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Écrit par Jerome   


March 15 2004

A. AGASSI/D. Hrbaty
6-2, 6-4


THE MODERATOR: Andre moves into the Round of 16, he'll take on a young Russian Mikhail Youzhny tomorrow night. Andre won the previous meeting 2002 in Houston. Questions for Andre.

Q. Do you think anything about Youzhny? He's 21, Russian, unknown. He's playing well here.

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, well, we played once before, so it's enough to leave a lasting impression. Very talented player. Does a lot of things well out there. You know, I feel like every match you've got to step up and improve your game because anybody you're playing against is playing well to still be around. I'll have to go out there tomorrow playing my best tennis.

Q. What did you think about your performance tonight?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, I felt pretty good about it. Tonight I felt like was a good opportunity to see where my game was, work hard, try to dictate play against a guy that strikes the ball really well. So I managed to do that, and I feel pretty good about that.

Q. Do you feel there was a turning point in that match tonight?

ANDRE AGASSI: No, I got on top of him early in the second set, a lot of chances. I mean, the second set could have been a little quicker even, a little easier. But he was fighting to hang on there and made me finish it off. But I felt like I got on top and pretty much kept that momentum the whole match.

Q. You're playing a guy who won three tournaments already this year, and he can't even manage a breakpoint against you. Doesn't that make you feel pretty good?

ANDRE AGASSI: It makes me feel great. Makes me feel great. I go out there with a lot of respect against him. He's beaten me a couple of times. I know what he's capable of doing, how well he's been playing this year. I didn't take one point for granted.

Q. Playing under the lights tonight. Contrast that from this weekend when you played in the sun, noon in the afternoon. Talk about fatigue. Maybe it helped you tonight?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, every match has different elements that you have to sort of deal with. I mean, while night you don't have the heat, it's a little bit heavier out there. You're playing against a guy that hits the ball pretty big, a little easier for him to control it in the evening. You always go out there with a healthy respect for how the elements might help you or hurt you. You know, I've always enjoyed playing in the heat. It has never been something that I've struggled with. So, yeah, I wouldn't have minded playing him in the heat because the ball's a lot faster, and it's harder for him to control his shots when he plays a pretty low percentage. Tonight I needed to go out there and stay strong on execution of my shots in order to make him take higher risks on the shots he was going for.

Q. You raise the point just now about playing during the day, and the ball is going to be moving a bit faster. Lleyton was saying today that these are among the heaviest balls he's played with. Do you have any comment on that?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, they actually changed the balls in the practice week, because they were actually getting pretty chewed up, even worse. But when you have a gritty hard court -- this might be one of the grittiest courts that we play on all year, meaning there's a lot of sand in the mixture. It chews up your shoes, chews up the ball pretty good. You sort of almost have to do that in the desert because of the thin air, and the ball moves so quickly through the air, that if the court isn't real gritty, the tennis just gets pretty darn fast out there. So I don't think it's necessarily a function of the balls being different, I just think that when you play a Hewitt against Chela, both guys hitting a lot of balls, one guy hitting a lot of spin for a long period of time on a gritty hard court, the balls are going to turn into watermelons. That's expected.

Q. About six weeks late, I apologize. Can you talk about, when you played Safin in Australia, if you saw guy who has emerged from a period of lost focus in an Andre-type way and maybe ready to make a career run, or can we not assume that from that one great match stretch he did?

ANDRE AGASSI: I think you can pretty much deduce he has the firepower in the game to come alive at any point. To say if somebody's going to sort of stand the test of time, really they have to first before you can truly say that. But, you know, I can speak to his game, and certainly the way he was playing down there. I had the unfortunate opportunity of playing him indoors down there, which made the tennis real clean and toe to toe. He was unloading with all his weapons full steam. He's as dangerous as they come out there. He certainly has the ability to win every time he plays.

Q. Is it your sense, knowing him a little bit, that he might be ready to sustain it, or can you not predict with him?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I don't think you can predict with anybody. You know, I mean, I think it's pretty much -- it's pretty much a guess because we're trying to look into what makes a person tick. I just don't know him that well. Again, he has the game that should have been on top for a long time now, and that's still capable of being on top for a long time to come. So he still has a lot of opportunity ahead of him.

Q. Speaking of surviving the test of time, could you speak for a moment about Martina Navratilova. What is the one thing that impresses you the most about her playing a main draw, doubles match this week, here, going into her late 40s?

ANDRE AGASSI: I think you sort of answered that with your question, which is to be out competing with the best in the world in any event, whether it be doubles, mixed doubles or singles, at her age is a phenomenal accomplishment. I think it speaks to her discipline and work ethic, champion qualities that gave her the career that she had, and that she's still having. You've got to wake up every day clear in your focus and committed to that. I respect what that takes to still be at her best for her age.

Q. A lot of passion?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, I would assume it to be passion. I mean, there's certainly a commitment to push yourself. And I don't know if that's tied to the game itself or tied to the challenges that she just has a need to experience inside herself. But it's pretty incredible to watch.

Q. Vince Spadea is playing right now. Another guy who has sort of had an up-and-down ride. Obviously, he didn't enjoy the kind of success you had before you dropped in the ranking. Can you comment on what it's like to have done what he's done, come back and played in the challengers?

ANDRE AGASSI: I respect that a lot, because I was like so many other players who had an appreciation for his game, watched him sort of hit his decline and lose so many matches in a row. It was unfortunate because you know he's so much better than that. Whether it be injury or sort of a lack of concentration or enjoyment or sort of a departure mentally, whichever it was, it was something that you didn't enjoy watching because his game was and should be in the Top 30, 20 in the world. I mean, the way he hits the ball, the things he can do out there. For somebody to be up there, I don't know what his highest ranking was, but to be Top 20 in the world and to fall sort of in the hundreds.

Q. 200s.

ANDRE AGASSI: Every step back, you're well aware of how far you are from where you used to be. It takes strong character to get through that. Those times reveal your character. It's impressive what he's done.

Q. In a way, when you had your decline, did that turn out to be a blessing in disguise, it gave you impetus or a break?

ANDRE AGASSI: I don't know. I can say at this stage of my career, I don't have any regrets. I think I'm mostly lucky for that. They say it's better to be lucky than good sometimes. That's where I feel like I've been luckier than good, to sort of take the path I've taken, to have managed to turn it around. I feel pretty fortunate. I don't know if I could have continued to play this long had I stayed with it. Maybe I would have. Maybe I would have accomplished even more. I don't know. I think it's a little bit of guesswork. I know that not having regrets is a great feeling for me. Again, with where my career has sort of gone, I feel pretty fortunate to not have any.

Q. When did you hit that point of no regrets?


Q. You're influencing Roger and Andy. They're starting their own foundations. How does it make you feel?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, if I've been an inspiration in that, that's a big compliment, because it's close to my heart. My passion for changing children's lives can somehow impact someone else, regardless of who it is, is everything that it was intended to do. I just don't want to raise money for these kids and bring awareness, but also a sense of responsibility that should be on everybody's shoulders. I think all of us have that responsibility. And to see young, successful people accept that responsibility is a very inspiring thing to watch. It's all good, as far as I'm concerned.

Q. When you're playing now, do you see whatever happens result-wise, positive results, as icing, or is it still a big deal, not just icing?

ANDRE AGASSI: That's a tough question to answer. I mean, it's still so important to me and so sort of necessary for the next step I take that I consider it to be much more meat and potatoes than I do dessert, you know, icing as you said. I feel like today's match is so crucial for tomorrow's plan, and these tournaments are so crucial for my lead-up and overall preparation for competing against the best in the world. I'm still sort of focused on that challenge of doing it. It's only in hindsight that you go -- the winning stays every bit as enjoyable, and the losing as you get older is more disappointing because opportunities are rarer. Everything in between doesn't feel much different when you're out there. It feels like a fight for something you're trying to accomplish. I suppose when you get over a tough loss, you have a lot more to fall back on. You sort of say, "Well, the ball has bounced my way a number of times. " You tend to let it go a little bit easier after a period of time. That's where I think it helps a lot.

Q. So overall, any wins you have are appreciated more, any losses you have are bigger disappointments compared to four or five years ago?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah. Maybe it's a statement to my personality or the way my mind works, but I feel like the stakes only get higher. I don't allow myself the luxury of cutting corners or taking refuge in accomplishments. I sort of keep pushing myself.

Q. Can you talk about the influence of Gil Reyes is in your career? As you get older, does it become more important?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, as I've gotten older, I realize how important he's been, and certainly how important he is now. I believe strength is a huge part of sports. I believe tennis will very soon realize that. Baseball went through it. You have baseball players that never believed in lifting weights. Then they realized that, "If I get stronger, I've made my muscles more capable to do the things that I'm good at. It might be swinging a bat, it might be swinging a tennis racquet." It's my belief that the stronger you are as an athlete, the more capable of an athlete you become. And I think you're going to see that trend change a lot as the generations move forward with this sport. You know, Gil taught me that a long time, "If you want to do this well and for a long period of time, let's make yourself more capable of doing it better and longer." It's been crucial for me.

Q. Back to the women's game. You've had a long layoff from injury. Serena Williams is supposedly coming back next week. What should people expect from her? Should they expect she can come back and be No. 1? A hard time?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I don't think it's easy. If anybody can make it look that way, I got a hunch she will. You know, I think she'll find more challenges than she's had before. But with that being said, I believe she's established herself as a great enough athlete and sort of a level ahead of the field enough to allow for a little margin there. When she gets on the court, it won't be as easy for her as it used to be, but I think she'll make up for it pretty quickly.

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