August 26, 2002
NEW YORK CITY
Q. Didn't look happy on that last point.
BRIAN VAHALY: Yeah, today was disappointing in general. I feel like I've been leading up to this tournament playing really well. I think both James and I came out of the gates really poorly. It was kind of disappointing. For me the match continued to just get worse and worse. I mean, I thought that match point typified it. It was an opportunity, a great opportunity that I had, at such a big event like this. I kind of just let it slide. It's hard. You work so hard. I've worked so hard this year to be at this event and trained for many weeks to be here. I'm not really sure what happened. I know there's a lot of things I need to work on. This being my first year really out on the tour, first US Open, I have so many things in my game I need to work on. Hopefully in a couple years, I'll be where James is. It took him a couple years to get where he is now. It's an experience. I'm glad I had it. I'm just disappointed that I couldn't have played the kind of tennis that I felt like I was capable of playing, and probably the type of tennis he was capable of playing. I think we both kind of brought each other down to a fairly low level of tennis today.
Q. Do you think that was nerves?
BRIAN VAHALY: I started off kind of nervous. I kind of settled into it fine. I really just couldn't find my rhythm throughout the match. Part of that is probably attributed to James. But in general, I tend to be one of the more consistent ones. I couldn't get my serve in. I was having all types of trouble with that. A lot of things broke down today that really caught me off guard. But that's why it's great to have coaches here. I'll be able to look at this match and learn from it. I just feel like my best tennis can still be played. It's disappointing to leave first round. That's part of getting James Blake first round.
Q. The roll you went on in Washington, all the support you got there, does that give you some confidence?
BRIAN VAHALY: Yeah, it was comfortable. I had some good wins in Washington. After playing Agassi, that was a great experience. I really had a great week of training. I practiced with Sampras. I really felt strong going into the tournament. It was an odd feeling out there. I don't know how to describe it. I guess it's the way everybody feels the first time they play in a Grand Slam, you know, on the center court. I guess that's to be expected. Gosh, I don't know. I guess I have high expectations for myself. I guess it's realistic to think that's how I'd probably play my first go.
Q. Odd in what way?
BRIAN VAHALY: In terms of on -- how do you mean?
Q. Were you awed, honored, odd?
BRIAN VAHALY: Oh, I'm sorry. I misunderstood. You know, it was hard. This morning was my first hit on the center court. I came here early to try and get a feel for that, which is great, because I got an opportunity to look around. At the same time I sat around thinking today what an experience I was about to have. I was seeing those girls go out there. A couple of the girls had really quick matches. I wanted to play my best, have my best match out there. I didn't want to get overwhelmed the way these first matches were. When it started to get to a big point, I started to look around and enjoy the experience instead of buckling down and getting tense, the way I am in most of the other tournaments. That's where things kind of break down, lack of concentration.
Q. Were you wishing that they had played a little longer?
BRIAN VAHALY: Yeah. I thought if I could get that set point at 5-4 I could take the fifth set. I had a successful record against James growing up in Juniors, college. I knew I was going to be in great shape. Adrenaline would have taken over there. It was disappointing. But, you know, I had a feeling it was kind of a small cramp anyway. He was still moving very well, running all over the court. We had one point in the tiebreaker where he was between the legs, running forward, running back. I'm sure it was a small cramp, but I don't think it was anything that big. But at the same time I think I felt like I was in better shape.
Q. Since you played him before, how much do you think he's improved within this past year?
BRIAN VAHALY: I mean, he's playing unbelievable. His forehand is so strong. I don't think he hit it as well today as he would have liked. I tried to mix it up, give him different speeds to kind of, you know, show him something a little bit different. But he's playing so much better. His serve, he places it a lot better. His forehand is just so big. When I played him in Juniors, growing up, his backhand wasn't as solid. Right now you really have to have some weapons to beat him. At this stage of my game, I don't have that, which was a little bit frustrating. I didn't have the serve, I didn't have the forehand. My backhand, I felt like I hit it well in the later stages of the match. But, you know, he's playing like he's had two years more experience than I had. He left college, and I decided to get my degree. That's probably another reason why he won today. In two years, I hope I'll be right where he is.
Q. Degree in what?
BRIAN VAHALY: I had two majors, finance and marketing. I had a good GPA.
Q. Where was that?
BRIAN VAHALY: University of VA.
Q. What time did you get here this morning? When you first walked out on the court, what was your first thought?
BRIAN VAHALY: I left for the courts at 8:15, got out there around 9:30. I tried to look around, to get that out of the way. It was hard. It's just so overwhelming. I talked to a lot of friends. Everybody was there watching me on TV. I probably had thousands of people watching me on TV today. It was exciting, it was nerve-wracking, it was interesting to just walk around the court and think how many players have been out there, to feel like I can be a part of it. For the rest of my life, no one can really take that away. Whatever happens with tennis, I could be injured, be done with this sport in a matter of time, but that experience in itself, I was humbled by it.
Q. Did you lose in the qualifier last year?
BRIAN VAHALY: Yes.
Q. Were you double-bageled?
BRIAN VAHALY: I lost 6-0, 6-0.
Q. I thought that must be a mistake.
BRIAN VAHALY: No. I actually played this guy that beat me that badly this year, finally took him out. I've made leaps and bounds improvement since last year. If anything, now it's a basis for where I've come. There's still so much I need to improve on. For me personally, that's exciting. A lot of guys have fine-tuned shots, really look like pros all the time. For me, I feel like I've got so much I need to do. It's exciting to get on the practice courts.
Q. Who was that culprit?
BRIAN VAHALY: A guy named Noam Behr from Israel. Good player. Beat me in about 35 or 40 minutes. Come a long way in a year, but I still need to win a match.
Q. There was a viewing party?
BRIAN VAHALY: I'm sure my fraternity was watching. I know I had friends from Atlanta, friends in VA getting together. My sister's fiance was throwing a keg back in Atlanta. Let's be honest, I'm not on TV every day (smiling). You've got to take advantage. Everybody is having parties. They don't care if it's the middle of the day. I had friends skipping work.
Q. Guys at UVA didn't care it was the middle of day?
BRIAN VAHALY: They didn't go to class, but that's standard. I had tons of people excited to watch me play. It was exciting -- I remember last year this time watching the US Open at Futures tournaments, thinking, "God, someday could I do it?" I was out there playing and out there competing. I was thinking all the guys watching, struggling through those Futures tournaments, which it is, it's such a tough grind. Hopefully it's a means of inspiration for them that if you really buckle down and work hard, look where you can be in a year, playing on the greatest court in the world. I hope there was a lot of people out there watching, friends that I had made going through the ranks that are inspired.
Q. How much did beating Chang last spring show you about yourself?
BRIAN VAHALY: Yeah, that was a big start to my career. I know going into that match I didn't really think I was good enough to beat him. Took him down in a third-set tiebreaker. He was my role model kind of growing up. Just kind of a big step and stage in my development. That really started a great month for me. I won three challengers, won a round in Newport, LA, had close matches with Roddick and Agassi. That was really a great start for me. He was very kind and offered some nice words about things I needed to work on. So many people have gotten me where I am. Yeah, it's weird to look back at that and think where I am now.
Q. Where was that?
BRIAN VAHALY: That was in a challenger in California, in LA.
BRIAN VAHALY: I think so.
Q. What fraternity?
BRIAN VAHALY: I was in Kappa Sig. Those were my wild days. I'm trying to settle down. Trying to grow up and mature a little bit.
Q. Last year after the qualifying, what did you do?
BRIAN VAHALY: I was never really on a stage like that, the US Open, to lose 0-0. It was insulting, it was humiliating. I was going to quit tennis. My best friend, I called him afterwards, we decided we were going to move to Australia and work for six months. I loved it. I went to the next tournament, got my butt kicked. I was like, "I got one more, I'm done, I can finally quit." I was down match points. Thought-provoking, "Wow, this is the end." I ended up winning that match. Next round I beat Chris Woodruff. All of a sudden I was thinking, "Maybe I can do this." Sure enough, I went and I won three straight Futures, you know, a couple more the next year. All of a sudden it kept steamrolling where I felt I had to give myself a chance. Yeah, it's weird. I was literally one point away from kind of quitting.
Q. Moving to Australia?
BRIAN VAHALY: Yeah.
Q. You lost to Behr.
BRIAN VAHALY: 6-0, 6-0. I went to Tulsa. I lost 6-1, 6-1.
Q. To whom?
BRIAN VAHALY: A guy named Damian Fermanski (phonetic)? Yeah - no, yeah. I'll go with that. I don't think that's right. I don't know. I blacked it out. The tournament before the US Open I lost 6-0, 6-2. I had three matches and four games to my credit. Yeah, it was a dark, dark place.
Q. You were down match point to whom?
BRIAN VAHALY: I was down match points to a guy named Martin Zumft (phonetic). I don't want to talk about it. He wasn't a player, he was a coach.
Q. Where was that?
BRIAN VAHALY: It was in Kerrville (ph), Texas. Let's drop that. I survived and life is good.
Q. What's after this?
BRIAN VAHALY: Wow. I really need a lot of experience. That's kind of what my coaches now are kind of gearing me towards. I'm going to play an ATP tournament down in Brazil, then go to Hong Kong and Tokyo, have some good results there. I'd like to play guys who are ranked maybe in the 50s and 60s. I beat Sanguinetti, Vacek, guys in the 40, 50s. I'm comfortable at that level, would like to move forward there. Then maybe go down to the challengers, make a run, start in the Australian Open. I mean, I don't know. So much changes in a matter of months. Eight months ago I was quitting tennis, so... . It's nice to be sitting here.
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