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Écrit par Jerome   


November 10, 2003

R. FEDERER/A. Agassi
6-7, 6-3, 7-6


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Andre, please.

Q. It's a heck of a way to start the tournament. That was pretty awesome competition. Not like a normal tournament, you're playing against the top right off the bat. Your thoughts right now?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, you know, like I've been talking about for the last few days, you come into this tournament expecting to have to be at your best right from the get. And if you're anything shy of that, it's not going to get it done. Today I had enough chances where I felt like I could have put the match away, but there was a number of opportunities that he came up with some great shots. You know, at the end, it's separated by so little. He hit two real good returns when I was serving for the match at 7-6 in the tiebreaker. And then, obviously, hit a great shot to win the match. 3-1 in the breaker I had the sitter forehand that I don't think I've missed since 1989, and I just sort of crushed it and missed it in the tape. You know, I think first matchpoint, I dumped a second serve backhand return in the net. Those are just sort of, I think, the signs of not playing in a few months. I thought the standard of the match was really high. I thought I had enough chances that I can take a lot from it, hopefully, for the next one. But it was quite disappointing.

Q. Were you surprised he made that last shot? It looked like you had it. All of a sudden, returned it back to win the match.

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, you know, in the position that I was in hitting that volley, you should never give a guy even a chance to hit a running pass. I didn't quite hit the volley the way I wanted. I sort of bounced it into the court, which gave it some more air which gave him a chance to get to it. I just should have played it a little softer and a little lower. So when I saw him on the full run, I've seen him hit great shots before, so I was certainly hoping that wasn't gonna be one of them. For him to pull that ball back cross court was just too good.

Q. You hadn't played against him for a while. Did he improve a lot since you played him?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, it was a high-standard match last time we played. I felt his game tremendously in the finals of Key Biscayne. He got my attention real quick. I played a first couple great sets, and then he started taking control of the match. He was serving 4-3 up a break in the fourth when I broke back, held and then broke for the match. So the match sort of -- I controlled the first part, he controlled the second part. Then at the very end things went my way. Today, I felt his presence just as much. I mean, I'm sure he's doing things better. Hopefully, I am, too.

Q. The average age of the seven other competitors in the tournament here is 23. You give over a decade away to Roger. In the big picture, what is it like week in, week out, to give so many years away so often?

ANDRE AGASSI: I don't necessarily believe that you would see it sort of manifest itself in any given match like today. I mean, I don't care how old Roger is, he had to get the job done with his racquet and the ball. I certainly don't feel handicapped by my age. I still feel like I'm moving well and hitting my shots. So, you know, they're not beating an old guy yet - at least as far as I can feel. If you see it differently, please tell me.

Q. Do you feel you've lost any kind of quickness or explosiveness at all?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I think there are times through the year where given fatigue or given injuries, little nickel and dime sort of pestering injuries, I think your body doesn't respond the same way. So I think there are times during the year where I'm definitely not the same. But when I prepare for something and I come out to play a great match, I feel, you know, real good out there and still feel like I make a guy hit a number of great shots to win points.

Q. If you were to meet Roger later in this tournament, what would you do differently than you did tonight?

ANDRE AGASSI: There's no surprises between us. We've played each other a number of times. We're both trying to execute our games and control the points. He's trying to make them a lot shorter than I am. I just need to stick with what I'm doing and just execute my shots on the biggest points better. I mean, again...

Q. Do you think he executed better the bigger points tonight than you did?

ANDRE AGASSI: I think the score line would show that, yeah. But I mean at the end of the match, it's always a few that decide. In a close match, it's sometimes only one or two. I had a few breakpoints throughout even the second set and he came up with some great first serves. Came up with some good serves in some love-30 points in the third set. So, you know, that's sort of the subtleties that make the difference. I mean, I just think there were a couple times today where I worked hard to get my chance and I responded with, you know, missing a second-serve return in the net. And a couple of shots I think that reflected just I haven't played matches in a while. But the standard of the match, the quality is high. So you can expect to miss a few; you just hope they don't happen when it matters the most.

Q. Could you talk a little bit about his serve? It's not very powerful, although very efficient.

ANDRE AGASSI: Hmm... It's a very accurate serve. He hits the ball real close to where he wants to. I think Todd Martin is a lot the same way. They don't serve the ball with great power, but it's very accurate. He never misses the serve. If he misses it, it's just out. It's never sort of sitting in your strike zone, because he's always putting it close to the line, you know, like a good pitcher who's working the outside of the plate. And he follows it up real well. He's very quick, has great hands. He knows the court real well. You can have a great serve and a good hold game, or you can have a good serve and a great hold game. I think that's the difference.

Q. You played his backhand side a lot tonight it seemed like. Is that your strategy or do you think that's his weaker side?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, you know, it's probably the better of two evils. I mean, he's real dangerous off the forehand, no question about it. He can hit some great shots off the backhand. But, you know, somebody can beat me with their backhand, then that's too good. I just tend to -- I tend to open up the court that way anyhow with the strengths of my game.

Q. One of the great points that you had out there tonight was probably one of the longest points, and you had him from sideline to sideline, took some shots down the line that got him running. Do you ever count? How many times you get him from corner to corner in a point? You wound up winning it with a nice volley. Was that a strategy, to run Federer from side to side? You really had him going like a yo-yo and stretching beyond each sideline a couple times.

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, it's hard to worry about him sort of when you're busy worried about yourself sometimes. A point like that, it was just a great point all the way around. I mean, if given my choice to run somebody or have them run me, I would choose the former. So, you know, it's a strategy for me to control the point, and sometimes the result of that is a guy just hanging in there enough to have to run a few extra corners. But, no, you're not sort of counting. But you have a good feel for how much punishment somebody's taking out there.

Q. You played a lot of players with a lot of style, lot of grace in their game. Certainly Pete, Edberg, Rafter, of course tonight Roger showed a beautiful, graceful game. Can you come up with two or three of the most graceful players you played against in your great, long career?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, I think you've sort of named them all (laughter). Obviously, you got to put Pete right there, because he did everything and made it look easy. Those that were playing him knew how difficult it is to do what he was doing. Roger is a lot the same way in that respect. His disposition and the way he sort of moves on the court, you never feel like he's out of control and you never feel like he's sort of ever panicked in any situation. While any athlete knows that you can't help but feel those things, he does a great job of sort of keeping that gracefulness about him.

Q. That swinging forehand, wouldn't really call it a volley, but without bouncing, had a few winners off that tonight; is that a special stroke?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, there's a lot of guys that can hit that, but he does hit it well. But that's a shot these days that was a lot less common when I first came on the tour. Now, you know, guys are such great ball strikers, and they play with so much spin that there's so much control, that ball, even though he's taking it at his ankles, is clearing the net by 10 feet and landing 10 feet inside the baseline. Really, unless you catch the frame, there's no chance of missing that.

Q. You touched on the fact you haven't played that much over the last couple of months. Do you think that that was what made the real difference tonight?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, it would be hard for me to say that's what made the difference. Who's to say if I hit a better return on matchpoint that Roger wouldn't have hit a better shot after that. I can honestly say that I would expect to raise my standard. Had I done that tonight, Roger very well could have done it, given it back to me. So I can't say it sort of made the difference. I can say that I was definitely -- I definitely felt good about the competitiveness of the match and the quality of the tennis and the opportunities I gave myself, but disappointed in a few very important situations on how my errors came. I mean, I never should have missed that backhand return to the net. If I hit it long, it's a little bit different, but... So I would have had a chance to win had I made that return.

Q. In a pro-Agassi crowd, are you used to that now?

ANDRE AGASSI: I've gotten a lot of support here. I've played many places against many players from those countries, and it's just part of the sport. So it's nice to feel.

Q. What about the playing surface? Things have been said about that. Did you find it to your liking?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah. I think it's a good court. Every court has its personality. Wind blows a certain way, a court slants a certain way, drains a certain way. It's the same conditions for two guys, so it's just a function of figuring it out.

Q. This year's Masters Cup was outside game. Which do you like, outside or inside game?

ANDRE AGASSI: If it's good weather, I always enjoy the outside.

Q. Obviously, this is the first match after a long break since the US Open. You said the other day that you thought about tennis every day. What were some of the things that go through a professional's mind like yours, day in, day out about the game?

ANDRE AGASSI: I think for the most part it's just a function of staying interested and sort of staying connected to the game, sort of thinking about when you get on the court, the things that are going to be difficult, the obstacles you have at every stage of your progress, you know. I mean, reminding yourself how hard it is to make it look easy. It's sort of giving yourself that chance that when you do get back out on the court you're a bit more prepared to persevere and work through the difficulties. I mean, you know, I had to give my body, in some respects, certain parts of my body, a lot of rest because I was dealing with injuries that were nagging at me, that just weren't going away. I mean all these guys are struggling with different things. But for me, I'm older now so I need to make sure I deal with it. So in some cases I'm not on the court feeling the ball and feeling those situations, and I'm just reminding myself that when you get out there, expect it to feel terrible, expect it to be uncomfortable, expect it to hurt, expect your lungs to burn, your legs to burn, your joints to hurt. It's just staying sort of connected to the game.

Q. Would you follow the game at all? Did you watch our Davis Cup play? Did you follow the circuit, Henman's win in Paris?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, I got the Tennis Channel now. It's caused a bit of a problem - first sort of real problem in our marriage - because I always have it on. It's like, "Well, maybe we can leave work at home. Now I can bring it home."

Q. Your wife's not interested in tennis?

ANDRE AGASSI: She's more interested if I am, but, no, certainly kidding about that. But we enjoy watching it. I enjoy for business reasons to watch it even more.

Q. We would love to see you play tennis for the next 20 years. You're one of the greatest tennis players that has ever played tennis. How long do you think you'll remain interested? You said the word "interested"? What drives you to keep playing at this stage of your life?

ANDRE AGASSI: Tennis has been great to me. It's given me an amazing, amazing life. A lot of experiences. It continually helps me to raise awareness and money for my foundation back home where thousands of kids' lives are changing. It's given me the opportunity to spend the rest of my life home with my children if I want. So it's not a function of what I want to do; it's a function of what my commitment is. My commitment is to try to do this as long and as hard as possible until I just can't. But, you know, when I feel like if I play my best tennis, I cannot win, that's when I hope that I say, "That's enough." I've never been through it before, so I don't know how clear it is. Maybe everybody's watching me out there tonight going, "Why doesn't he just hang it up?" But I'm out there working, trying to give myself the best chance. If I feel like I can do that, then I feel an obligation and a responsibility to try.

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