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Écrit par Jerome   
18-09-2006

THE CHAMPIONSHIPS
WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND

 

July 1, 2006

 

R. NADAL/A. Agassi
7-6, 6-2, 6-4

 

ANDRE AGASSI

             

              THE MODERATOR:   Questions, please.

             

              Q.   There was a point in the first set where you still had every reason to believe you might be able to continue to be on this....

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Yeah, well, I don't think I ever got to deuce on his serve, so that's a problem.   At 5-2 in the tiebreaker, 5-4, I just missed a forehand, little bit.   You know, should have made that.   Then he made an incredible passing shot at 5-All.

              Once that first set was gone, sort of the prospects got grimmer for me.   I wasn't getting a look at too many of his service games, you know, just when he got a chance, I hit his first shot, it was almost impossible to recover from there.   His movement is just out of this world.

             

              Q.   Is that the toughest part of it, dealing with his movement?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Yeah, for sure.   Because even when I'm on offense, I'm only winning half those points.   I mean, that's on grass, too.

             

              Q.   Does he prolong points better than anyone you've played against?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   "Prolong"?   What do you mean?

             

              Q.   Keep going them.   You think you won it...

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Yeah, it's not so much that he's good at being a punching bag or something, running down balls and getting them back; he actually can do something with it.

              Then if he decides to amp it up a little bit, he can actually get dangerous from the full run.   You never know when to come in because you're never sure when you're in position to.   You hit a good shot and you think, I should be coming in against any normal player, but you know that he's gonna be there so you hesitate for that split second, and, you know, and you're glad you didn't come in because he was there in plenty of time.

             

              Q.   Does that make him like a punching bag who hits you back?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Yeah, he takes a lot and gives even more.

             

              Q.   How do you think you'll look back on your final Wimbledon experience?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   I'll need some time for that to absorb in, you know.

              I just wanted to get into a place where I felt like I was playing well and give myself a chance, and I did that.   I mean, I went out there today and he just beat me.   So that part felt good, just to get ready and play, get through one match, play a good match and then put myself in position to hopefully have something good happen.   But, you know, was hoping for too much.

             

              Q.   What was most uplifting about what you experienced in terms of the interaction with the people here, the grounds, your feelings about being back on these grounds?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Well, it's just nice to come back here on my terms, to say, This is where I want to be.   I'm regretful of missing the last couple of years.   You know, I think to wait a year to come back here would have been too long.   I needed to make it right to get here now, and I'm glad I did that.

              It's been a privilege to be out there again for one last time.   I'll look back at this as one of my most memorable experiences.   To say good-bye, for me, this means as much as winning, saying good-bye.

             

              Q.   Do you think it's possible for a player to put himself in the sort of mindset of a fan who is seeing an iconic player for the last time in a major tournament, experience what that fan is feeling for the last time?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   No, I mean, I don't think I could do that, no.   Maybe somebody else could.   But, no.   You know, it's too subjective, you know.   I'm out there feeling what I'm feeling, you know.   I'm out there -- it's a privilege for me to be out there, not for them to be.

             

              Q.   Do you remember yourself playing in similar situations against, say, John McEnroe or Lendl, somebody where you were the other guy on the other side, a legendary player was going out?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Like literally last match?   Close to it?

             

              Q.   Close to it.

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Yeah, I played John in the semis here.   I played Connors.   I guess he was maybe 36, 37 at the Open in the quarterfinals couple years in a row.

             

              Q.   Is it a tough thing when you're in those shoes to come into that situation, or is it easy?   What's it like?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   You know, you're young.   I mean, I was 18, 19 years old.   I mean, you're eager and all you're thinking about is really the next point, you know.   You're not really taking it all into the equation.

              I recognize that in Nadal, you know.   He has a real sense of professionalism when it comes to his environment, but he's out there trying to win the next point every time.   Sometimes you have to wait three minutes to play the next point, too (smiling).

             

              Q.   You had an estimation of him as a player on grass beforehand.   You weren't sure.

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Yeah.

             

              Q.   Having played him now, what do you make of him on this surface?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Well, the only thing he seems to struggle with would be his forehand return, you know.   He can start slicing that a lot.   Maybe only a few servers, you know, can exploit something like that.

              But his movement translates to every surface.   There's no question about that.   I think he's the best mover that's out there, you know.   He just seems to really explode and anticipate and all of the above, and do a lot with the ball.   So, you know, grass is a shot-making court.   And if he's making guys feel like they can't hit winners out there on grass, that speaks to his presence out there.

              You know, you leave a lot of room for a champion's heart and mind, and he can certainly be here with high expectations.

             

              Q.   You've earned millions in prize money down the years, but can you put a value on what's in your memory bank from here?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   No, I wouldn't sell it for anything, that's for sure.

             

              Q.   Wimbledon, as you indicated, is much more than just a tennis tournament.   It's about a culture, how to treat people, tradition.   What are the things you've learned from coming to this environment for so long?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Well, I think this was a place that first taught me to respect the sport, really, I mean, you know, to really appreciate the opportunity and privilege it is to play a game for a living, to play tennis.   People work five days a week to play on the weekend.   We get to call it a job, you know.   I think I learned that here.

              Missing it for a few years, coming back, being embraced, seeing the respect for tennis and the respect for the competitors, you know, the appreciation for it.   They're here come rain or shine.   Through the years I've seen them sit through some tough conditions just to see a few minutes of play.   Whether they're queuing up on the outside or sitting with their umbrellas in Centre Court, you know, it's quite a love for the sport.   That's what separates this from every other event.

             

              Q.   Can you think of anything more touching in sports than that queue goes on for a mile or so, 36 hours?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   No, it's a real humbling experience to be driving in a Wimbledon transportation car, to pull in, to actually have a hit out there when you see these people living there for days to hopefully get in, to see a little bit of tennis on most likely the back courts.

              Yeah, it really makes you appreciate what we get to do.

             

              Q.   When you play someone that tough, who's that good, who's basically been unbeatable since April, does it enter the back of your mind, Wow, maybe I can do this for another year at a high level?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   No, no (smiling).

              I mean, I don't feel like sort of my announcement for this tournament was a statement to what I'm not able to do as much as what I don't choose to really, you know.   It's been -- this year has been a dramatic difference for me from last year and the years before.   I mean, I'm out there most of the time worried about how I'm going to feel coming back from these.   You can't sort of play like that, you know.   You can't live with those two days up, two days down, you know, two steps forward, two steps back.   You can't do it.   It gets fatiguing, it gets tiring.

              From a skill level, I mean, this is the fourth match I've played in months, you know.   I feel like I can only get better from here.   I mean, that's how -- if I just had to base it on today, and I know that would put me in the realm of making somebody earn a victory against me, no question about it.   But I don't want to do that.

             

              Q.   What did you say to Rafael when shaking hands have after the end?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Oh, just wished him the best for the rest of this event, tournament.

             

              Q.   You see him going all the way to the final or something like that?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   You know, if he has to play me over again, he'd get to the finals (smiling).

              But, you know, yeah, I really thought that when I hit my quality shot, I could get him behind.   He still was moving so well that even on grass he wasn't getting behind.   Then all he has to do is hit one shot that's a little bit out of my strike zone, he takes over the point and then doesn't let it go.   This is a great way to play tennis, you know.   He makes people have to do something special.   And then if people decide to be patient, then he takes it to them.   So you have to play a good match to beat him, or you have to be Roger, I mean, on grass.

             

              Q.   After you stopped and signed autographs, as you walked out for the last time, were there any special thoughts, Here I am leaving, or was that part of the whole experience?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Yeah, part of what I felt when the match was over till I got off, it was all the same.

             

              Q.   Did you shed a tear?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Yeah, I have, I have, on more than this occasion.

             

              Q.   Did your loss to LeConte tell you, Gee, this place isn't for me?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   It made me think that, for sure.   Didn't help that I never played on grass, came here, it rained for a week straight, then I was indoors, and all of a sudden I was playing on grass on Court No. 2 against LeConte.   I wasn't in a position to succeed.

             

              Q.   When you walked off the court for the last time with Nadal, do you take any comfort in that it's someone like him that, you know, maybe is a symbolic baton passing as opposed to somebody else?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   I don't think I have that sort of poetic side to me really, you know.   I would have been proud to shake the hand of anybody that beat me, really.   Maybe a little bit more him just because of how I've admired him grow as a player.   I've seen him since he's been pretty young out there.   I've seen him improve.   I've admired this record that I never thought would get beaten, Vilas' wins on clay, the way he's gone after Roger in all their battles.

              You know, there's just a lot to respect about the guy.   Then when you get out there and feel his game, you can only tip your hat to it.

             

              Q.   What did Steffi say to you afterwards?   She's obviously gone through the same process of retiring from being a great champion here.

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Who's that?

             

              Q.   What did Steffi say to you?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   I haven't spoken to her yet.   I haven't spoken to her yet.

             

              Q.   What made his serve so tough for you?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Well, you know, his serve is, first of all, it's -- it really is an awkward movement through the air, so you never get a real clean swing at it unless you're able to give it time to settle down.   And then if you do that, you have to back up and you're really giving him position on the court.

              But more than that, if you don't hit a good return - like a really good return - he's going to take hold of that first shot.   I can't afford for that to happen.   Maybe somebody with better wheels than me can afford for that to happen a few more times.

              But once he got me a bit behind in the point, you know, the point was pretty much over.   So I have to take more chances to get a good hit, which means you start leaning and you start taking bigger swings and you start playing closer to the lines.

              But his serve has an awkward spin to it, plus he's, you know -- he backs it up very well.

             

              Q.   It's reasonable to believe that he's going to get even better on grass as he plays more and more on it.   Is it too early to think what a lot of people might have thought was unthinkable before this tournament, that he could actually challenge Roger Federer on a grass court?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   How do you say he couldn't, or anybody really at that matter?   I mean, listen, we all marvel at what Roger has done, there's no question, none more than me.   I watch him play and have an appreciation for it from not just the stands but also the best seat in the house, which is the other side of the net.   So I've admired it and all that.

              But, you know, if tennis was as easy as phoning in the results, you know, I would have just called in a win today against Nadal, you know.   Just doesn't happen that way.   You have to come out; you have to do it.   That's one thing that I keep speaking to in competition, you know.   The competitor's heart and mind leave a lot of room for a lot of things that we might think is crazy to happen.

             

              Q.   What do you look forward to most over the next couple of months in preparation for the US Open and through the US Open?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   I look forward to the playing.   I mean, I've got a few matches in here.   I've sort of got a taste of the pressure and the standard of what I need to be doing.   I felt like my game relaxed a little bit and I started to get a bit more comfortable out there.

              So now I look forward to that happening on the hard courts 'cause that's always easier on me physically.   And I just look forward to hopefully a good run over the summer.

             

              Q.   Years from now when Jaden's kid comes up to you and says, Hey, what have you contributed most to that game of tennis, in your heart what would you say to him?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   You know, when I first came on to the scene, I was the first person to hit the ball big off both wings, take the ball early and give it a good ride if I was in position off both sides.   And as I look back, I would love to feel like I was part of that evolution of the game, where I helped the game and those around me get better.

             

              Q.   Knowing when to retire is a question that a lot of athletes, every athlete has to deal with.   There's really no blueprint for it.   It's different for everybody.   You, of course, have a resource that almost no athlete has ever had, having a great champion who's done it.   Did Steffi ever tell you anything that sort of said, Think about this before you do it?   Or did she not really say anything?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   We are so sort of opposite in so many ways, you know.   We're just the same in important ways and we're different - thank goodness - in other ways, you know.

              She's very clear.   She knows it right when she feels it and doesn't question it and moves forward, you know, on any decision in life.   That's the way she went about her profession.

              I'm a little different.   I sort of -- I feel something, I need to understand it, I need to sort of process it, I need to come to terms with it, get my arms around it, wrestle with it a little bit and torture myself in the process.

              So I just feel like this time hasn't been so difficult.   The first few months of this year were very difficult.   The end of last year was difficult.   The pressure of trying to get ready for Australia, not knowing if I was going to be able to, not being able to get out there and move the way I wanted to.   Then, you know, earlier this year, which is when I really still felt like I'm one of the best to play out here, I just was -- it was not easy for me to not feel right out there on the court.

              But over the past few months, this realization has been a lot easier.   There is no sort of blueprint for it, but I can assure you that it's something you feel pretty deep.

             

              Q.   So when did the torture end?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   When I pulled out of Key Biscayne.   I just, you know, had at that point to call it like it was.   I wasn't ready to be on the court.   I made some tough decisions.   But I pulled the plug on putting myself through it in Key Biscayne, because I couldn't, and then I just had to take a deep breath and start to look at it a bit more, you know, look at it from sort of 50,000 feet, you know, take a bigger look.

             

              Q.   For the next three months you will still be a tennis player.   Then afterwards what are you thinking of?   What will happen after?   Are you curious?   Are you worried?   You don't care?   You are positive?   You are optimistic?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   You know, I've spent 20 years waking up saying, you know, What do I have to do today?   I'm going to spend now the rest of my life waking up and saying, What do I want my life to look like?

              It's going to be a quest and a journey that I'll take on with every bit as much passion.   Being bored is not an option for me, that I can assure you.   Being bored is bad for me (smiling) - and for my wife.

             

              Q.   A lot of people speak about you that we've talked to, they don't just say you were a great tennis player, but they talk about you being a humanitarian, everything you do for children.   Can you talk about the importance of that role for you.

              ANDRE AGASSI:   It's very important, you know.   I've spent the last, geez, since I was 23 years old.   So, what is that, thirteen years, building my foundation.   We've probably raised in excess of $75 million for inner-city children.   I started with the Boys and Girls Club because it was a great national organization.   I thought it gives kids after-school programs that would help keep them off the streets and drugs and all that stuff.

              I realized sort of through that process that really the only way to make a difference in a child's life is to help them learn how to make better decisions for themselves.   So it sort of led to education, which we took on this charter school that's about a $30 million project where we take kids that are a year to two years behind, that have single parent, whatever, it's their mom or dad that's raising them, in the poorest part of Las Vegas.   It's the children that society has written off the most.   We bring them up to grade level inside a year.   We are the only school nationally recognized, we were deemed exemplary, nationally recognized for our success in helping these kids.

              It's been a big part of my life, and putting a lot of these pieces in place.   But now with more time on my hands down the road, I get to enjoy that more firsthand, you know, really be able to be a part of seeing that difference.   I enjoy that.   And also I have more time to sort of push this dream even further, you know.   We want this school to be a blueprint or a model, if you will, for how education can be in our whole country.   I think that's realistic.

             

              Q.   When this is over, will Gil still be there to drive you through workouts?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Well, we've promised each other a long time ago that we'd be there for each other no matter how we needed it.   So something tells me that he would, if that's what I wanted.

             

              Q.   Maybe a couple of words about what he's meant for your career over the last 20 years.

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Gil was the one that taught me to look at tennis as an athletic sport, to really address it from the standpoint of if you make yourself stronger, you make yourself more capable.   You look at how other sports have changed over generations.   Look at baseball.   There was a time and day when, you know, they were really sort of skinny and didn't lift weights.   While there's been a lot of discussion as to the means to which they've accomplished it, the one thing you can't deny is what it is they were trying to accomplish, which is, Let's get stronger, because when you are, you do things better, you know, whatever you ask your body to do.

              So I feel like he sort of gave me a mentality that got me into a working mind.   I never took really days off very often.   I pushed myself hard.   I built a base that allowed me to sort of transcend some generations and compete against guys that were, you know, much bigger than me, taller than me, you know, arguably faster than me, in some cases better than me.

              So I think he made me do this for a long time.   He made me do it long enough to really be here and able to appreciate it and take it in.

             

              Q.   Do you see yourself staying in the sport at any level, or do you need to take a year or two off, work with the charity, the school and all that?   Can you see yourself doing Davis Cup or commentary or a tournament or anything like that?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Well, I mean, for me, it would be a joy and a privilege to help this sport move forward, you know, it really would be.   How I would be a part of this would be something I'd, you know -- I would need to be a little clearer on.

              I mean, I enjoy talking about the game, but I don't think much about -- haven't thought much about doing commentary.   I love Davis Cup.   It's been a great part of my career.   I haven't thought about that.   I haven't thought about other areas of this game.   But I would definitely want to be -- it's my life.   It's hard just to close a book and walk away.   I mean, I hope it takes on a whole new dynamic.

             

              Q.   Talk about Perry Rogers and his impact on your career and you as a man.

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Well, Perry and I have been best friends since I was 11 years old, and now he's run my whole business for the last 11 years, 12 years, more than that, 14 years almost.

              Uhm, you know, he's taken me from a tennis player to grow up to, you know, who I am today.   I mean, he's built a business that I still marvel at.   I mean, when I look around at all the things that he's sort of put in place for me.

              But at the end of the day, business has been such a great excuse for us just to spend time together, and that's the best part of it.   Sort of to achieve a high level of success in any area of life, you need to have a great support system.   You need to have great people around you, people a lot better and smarter than you.   I've been blessed to have that, to have that with Perry, to have that with Gil, to have that with my wife.   They've made a lot of things easier on me.

             

              Q.   Three years ago, we were asking Gil Reyes until when Andre is going to play.   He said when you train, all the effort you do, going up to the mountain, two hours under the sun playing, etc., etc., and he says he has a bright in his eyes; the day this brightness will go, then we will prepare the luggage and we will depart.   He said that.

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Yeah, yeah, he knows me pretty well.   But, yeah, I think maybe the -- you could ask him if the brightness left, I don't know (smiling).   It certainly has as far as running the hill.

             

              Q.   What will you miss most about Wimbledon?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   The people, all my friends, all the relationships I've developed here, the familiar faces, the love they have for the sport.   You do things, some things great, some things not so good, but one thing you remember through all those experiences are people, your experiences, your interactions.   It's that one ball kid that looked at you a certain way or, you know, that you said something to afterwards, people working here.

             

              Q.   I was just going to ask you, do you remember, was there a moment where you first thought that Wimbledon, you could play your best tennis at Wimbledon?   Was it more a gradual thing of coming back until you found that?   Do you remember?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   When I missed the few years?

             

              Q.   I just wondered if there was a certain time where you thought you could play your best tennis here, that Wimbledon would see the best of your tennis, just that belief of playing on grass, playing here?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   Yeah, I think I had to come here and prove it.   I didn't know much about it coming here three years after I missed it back in '91.   But I got really close that year, you know.   I mean, I lost in the quarterfinals up two sets to one, 4-1, in the quarters.   I would have had to play Becker in the semis.   I had a good record against him, you know.

              So I really felt like that year, you know, I could use some shot-making to make some things happen.   Yeah, the next year went pretty well.

              THE MODERATOR:   Ladies and gentlemen, we've, believe it or not, had nearly half an hour.   If there's one last question...

             

              Q.   How is your back feeling today out there?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   It's good, good (smiling).   Good enough.   Feeling a lot better than the match.

             

              Q.   Was there a time in the last few years where you actually seriously considered retiring and then backed away from it because you decided you weren't ready?

              ANDRE AGASSI:   It's been something I've had to sort of be aware of.   You don't really think of it through the lens of, Okay, I really want to retire, or, Is retirement going to happen?   You just have to assess the pieces, I mean.   It starts inside the lines.   Then it also moves to your family, what you're putting them through, just the priorities and the responsibilities you have.   I've consistently felt those pressures build up as well.   I mean, it's not as easy anymore to practically have this life style.

              But I think last three or four years, I think I've had to always sort of keep it in the mix and make sure that I could answer the question when I asked it.

 
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