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August 31, 1999

Marat Safin

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

USTA: I guess we all understand the circumstances of Pete eventually pulling out today at 2 o'clock. Mr. Safin has agreed to join us for a brief press conference. Questions, please.

Q. Are you relieved or disappointed?

MARAT SAFIN: Well, it's bad luck for him. I'm very sorry about this, but it's also good for me because I'm defending 150 points here from the last year, so I have a very good opportunity to get in Top 30 because I won the tournament last week, so I'm playing good and would like to be in the Top 30 after this tournament. But still I have to play first match here. It's also tough. It's very tough to play first match in a tournament. I will try to play my best tennis, like I did last week. Well, let's see what happen. Everybody's playing here the same tennis, so I have to work hard to beat in the first round.

Q. Can you explain how you go through sort of a roller coaster of emotions? You win your first tournament in Boston, you learn you're playing Pete in the first round, which is obviously a big thing, and all of a sudden you find out you're not playing him. What do you start thinking?

MARAT SAFIN: I didn't know about this like half an hour ago because some Spanish players, they told me he pulled out. I said, "Come on, that's impossible. You are joking." But it was serious. Is not great, but still I'm really sorry about Pete. Doesn't mean I'm losing first round, but I can say that I played against Sampras in the first round. It's always nice to play against these guys. I have a good opportunity.

Q. Last year when you played him, you said going into the match there was no way you were going to beat him. When you come off a victory like you did in Boston, what was your confidence level going into a match like this?

MARAT SAFIN: Confidence? I think the same like was last year because he's still No. 1 for five years, maybe six. How many tournaments he won? 50, 60, I don't know. I just won my first tournament. I still have to work very hard to be Top 30. It's very hard to beat No. 1 in the world. I mean, the difference is so big. For me it's very big difference.

Q. Your goals for the tournament change now?

MARAT SAFIN: No. I have to win the first round. It's really difficult. Doesn't matter if you're playing against 500 or against No. 20 in the world because this is first round, a lot of nervous there. You have to work to win the first round. You have to be very concentrate on this match, just to do your job there.

Q. When you go out to play tomorrow, instead of facing Pete Sampras, you'll be facing Mikael Tillstrom. Will you have to fight an emotional -- get yourself pumped up to play because he's not Pete Sampras? Will you have to fight the tendency to perhaps be a little more confident than you might have been against Pete?

MARAT SAFIN: I mean, it's different. It's different game. Everything is a little bit different. He also is a player. He can play unbelievable tennis tomorrow, why not? He can beat me. He can beat -- I don't know -- everybody can beat all guys from Top 10, I think so . It's one more guy, one more player. I don't know what's his ranking, but he's a player. I don't know how he will play tomorrow. I beat him this year in St. Petersburg, so I have a little bit of confidence. I know how he's playing. But, still, I have to work for sure. It doesn't matter what's his ranking. He can play unbelievable tennis.

Q. Can you talk about how your development has gone that you've been able to win a tournament? What has happened in that time that you are now a title-holder?

MARAT SAFIN: I'm very happy. That's it. I won the tournament. Now is coming another tournament. I have to think about US Open. I can't live with one tournament. I won Boston, so I'm a king there (laughter). I have to work hard. I'm playing US Open, so I have to think about this tournament, to play against Mikael Tillstrom. That's it. I was happy for one day -- okay, for two days (laughter). That's it.

Q. Have you had injuries this year?

MARAT SAFIN: Injuries?

Q. Yes.

MARAT SAFIN: Yeah. I was injured with my elbow and I was five weeks without practicing. It was a good comeback. We won the Davis Cup against Slovakia, the match. After, I played not by best tennis. I lost my confidence after Davis Cup. In Boston, I was playing great. I was playing four weeks, losing first round, second round, very easy. I make also the semis in Amsterdam. I didn't play so well like in Boston. I wasn't feeling very good after the injury. It was difficult to come back.

Q. What precisely were you doing when you were advised that Sampras had withdrawn? Were you sleeping?

MARAT SAFIN: He withdraw?

Q. I wanted to know, where were you when you were advised that he had withdrawn.

MARAT SAFIN: What do you mean? I don't understand.

Q. Were you in the locker room, reading a book?

MARAT SAFIN: Practicing.

Q. Practicing?

MARAT SAFIN: Of course. I have to work (laughter).

Q. Who told you?

MARAT SAFIN: Corretja and Carasco (ph). I was practicing.

Q. Did you change your practice at all after that?

MARAT SAFIN: No, no, no. It was enough. One hour is enough.

Q. Can you talk about how growing up in Russia, you decided later to train in Spain, why you made that decision and what you think it's done for you to make it to the pros?

MARAT SAFIN: I think it was a very good idea from the part of my family, of my parents. It was a difficult time there, '94, '93. Everybody was leaving from Moscow, I mean the tennis players. Everybody was looking for a job in Germany or in the United States. It was a difficult time, so I had to do something. If I'm staying in Russia, I'm studying. I have to leave from Russia if I want to play tennis. I have a good opportunity. My father, he found a sponsor. I just tried to go to Spain. I like there and I stay until now. It was a very good idea, I think. I was lucky. Also you have to be lucky because it's not so easy to come to other country if you don't speak any languages, just start to practice. Spain, so nice. It's not so easy just to come and practice in another place. This is my work, my job, so I have to do sometimes some things that I don't like.

Q. You said it was a difficult time. Was this when Communism was still in Russia or was that after that?

MARAT SAFIN: After what? Communism? It was after.

Q. But it was difficult because of economics?

MARAT SAFIN: Yeah. It was difficult to find racquets. It was difficult. I remember I played in '94 in the Orange Bowl. I came to this tournament with two different racquets. How it's possible? Other guys, I came there with clothes, shorts Reebok, I think shorts, Adidas. I didn't have any clothes. I played with two different racquets. It's not serious. In Spain, it wasn't a big problem to find some racquets. I had everything, balls, boxes of balls. Racquets? How many you want? You just have to work. You have to play tournaments, just win matches. That's it.

Q. And your father had run a tennis academy?

MARAT SAFIN: No, just one club, small club, that's it.

Q. But he must have found it very difficult to do what he had to deal with. He had no equipment, no support.

MARAT SAFIN: It's a little bit different. My father is a little bit different story. It's different. Completely different than what you are saying. It's a little bit different story.

Q. At that time did it seem like a dream to get a chance to play against Pete Sampras, somebody of that caliber?

MARAT SAFIN: Yeah, of course. For me, I mean, I can say it, if a few years I can say to the people that I was playing against Sampras. He was six years the No. 1, I don't know. I'll be happy to play against him, but not here (laughter).

End of FastScripts….

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