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Écrit par Jerome   
20-09-2006

PACIFIC LIFE OPEN
INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA

 

March 10, 2006

ANDRE AGASSI

 

              THE MODERATOR:   Go right into questions for Andre Agassi, please.

              Q.   There's a nice, soft, beautiful grass court waiting for you in Mission Hills.   Did you see that?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Well, I told Patrick earlier in the year when we talked about -- end of last year about Davis Cup.   I said, you know, "I think the first round is going to be a little early for me, seeing that I hadn't played in five months, and more importantly I wasn't able to running for three of those months because of my ankle.

              And so I said to him, you know, "That probably isn't the best call.   Second round, however, if my game's coming around and I'm looking like worthy of a position and I can help you, then I would love to."

              But, you know, we have a few guys now that can step up to the plate, so I'm sure that eases Patrick's mind, and we'll see.   I mean grass is certainly a great decision to play -- to play our opponents on, and if I can help, it would be fun.

              Q.   Speaking of health, are you healthy for this tournament?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   I am.   I am.   I've been healthy for you know, a little bit now and, you know, the game is a different issue, you know.   It's when you haven't moved a lot and you haven't reacted to the ball.   It's been a bit dodgey for me the last few weeks, but I really turned a corner this last week, at least in the practice court.   And experience tells me that, you know, sometimes that translates really quickly to the match.   Sometimes it takes some time.

              But I hope that this week brings out the level that I've been experiencing in practice.

              Q.   What improved for you in practice?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Oh, just the movement, the reaction of the ball, the -- you know, not thinking yourself into paralysis out there.   That's really the key, just letting it flow a little bit.   And, you know, even if balls are getting by me, I'm making good reactions and movement toward them.   I'm making the guy hit a good shot to win the point.   That takes a lot of pressure off my offensive game, so when that comes around everything else does.

              Q.   (Inaudible) just talking about the time left there the last few weeks, how is that going.   How many Cortizone shots have you had in the last few months and what's the long-term prospects of that injury?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Well, I had one just before San Jose this year.   The one before was starting the summer.   Not playing over the fall, you know, I never felt my back, because in everyday life it's not an issue.   It's only when I sort of put my body through the trauma of all those movements out there on the tennis court.

              So it's fair to say I almost even forgot about my back and, you know, when I started getting back into the tennis again in January and practicing, you know, I was aware of it to some degree, but, again, it escalated a little quicker than I wanted.   I got a clearance to get an injection again, but that clearance took longer than I would have hoped.   So by the time I did the injection, it was too close to San Jose just to sort of put myself through it.   So I elected not to play there.

              You know, it interfered a little bit with my on-court practice.   Went to Dubai, had only two days of rain that it gets a year there, and, you know, I just -- I never felt comfortable on the court.

              But my body felt fine.   This week has been a little bit better with my game.   My body is still hanging in there.

              Q.   So you must have brought the rain with you?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   I guess so.   Bringing it here, too, but that's all right.   I've been here since Sunday and I've had some chances to get used to the conditions.

              Q.   So you pretty much have two tournaments and maybe a grass court and one in Wimbledon.   Is that --

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Yeah.

              Q.   How does that work for you mentally knowing you've got two tournaments and a substantial break?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Yeah, I mean, trust me, to me it's not -- it's not a great alternative.   It just beats the alternative, you know.   I just don't want to risk missing Wimbledon again first and foremost.   Then I have to be realistic about what I believe my chances are to win on clay, you know.   And I just think there's too many guys now that play well on that surface, too many guys are offensive, you know, with their swings which means you have to play more defense now than you used to have to on clay, which sort of magnifies the demand on your body, not to mention the awkwardness of sliding that I've never sort of grown up with.

              You know, I'm not -- I don't want to go to Paris at the hopes of having a good tournament to only win a few matches, you know.   I just -- I just -- I just don't believe I can win on clay, and, you know, if it suits me to maybe jump into one tournament just so I stay familiar with the game, then I might make a call like that.

              But generally speaking, I'm not going to jeopardize my body for times of the year where I still go out there and enjoy and feel like I have a chance.

              Q.   Do you find it difficult to be match ready,?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Yeah, it's been terribly difficult.   I mean, I thought last year I made some -- a good decision after the Open.   My plan was to obviously recover and then prepare and then go to Shanghai early and hopefully have a great tournament there, you know.   But that's the problem with plans.   They don't always work out that way, you know.   I mean, I tear every ligament in my ankle and, you know, for three weeks I can't even move and I go to Shanghai to practice for a week just to see where it is and, worst case scenario, just be on the court hitting some balls.   With as many guys pulling out in that tournament last year it was sad for the event.   I attempted to play a match and regretted it tremendously.

              You know, it was not possible for me to play at that stage and that set back my preparation and my recovery with my injury to get me ready for Australia, so I paid a pretty big -- pretty big price for that.

              But starting this year now, it's just been a long time.   I've had to be patient and, you know, I have to remind myself why I'm gonna fight through this, you know.   But I'm playing in my practice sets and having -- I mean, I'm feeling my game as good as I've ever felt it, you know.   The question is staying healthy, the question is getting these matches and finding -- finding my game in a tournament.   That's what I hope to do here.

              Q.   You're playing this way because you're not like a lot of other players, top notch you're going to Wimbledon there's one tournament after all this time off.   Do you still feel pretty confident you'll be at a high level?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   No, I'm not terribly confident, no.   Again, I don't believe this plan is designed for me to feel great, you know.   It's just designed not to make it more difficult, you know.   I mean, I couldn't think of anything worse than to put myself through the clay and then end up having a setback going into the surfaces that I feel like I still have a chance to play my tennis on.

              So I don't believe it's ideal, but until I hear a better suggestion, you know, I mean...

              Q.   Would you ever think of playing a challenger in May just to get some matches in?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Yeah, I would.   I wouldn't be against that at all.   I mean, we'll -- I appreciate the suggestion.   I really do.   I mean, I think it does make sense.   I know one thing is you can't take that kind of time off and then expect just to be comfortable out there again.   And so whatever adjustments I make, I'm gonna have to consider, you know, pretty intensely because there's a big price to pay if you don't do it right, you know, when you haven't played in that long a time, you know.

              Q.   Have you -- the patterns on the grass court at Wimbledon suggest there's been a change in the conditions either in how the players play or how the grass plays.   Do you think that is to your advantage, how the conditions have changed over the last few years?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Yeah, but along with the conditions changing, so have the players, you know.   That's the part of it that's hard to sort of assess, because, you know, there was a day and age where everybody was sort of coming forward and getting in the net, or at least a majority of the players, and if Wimbledon played as good as it does now, meaning solid bounces, predictable bounces, I mean it's just such good quality.   I would love that.

              But there are a lot of guys out there that, you know, can hit the ball pretty big, but the changes lend to my game - but they also lend to a lot of other guys' games.

              Q.   Is Wimbledon the plan?   Wouldn't you want to get at the Davis Cup on the grass there?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   That's a tough question.   I mean, you know, it's still so far removed from Wimbledon that, to play Davis Cup, doesn't necessarily prepare me for it.   It's an extra week of tennis and it's playing -- it's playing something that I enjoy playing, that I care about.   So that would be the reason why I would do it, not necessarily for the preparation for Wimbledon.

              I mean, how do you duplicate the Wimbledon courts?   I mean, it's possible.   We could come out to the court here and the ball could be rolling -- I mean you might be able to hit winners at the center of the court.   I mean, you never know.   But Wimbledon, I've never experienced courts quite like that.   Queens is close, but it's pretty unique.

              Q.   You are definitely making yourself available for the April tournament?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Well, let me put it this way, if Patrick concludes that I'm his next best option and he can convince me of that, then I would play, yes.

              Q.   Which, I would guess, it would be tough to convince you given that leg?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Well, there's two tournaments left, you know.   I mean, you know, a lot can go right for anybody in these next few weeks, you know.   I mean, I feel like when my game comes around and my confidence comes around and the pieces sort of fall, I all of a sudden can be playing a pretty high level of tennis, you know.   So at least history suggests that, and I'm not so far removed from me doing that, you know.

              I mean the Open was the last time I felt like I played well, but, you know, you don't go from August to March and lose two steps, you know.   I mean, it's one thing if you lose half a step, but the fact that, you know, it's been such a dramatic uncomfortable feeling for me on the court the last few weeks just suggests that it's not easy to take that kind of time off, but it doesn't mean that that's where you're at.

              So I believe that in these next few weeks I can -- I can play some of my best tennis again, but it's gonna have to happen.   I mean, you can't just talk about it.

              Q.   I don't know if you've seen James since August, but what's been happening in the last year?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Well, watching him play leading into the Open and the Open, I mean, I thought he was a lot more patient with his -- with his backhand and you know, he was giving himself better looks before he took chances.   You know, his up-side is really high.   I mean he's explosive on the court, probably the fastest player, at least arguably.   His forehand is as big as any forehand out there, and if he's picking his shot well, that's a tough -- that's a tough game, you know, so...

              Q.   Do you sense he turned the corner?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Oh, he was way better than I'd ever seen him before, that's for sure.   Yeah, he had -- he learned how to play -- I mean he was starting to -- he was starting to play tennis that fit his game and that was good to see.

              Q.   Have your children any chance saw the game with you and Steffi the other day, did they say anything, did they say that mom played better or something like that?   What's the reaction when they see you playing now?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   They just want to get on the court.   Jaden wants to get on the court after he sees us play, you know.   He just wants to go down there and hit balls, and so, you know, he can't figure out yet, you know, why all of a sudden my name comes on the radio or something and some promo for the event or why, you know, me and Steff show up on the cover of the paper that he sees every day, and all of a sudden it's us on the paper.

              You know, he doesn't make sense of that stuff, but he was watching us and he's away from us for an hour, wants to get out there and play.

              Q.   If he wanted to play professional tennis, would you promote that or would you kind of back him away because it's such a difficult sport?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Oh, that wouldn't be my decision to make for him, you know.   How can I make that decision for -- for somebody else, you know?   It's not, you know, I just -- I just hope whatever he does, he cares about it, pours himself into it.

              Q.   What about the weather here in the desert, a little bit strange for the next couple of days.   That'll affect a little loosening up, maybe the surface as well?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Yeah, I guess tomorrow is supposed to be pretty, pretty dodgey, but, you know, when it's cooler -- I mean, last year, it was pretty warm here during this tournament and I was probably up two pounds on my string tension, you know.   So this year it's been cooler.   I've noticed my tension come down.   You make the adjustment for it.

              So the weather will affect the -- how quick it's playing for sure.

              Q.   When there's delays like this, how does it affect the players' mindset?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   I mean, experience tells you that two guys have to deal with it; right?   You don't -- you don't have to go out there and feel great.   You just have to go out there and feel better than one person, so that's the good news.   So when you're out -- when you're waiting around to play you just -- you just find a way to pass the time and realize you can't win or lose a match before you get out there anyhow.   So just, you know, it's finding ways to bring out your best in any situation.

              Q.   (Inaudible)

              ANDRE AGASSI:   It seems like a decade ago or more.

              Q.   As many years?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   I wish it seemed like a decade ago.

              Q.   Is it fresh at all, any strong memory?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Yes -- no, no.   The memory is clear as a bell, but -- I've played there a couple times, you know, late in the tournament.   Finals, couple semis, and those are more -- those are sort of -- are a bit louder in my memory because you know you feel like you're on the verge of winning it again or not, but it's a long time.

              Q.   Since the injury last October -- well, obviously you haven't played that much, so when you get into a match, a tournament of this size, does that concern you at all, the lack of match practice and how you're going to cope with and adjust to things?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Yeah, absolutely.   I mean, you need the matches.   I mean, I'm just glad I've gotten a few out of the way, you know like -- you know, not in a big tournament.   I mean, to jump into a big tournament would be tough, but I'm ready to be challenged, if that's what you mean because I mean I've been working hard.   When I'm moving, I'm moving well.   When I'm out there on the court, the last four or five days it's -- I've really felt my game again, you know, and that's a good feeling.

              But to expect it to translate immediately is something that I just -- I don't -- I don't bank on because I have to be willing to make adjustments to get myself through the challenges of this level of competition here.   But I am ready for that challenge.   It needs to come sooner or later, and hopefully I'll get the first one, you know -- get through my first match, settle into the event and play some of my best tennis and make somebody play well to beat me.

              Q.   So on a scale of 1 to 10, where would you put yourself at the moment?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Well, until I do it in a match situation, you know, I wouldn't have the slightest idea.   I mean, last few practices I've had, I've been way up there.   But that's different than -- that's different than a match.   I mean, you can't -- it's so hard to put into words just why it is, but, you know, in a match you're focused on working -- in practice you're focused on working on something, and a lot of other things happen naturally.   And you realize afterwards how well you were playing.

              But in a tournament, you're trying not to -- you're trying to adjust to everything that's going on and you're trying to keep a clear head about it and, you know, sometimes you can grind a few gears.   So if I played like I've been playing this last week in a match, then I'm right at the top of my game, but I don't expect that to happen.

              Q.   So Nadal takes three out of four from Roger.   (Inaudible)?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Oh no absolutely.   What's great to see is -- well, I think it would be nearly impossible for anybody to dominate in the nature that Roger has over the last few years.   It's great to see that the one person that's probably closest to him is actually a difficult matchup for Roger.   I mean Nadal can hit the one shot that everybody wishes they could hit to Roger, and that's the ball up and get it over his backhand side.   I mean, that's not -- that's not brain surgery.   Nobody likes it up here.

              But it's unfortunately the only area that Roger doesn't actually hurt you with, being the lefty and playing with the spin he does.   So it's great to see the matchup that lends for a rivalry that might continue for a long time.

              Q.   Seemed to say pretty much the same thing.   He said it might be really a left -- or are there a couple other elements that Nadal has?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Well, Nadal -- you've got to look at it -- you've got to look at the facts.   I mean, Nadal is one of the fastest guys out there, one of the strongest guys out there.   The fact that he's a lefty does pose the one possible possibility.   I mean, if he's right-handed, Roger is winning that 10 out of 10 times because it's just hard to get that ball to Roger because he can move so well and hurt you in so many ways, you know.

              But the left -- Nadal can hit the inside out forehand.   If Roger doesn't do something with that, the next ball is way up to the backhand.   Then when he slices it, he's slicing it to a guy who has a lot of wrist on his forehand, I mean, he can handle that.   I hit that same shot to Roger, he slices it real short to my backhand.   I've got to get in with two hands, dig it out, and hope I hit it in a certain spot or else he's going to hurt me with it.

              But Nadal can get it over there and whip it any direction, so it's a matchup issue.   I mean, that's what gives him the look at Roger so many times, you know.   But I just don't believe there's anybody's out there that can put up the numbers Roger has put up over the last two and a half, three years.

              Q.   If Roger doesn't play anymore what would be his place in tennis history right now?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   The most, the biggest single greatest underachiever.   If that doesn't speak to his talent, then I don't know what will.

              Q.   You said something really interesting just now about the way the game has evolved.   As observers, we've seen all this happen.   What's your perspective from the playing side?   Has it made a difference to win more matches, the change in the way the game is played?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Yeah, absolutely.   I think every sport you see the sport grow through a few similar lenses, you know.   Everybody gets more athletic, more powerful, bigger, stronger, faster.   So that's changed.   Now, I mean, it's rare that I'll play anybody that's smaller than me.   It's rare.   If I play 15 matches maybe one out of 10, they're smarter than me.

              But also, too, when you look at it, I think the strings have made a big difference in the game, you know.   I mean we have strings now that really bite the ball which gives you that spin which means that you can really let go on your swings, and you can still control.   It means you can hit harder with control.

              Back in sort of the day, whatever decade you're talking about, you're looking at gut, you're looking at the synthetics that you had to worry about controlling pace, you know.   You had to worry about the ball flying, you know.   Now you're getting that spin so you can just hit everything, which means that guys can go out there and take their chances, which means that every match it's who's on that day, you know, because so many of them can do it.

              So it used to be more crafty and all that where the better guys rise to the top more consistently.   Now, at the end of the year, the best will rise to the top, but there are just a lot of things that can happen that are unpredictable.

              Q.   Any chance that Steffi might consider playing with you?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   No, it doesn't seem that way, you know.

              Q.   You've talked about sort of living on the edge with your health and your body.   Is it fair to say that (inaudible) retirement?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   That's -- that would be fair to say with everybody.   I mean, it's an athlete's worst nightmare is the injury that does you in.   I mean, I'm not playing to be ranked a certain number, you know.   I'm playing with the commitment that when I am on the court, I'm gonna be eager and healthy, you know.   That's what I want to do.   I want to -- I want to play great tennis every time I'm on the court.   If that happens 20 times a year or 100 times a year, you know, for me it's about that.

              So if I get set back for a few months and, you know, I'll still -- I'll still come back out and try to, you know, get my -- try to train, try to get my game together.   But it's when I believe that when my game comes together it's not good enough, that's key to me, because I have the luxury of not worrying about my ranking, you know.   I know Charlie will give me a wildcard here (laughter).

              I'll still enjoy it.   If I feel like when I am playing well, I really have a look at the basket.   Once I don't, then I'm -- I've got to question how much I'm going to enjoy it, what am I doing it for.   The process means a lot to me.   Trying to get myself there means a lot to me.   So if I still have that chance of getting myself to a level that is competitive, that has a look to win when I play, I don't care where I am in that process.   I'm going to keep my head down, I'm going to keep working.   It's when I feel good and I'm playing well and I have no say so in a match, that will be a little discouraging for me.

              Q.   As long as you're eager, you'd be willing to go through a (inaudible) rehab?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Yeah, I don't know practically how good I would be at seeing through rehab, you know.   Instead of getting up in the morning going to rehab, I'm going to get up in the morning and take my son to go get a hot chocolate and some coffee and take him to school.   That's for sure, you know.

              But if practically I can take the steps that get me better, then I will.   If it really starts affecting my priorities and sort of the family unit in the sense, then I would struggle with that.   It all depends on what the demands of the injury are.   I mean, staying off my ankle was an easy thing to do, you know, getting 45 minutes, an hour work on it was a comfortable thing to do.   But you're talking about a lot more than that.   I don't know how it would play out.

              Q.   Where do you get your drive to keep going, to try to be the best, where does that come from?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   It's what I do.   I mean, it's what I do.   I play tennis.   I mean, I'm not going to -- I don't know what the alternative is really, to try to be your best or to not care.   I choose to try to be my best.

 
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