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September 1, 1999

Marat Safin

U.S. OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP, Flushing Meadows, New York

USTA: Questions, please.

Q. It didn't come easy. You seemed at times to be very frustrated out there. Can you explain what was going through your mind?

MARAT SAFIN: I told you when I had a press conference before, two days before, or yesterday.

Q. Two days ago.

MARAT SAFIN: I told that it will not be easy. It wasn't, but it was my fault, like normally. I was winning quite easy, a set and 3-1. I just stopped. I stopped to move. I lost the set, so I was losing my confidence. Tillstrom started to play better and better each time. I lost all the concentration. The fifth set, I had to start again just to say, "Come on, you have to concentrate. If not, you will lose this match."

Q. After the third set, it did look as if you were going to lose the match.

MARAT SAFIN: I don't had any chance. If I not come back with my concentration, I'm going to lose easy fifth set. I had to do something, have to concentrate, otherwise there's no chance to win this match. He was playing great tennis. He was playing very focused, serving very well. I was talking too much, just out of the match, totally.

Q. Your first serve in the fourth set, what happened?

MARAT SAFIN: Disaster, I know.

Q. Where did it go?

MARAT SAFIN: I don't understand also. It's difficult to explain. For sure is not how I'm throwing the ball, a technique problem. I think it was a problem with concentration. In the fifth set, I was serving quite well. I was focused each point, and I had to serve. If not, I'm going to lose. I was, "Okay, first serve, just relax." I was serving well. I just had to concentrate. That was the problem, I think. It's not a problem with technique or throwing the ball. It's just from here (pointing to head).

Q. To have lost your game both mentally and physically, then to be able to rally, come back in the fifth set and win, does this give you mental stamina, a sense that, "I can go out there and survive something like this in The Open and derive confidence in this match"?

MARAT SAFIN: Yes and no. I can win like this one match, two matches, three, but not more. After is going like a coin, what will do. When you losing all your game, you lose your concentration. I mean, it's impossible to come back. There's no chance because you start shaking, you start to think, "I'm playing bad." You stopping to move. Your legs is going too stiff. Your hands, they are not so flexible and so relaxed how you play, down the line, easy. "You going to play down the line? No, cross-court." It's difficult like this. It's a difficult situation when you losing the concentration. It's very difficult.

Q. Was it difficult after thinking about Pete for so many days, then just having it changed on you?

MARAT SAFIN: No. Pete, doesn't matter if I'm playing with Pete. It's bad luck, I'm going to lose to him, no problem.

Q. You were obviously preparing for Pete, thinking about Pete, then it changed on you.

MARAT SAFIN: That wasn't the problem. It's a problem for many years, from satellites, from junior tournaments, I can't focus. Maybe I'm making a good result before, and next tournament I can't play. Normally I was losing first round, second round. It was normal. I told you I played one satellite like four years ago, I make final first week. After I lose first round, first round, first round. It's coming from years ago. I won a tournament last week. For me, it's very difficult to play next tournament. I don't know why. I can't explain it. For me it's very difficult to start another tournament.

Q. Did you have a long party after the win?

MARAT SAFIN: No, for sure. Believe me. I would like, because first of all I'm 19 years old.

Q. So you're still recovering from the party.

MARAT SAFIN: I was drinking water.

Q. Two days ago, as you looked at the draw, in order for you to go far in this tournament, you would have to go through Pete Sampras and Pat Rafter. They're both gone. Everybody in the top half of the draw has a chance now.

MARAT SAFIN: It's a very big chance.

Q. Is that on your mind?

MARAT SAFIN: No. For the moment, no. It's in the mind of many players, believe me. I know how they feel. Sampras is not playing. Rafter, he left the court. It's a really big chance to win this tournament for many guys.

Q. At least to get to the final?

MARAT SAFIN: Yeah. Still left Agassi, Kafelnikov, the big players. I prefer to think to the next match. I really don't know who I play if I win tomorrow or the next day. I don't know the draw. I just prefer to play my next match and after I will see. If I'm going to play like today, I don't have too many chances to win next match. You know he has a lot of experience.

Q. Have you played Jiri Novak?

MARAT SAFIN: Yeah, I played a year ago on clay in Barcelona. I beat him 7-6 in the third set. It was a very tough match. He doesn't make a lot of topspin. He play very flat. He's serving good. He has a very good volley. It will be tough. Also, he's playing very well this year.

Q. What will you do tomorrow to prepare, to shake the bugs out of your game?

MARAT SAFIN: I'm still like this (shaking hands).

Q. Is it still back to some basic drills on the court?

MARAT SAFIN: This is for sure. I have to practice a little bit tomorrow, just to feel the ball. Today I couldn't feel it because there was no chance to play. I just have to touch the ball a little bit, have to concentrate. I don't have to make the same mistake like today. If not, I'm going to go to home very early.

Q. It seemed that he was really giving you a lot of short shots. You were hitting wide, long, having a hard time with your mobility.

MARAT SAFIN: He was making a lot of dropshots, making slice all the time for my backhand. It's easy to say, "Why he doesn't go to the net?" It's so easy. It is because when you don't feel the ball, you are shaky, you can't put the ball in the right place. Sometimes it's, "Next ball, okay, I play this baseline." You can't play like this tennis. This is for sure. It was a little bit ridiculous from my side. I don't want to say that Tillstrom was playing so bad. I just want to say that I make the big mistake. It's not easy. It's not easy to play this. Doesn't matter these balls. Just easy balls I was making mistakes, mistakes, mistakes, very easy mistakes. That's the problem of concentration simply. Concentration, that's it. In the fifth said, I said, "Concentrate or you're going to lose this match." I just concentrate, I make a break, I win this match. This was the key. My coach was telling five sets the same thing. I make it only in the fifth set. It was so-so. Too young.

Q. You keep mentioning concentration problems. Do you think it has improved from the last French Open last year where you became really famous with the public?

MARAT SAFIN: I think a little bit, but still is my most important problem, this one. Not that I'm serving bad or I don't move my feet, I don't have a volley. Is a problem, this important, big problem I think. It's just so easy to play, just say to myself, "Concentrate, please, play each game, each point." I can't do it. I don't know. It's very strong for me. Maybe when I can make it, maybe I'm going to be a good player, but not for the moment.

End of FastScripts….

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