bit.

Q. You were talking about the court. They're all talking about it slanting. You've been here the longest. Did you notice that? Have you adjusted to it?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I think every court, like I was saying earlier, has its personality. The wind blows a certain way, the court drains a certain way. There's no question this court has its own personality. But I don't think it's sort of anything that needs to be focused on. It's an incredible stadium and it's going to be an incredible environment. At the end of the day, two guys have to deal with it. That's what tennis is all about.

Q. Can I do a quick one? First, congratulations for becoming a papa again. Is having two kids twice as much work?

ANDRE AGASSI: No, it's not. It's probably about ten times as much work because you lose every part of the day that you used to be able to count on for rest or to get stuff done. So it becomes a balancing act that is pretty difficult.

Q. So is that good for your tennis, because you kind of stay fresh, because you can't focus on the tennis? Or is it bad because you're tired when you get on to the court?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I'm a month into it. This is my first tournament. So I think this question is going to get answered in a week or so (laughing).

Q. You're playing the first match against Roger Federer out there. I wonder, when you play against someone who has never beaten you, at a certain stage in a match when it's tight, do you think that's a big advantage?

ANDRE AGASSI: You know, I don't know if it's an advantage. I know that if I've never beaten somebody, you put a little bit more pressure on yourself to come up with the right shots at the right time to win the match. Sometimes, that results in a worse performance; other times, it results in inspiration. So I think it's a 50/50 call there.

Q. How about having a three-month break? That means you're somewhat fresh but you're also a little bit rusty because you haven't played. Do you expect to be more fresh or rusty?

ANDRE AGASSI: If it's only between those two, I'm going to have to say I'm going to be closer to fresh and ready. But there will be a part of it, no question, that is about getting my tennis legs, my shot selection. There's a few things that are going to have to come together in a very quick period of time. And, again, I need to make sure that I end the match better than I started. That's going to be a good sign for me.

Q. Throughout history, you have been very good at taking some time off and coming back very, very quickly. As you get older, you do things a little bit differently than you maybe would have done five years ago? Or do you go through the same routine?

ANDRE AGASSI: I do everything differently. I'm making new decisions every year. Your body tells you different things. Your mind tells you different things. Your priority tells you different things. So it's constant adjustments. Taking time off tennis is one thing, but forgetting about tennis is another. There's a mental side of it, "Are you not thinking about the game? Or are you thinking about the game?" That's one thing that I can't do. I can't not think about the game anymore. For the second I stop thinking about the game, then it's hard to get going. But this past few months, I'm anxious, I feel it every day. My training, my preparation is all towards being on that tennis court. I think that's what helps me stay pretty close when I've been away for a little bit.

Q. When you're practicing, do you measure yourself, how your fitness level is? How do you keep tab of how good shape you are in?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, that's not easy. I think there's two sides to it. There's a physical strength side. I'm a big believer in strength training. The weights, there's numbers. It's very tangible. It's easy to know where your strength level is. Then you have to assess your -- and trust your game plan, your program, your cardio, your tennis. Then you have to ultimately get out on the court and work your butt off and hope that everything feels good. That's what's happened this week. I've gotten out there. I've worked hard. I ran for every ball. I've dug in when I needed to. I've gone for my shots when I needed to. So far, everything feels pretty good.

Q. The things you can measure, how do you measure, you, yourself, against you, yourself, at, say, two, three years ago?

ANDRE AGASSI: You know, I don't know. The game's constantly changing. I don't even know if I'd have that objectivity to sort of compare myself. There are times I feel stronger and better and other times where you're not quite as sharp. The margin is so close that so little separates us all. So you just want to sort of gauge yourself against your opponent, and that's a different one every day. So that's what makes the game so great, is you got to figure out a way every day. I don't have to worry about myself two years ago.

Q. In a group like this, there's going to be just a few points, usually, that decide the match. With your experience, is there some kind of a key, almost like an engine you can turn on when it really gets tight, that you can rely on?

ANDRE AGASSI: I hope so. I've always preferred at those crucial times of the match that I'm determining what's going on. Against the same players, they have the same idea, which is they want to take control of it. The subtleties is who's gonna walk that fine line of being aggressive but not taking unnecessary risk. And that's something that is sort of day by day. That's the one thing that is sometimes tough to come around when you haven't played in a while.

Q. Do you think that's also going to be a key against Roger, who is going to be the more aggressive one?

ANDRE AGASSI: I hope the match boils down to a few points. That's going to be a great sign if I'm right there from the word "go." That's going to be a great sign for me. With Roger, he does every part of the game so well that he's going to force me to be committed to every shot. And that's a good thing.

Q. Andre, you've taken another break before coming in, obviously. But you also missed a lot of Slams over the years. Now the Williamses are sort of stepping back. If you were having a cup of tea with Venus and Serena and talking about tennis careers, what would you talk to them about, the commitment to the game and playing as much of the key tournaments when you're a young person?

ANDRE AGASSI: You know, I've always valued what people sort of care about themselves. I can't make the assumption they care about the same things I care about. So if I was having sort of a cup of coffee or tea with them, I would probably try to spend my time trying to understand them better.

Q. What do you think you would ask them?

ANDRE AGASSI: What's keeping them from these injuries getting better. Like let's get to the bottom of your injuries, because I want to know what doctors are or aren't helping. Because, you know, a stomach strain for this period of time is not something you should need to be dealing with.

Q. You missed 10 Australians, 4 French, 2 Wimbledon. If you could say, "Okay, I'll take either the 10, the 4 French or the 2 Wimbledon," if you had to choose to replay for the fun of it, what would you do?

ANDRE AGASSI: I think history shows my best chance at winning comes down to Australia. But I would have to probably say Wimbledon. That's just the tournament I just believe, you know, magic can happen there. I wouldn't want to miss one of those.

Q. How do you rate this event versus a major?

ANDRE AGASSI: Just slightly behind it.

Q. It's special but it's not Wimbledon?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, no. It's not.

Q. You wouldn't trade your Wimbledon for a couple Masters?

ANDRE AGASSI: I wouldn't trade my Wimbledon for anything. I only have one of them (laughing).

Q. You got one of these, too, right?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah. It's the best tournament you can possibly be involved with outside the Slams for personal achievement. That's the case. For crowd sort of enjoyment of avid tennis fans, I'd probably say this event is the best event to watch, if you really love the game of tennis.

Q. You guys come back every day?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, you get matchups. You get to see -- somebody does one thing great, it happens to be into somebody else's strength. You get to see a lot of different aspects.

Q. How guys play different people, of course, day after day after day?

ANDRE AGASSI: Exactly.

Q. You feel like you're part of something special, but it's a different kind of special than Slams?

ANDRE AGASSI: It is. It's at the end of a year, a long year. So guys come here a little beat up, a little tired, but the thing about tennis is it doesn't matter where you are. You're always measured against who you're playing against. The competitiveness is high. The getting through it, the perseverance is a major part. You get a real strong sense of competitiveness and excitement.

Q. Still just one match at a time, but it doesn't have that grind effect that you get in the majors, the two weeks, three-out-of-five. Does it change your preparation, your tactics?

ANDRE AGASSI: I think the part that's difficult is in a major you always get the luxury of potentially working yourself into a tournament where you say, "Okay, maybe I'm going to start with a guy that's ranked 90 in the world," as opposed to starting with a guy that's ranked 2 in the world.

Q. As the case may be here.

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah. So you really have to be ready to go. I mean, there's no playing a bad match and getting away with it.

Q. Do you think long breaks, obviously you've taken a break for an obvious reason, but as you get older do you think long breaks are a good idea?

ANDRE AGASSI: It depends how you use your break. I think having the opportunity for time is a great asset as you get older. If you just are considering it a chance to not do it, to sort of sit home and sit on your couch, then it's the worst thing that can possibly happen the older you get. But if you actually view it not as a break but you view it as an opportunity for time to be on your side, I think it's a great asset.

Q. You talked about the physical conditioning. What about court time? Did you have a plan of how much court time you'd have after you stopped till now?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah. I mean, for me, it's never been a function of learning to hit the ball better. That has zero to do with it. It's impossible at 33 years old that I'm going to learn to hit a tennis ball better than I hit it. You want to make sure everything's sharp, you want to make sure everything's ready so there is a game plan when it comes to what you think is going to be required to accomplish that. But I'm not looking to get out on the court and, you know, hit the ball closer to the line. I know that if I'm a better athlete, if I'm moving better, if I'm stronger, I'm going to get more opportunities to do the things I do as opposed to do the things I do better.

Q. You talked about last week how hard you worked on court. Was that the first week you worked hard on court last week?

ANDRE AGASSI: No. It wasn't. But, again, different environment, you're playing in Vegas, you're playing indoors because you want to -- I want my program to start with no elements at all. I want to hit the ball clean. I want to feel the ball. So you work up. You work up to it. Every stage of it is sort of hard because none of it is comfortable. But it's definitely picked up since I've been here.

Q. Are you going to play next year in the Olympic Games? In general, what do you think about tennis at the Olympics?

ANDRE AGASSI: I'm not going to play the Olympic Games. I'm not going to play for a couple of reasons. Most importantly, to play the Olympic Games, the qualification for it is your Davis Cup participation. While I played Davis Cup for 12 years, it hasn't been the last 12 years. So I'm not going to all of a sudden step in and take a spot from some of these guys who have work hard and committed so long for the Davis Cup in the last few years. I think tennis is a great sport, you know. I think the Olympics is a great arena to sort of -- to show it. I would like to see it done more from a team standpoint as opposed to just another tournament with the gold medal on the line.

Q. Did you speak to Pete Sampras after the US Open?

ANDRE AGASSI: No, I haven't.

Q. So no conversation of young fatherhood?

ANDRE AGASSI: No, I haven't. No.

Q. Do you think you had a way of bringing Pete's game to a higher level more so than some of the other players? Did you sense that he jumped up in terms of the quality of his own game when he played you?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I think any great champion sort of does what they need to do on any given day. And, you know, we've had a lot of great matches. So I would say that that's the case. I would say it's vice versa, as well. There are times where he brought out levels in me that, you know, I don't think I could have hit anywhere else.

Q. Brad was saying he felt that somehow you gave Pete a lot of respect, maybe too much respect, and Pete didn't give you any respect. Do you think there's anything there to Brad's view of that in terms of...?

ANDRE AGASSI: I would need to understand sort of a bit more as to what he means by that. I don't want to guess as to what he means by that. Taking that statement for face value makes no sense at all.

Q. You've done a lot of television commercials. The one that was most fun, it looked like, was the one as a parent instead of a rebel. Was that the funniest commercial you've done?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, apparently you think so, right?

Q. It was cute?

ANDRE AGASSI: No, no, I enjoyed it. I thought it was a fun story line, yeah. But I think I enjoyed the one with Pete and the tennis in the streets commercial.

Q. Did you enjoy seeing Andy Roddick playing your role?

ANDRE AGASSI: I didn't see it. I just heard about it this morning. I didn't see it. I was -- unfortunately, I didn't see it. Just didn't occur to me.

Q. Various hairstyles?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah? I'm sure. They do some interesting stuff.

Q. The things that you do with your foundation, the Arthur Ashe foundation, what the McIngvales do here, do you think that's changed the image of tennis and helped make it a noble sport for all people? It had an elitist edge to it earlier on.

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah.

Q. Do you think more people are coming in?

ANDRE AGASSI: I think tennis has reached more people. I think it's sort of a broader base now of people it reaches out to, I think for a few reasons. I think mostly, because, like you said, you see so many of these guys that care about these causes that do make a difference. I mean, we've seen it in other sports as well. It sort of humanizes everybody and brings everybody to the same level, which is right where it should be.

Q. There's been some talk in Europe about suspicion on match-fixing due to bets on the Internet. Did you hear about that? What are your comments on that?

ANDRE AGASSI: I haven't heard any sort of details or facts on it. I've heard the speculation. Listen, I would find that to be shocking and, certainly, every player would support -- if the integrity of the game is affected like that, would support life-time bans for anybody involved. So I wouldn't -- I couldn't speak to that being the case on any level. I've never been involved, firsthand, of hearing anything, seeing anything. It's sort of an absurd thought. But I did hear that sort of speculation, which is upsetting.

Q. TV ratings in tennis haven't been good this year. Do you have any theory as to how that could be changed, any adjustment the game might make? Maybe there are lulls in the game and new things come along.

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I mean, for me, if I could change tennis in sort of one go, it would be organizing all the bodies of tennis. I mean, it's sort of absurd to have so many people, so many organizations, working separately. In some cases, arguably, even against each other for sponsorship dollars, for air time, for branding. I mean, the sport of tennis is an incredible sport that if everybody literally put aside their own agendas and they came together and sold tennis as an entire package world-wide, all year, the amount of growth and progress you would see would be incredible. But that's not what we have, you know. We have all these different groups that are sort of only interested in how their tournament does or how their tour does or how their... And ultimately, that's not going to help anybody.

Q. With all due respect, that is, others have noted, how can that be changed? How can those turfs be broken up? How can the game come together?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, you've got to get everybody in the same room and, you know, you've got to get the egos and the agendas out the door. It's going to take some tough decision-making and it needs to start there. Calling out a problem is a lot easier than solving it.

Q. Commissioner Agassi, perhaps?

ANDRE AGASSI: Listen, I think the game could stand a commissioner, there's no question about it. There's no question about that.

Q. Who could it be?

ANDRE AGASSI: Oh, you know, the question is, "What's the requirement of the commissioner?" You need somebody that has the ability to bring the law down, to rise above all the petty indifferences and agendas and issues. I mean, you can't unite 100 players from 100 different countries with an age span of 20 years between them with agents around them, with their own... I mean, it's nonsense. You just got to take it out of the equation. You need the sport to be looked at as a whole. And the entire sport needs to move together regardless of the moving parts.

Q. Maybe two years, maybe three years ago, you had played Yao Ming at the Heineken Open. After, you become his fan. So what is the impression of him?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I always root for Yao Ming. Watching him play is a treat. It was nice for me to see him play in the NBA because I saw that he made a lot of other people look short, too. So that was... That made me feel better.

Q. Did you always watch the Houston Rockets game?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, I do. I watch him as much as possible. He's brought a lot of interest to the sport of basketball and there are not too many guys that can make that big of a difference.

Q. Also, I will give you a new message. He told me if next week he is free, he will come to watch a game.

ANDRE AGASSI: Oh, well... He can sit in my box.

Q. Tennis is a game of sort of extraordinary performers. Right here in Houston, Jim McIngvale has done this incredible job with his own tournament, Davis Cup, now, seemingly, with this event. What are your thoughts about the exceptional entrepreneurs like him and him in particular?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, Mac is one of the greatest human beings I've ever seen when it comes to his commitment to put his money where his mouth is, to step up to the plate and actually affect the things he claims he cares about. I've seen him care about children and I've seen him care about tennis. I admire and I'm also inspired by how he's impacted both those. What he's done for the sport of tennis is incredible. He's changing it from the real grass roots level. He's making not just a splash, but he's absolutely making a dent in pushing this sport forward single-handedly. His charity work is phenomenal. His work ethic is incredible. I mean, the guy works harder than anybody I know. He does most of his work for others. He's an incredible person, and so is his wife.

 
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