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March 26, 1998

Jeff Tarango


MIKI SINGH: First question for Jeff.

Q. Why don't you think you're able to go on track out there today?

JEFF TARANGO: Well, I think I was hitting the ball pretty well. But just, you know, not being able to convert on breakpoints really I think killed me. Usually I break 60, 70 percent of the time I have a breakpoint. I didn't really connect well. You know, I started all the points well, I got the ball in play. But then I didn't really go for it. You know, that's what you have to do against Andre, you have to go for a big shot and you have to make it.

Q. Do you think you were playing a whole lot better against Kafelnikov?

JEFF TARANGO: Yeah, I think I did play a lot better. I think Andre hits the ball a lot harder. He's obviously playing a lot better than Kafelnikov right now. I mean, I think he's playing really well. I mean, especially he was returning my first serve pretty well today, hitting a lot of balls on the rise that I didn't think he was going to be able to do with the pace that I hit. I thought I was going to be able to surprise him with my pace. I did when I could get it away from him. When he was there, he hit the ball pretty well today. I have to give all the credit to him the way he played.

Q. You've been playing him since you were seven years old. You've seen his ups and his downs. Where is he at the moment?

JEFF TARANGO: Well, I think he'll win here. I think he's playing great. I think the real test, if he wins here, that's a great accomplishment, but he's always done really well on clay in the past. Like to see how his dedication is on the clay. But he might just forego that and wait for the grass. Who knows.

Q. Jeff, even though our Davis Cup singles team are both right handers, is there any advice you can impart to Tom Gullikson or the team about how to play Kafelnikov at this particular time?

JEFF TARANGO: Well, I think you have to play him really tough. I don't really think he has that many weaknesses. I mean, Tom is a good coach, so he should do just fine with that.

Q. If you were asked for some observations from your match with Kafelnikov --

JEFF TARANGO: I haven't been.

Q. That's why I said "if." What might they be?

JEFF TARANGO: I don't know. I think you need to attack a lot against him, whether it's from the ground or coming to the net. You have to attack him. I think Andre has a perfect game to play him and beat him. I think Andre will beat him. It will just depend whether Courier is confident or not, whether he beats him or not. I don't see us losing that tie. But anything can happen. I didn't think we'd lose in Gothenburg either.

Q. You said you didn't go for it on the breakpoints. Why?

JEFF TARANGO: I expected him to make some errors on the breakpoints. Being ranked 31 is a lot different from being ranked 1. I wanted to give him a chance to miss some balls. He came after me and actually surprised me on two of those breakpoints coming to the net; last place I thought I'd see him on breakpoint. I more focused on him instead of the ball on those breakpoints, to see how he was going to react being down breakpoint. I should have just focused on playing my game the way I had been. That probably would have been good enough. You know, I got a little distracted by that, by the way he's playing. I think if I could play him three times in a row, like Gambill did, I could get over that. I play him once every two or three years now. So that's not really the case.

Q. Was the wind making you compromise?

JEFF TARANGO: It was making me shorten up my strokes a little bit. The other day, it was a little less swirly wind. Today the wind was really unpredictable. It wasn't breezy and in one constant direction. I was a little bit tentative on my shots. When that happens, I'm not taking the long stroke, not quite hitting it quite as hard. That gives him more of a chance. Like I said, he played really well today. I didn't think he gave me many chances to really pounce on a shot. I wasn't getting any mid range high balls. He was really taking good swings and taking the ball on the rise well. I think at this point he played the way he should have played against me, and he played well.

Q. If the rankings were done on how players are playing right now, rather than the best 14 results, where do you think Andre would be in the world rankings?

JEFF TARANGO: I'd say 3 or 4.

Q. Behind?

JEFF TARANGO: I think Rios is playing the best. I think Korda is playing really well. I think that Sampras is definitely up in the top three, just not sure where.

Q. Family get out here okay?

JEFF TARANGO: No. She said she couldn't do it. She didn't come. I was a little bit deflated by that. I'm not going to blame my wife for losing, even though she'll feel guilty the rest of the week. I'll be eating well all next week (laughter).

Q. You spent all that time telling us what a great airline United was.

JEFF TARANGO: Hopefully it won't crash on the way home.

Q. Why couldn't she come?

JEFF TARANGO: She had this problem with INS. She thought that was more important to get that stamp in her passport so we could go back to Europe and not have any problems coming back. It's been four years and we haven't been in for our interview yet. They've been pretty patient with us. They give us, "This is your last chance." She went down with my dad and they took care of it.

Q. She couldn't fly unless she did that?

JEFF TARANGO: She couldn't fly out of the country, no, until she got that.

Q. I know a lot of people think Miami is a foreign place. It still is the United States.

JEFF TARANGO: That's a surprise to me.

Q. Jeff, what is your European schedule from now on in?

JEFF TARANGO: I'm going to go over and play the tournament in Napoli, warm up for the clay there. I'm going to play River Oaks next week. I'm going to play Barcelona. I'll probably take a week off since I'm not in my second Super 9 of the year. If they didn't give me a wildcard in Southern California, I doubt they're going to give me a wildcard in Monte-Carlo. Then I'll play Hamburg and Rome and the French.

Q. Then the grass?

JEFF TARANGO: Then the grass, yes.

Q. Do you know yet where?

JEFF TARANGO: I'll play for sure one warm-up tournament for Wimbledon. I think I'm going to probably play on clay the week before Wimbledon.

Q. Why is that?

JEFF TARANGO: Because usually when I play on clay too many weeks in a row, I feel I don't have any rhythm when I go to the grass. I'm going to play either Halle or Queen's, then go play a Challenger on clay the week before Wimbledon, then play Wimbledon.

Q. At the risk of bringing up old stuff, Wimbledon now is fine, everything's okay there?

JEFF TARANGO: As far as I know, it's hunky-dory.

Q. Could you explain that again playing on clay?

JEFF TARANGO: On grass you don't hit many balls. You hit one ball every three points. For my game, I really need to feel like I'm hitting a lot of balls, getting a good rhythm. It doesn't really matter what surface I'm playing. I'll play strategically every match on the clay that week like I'm going to be playing on grass, only I'll be able to get a swing, get a hit at every single ball for the whole week. Winning or losing obviously isn't important the week before Wimbledon. I'll get a lot of balls. I'll hit on the grass the whole week before. Then I'll go into Wimbledon hitting a thousand balls the week before, and everybody else hasn't hit more than 50 balls in the last two weeks.

Q. Haven't they been hitting them at the same pace, whereas you've been hitting them at a different pace?

JEFF TARANGO: Yes, exactly.

Q. The balls don't bounce the same. How can you play strategically?

JEFF TARANGO: Stand three feet inside the baseline and take a full swing on everything. You laugh now.

Q. Will you wear grass shoes?

JEFF TARANGO: Yes, I will. So I won't slide at all. Believe me, it will be just like grass. I'll be serving and volleying on every ball.

Q. Have you considered coming up more, not so much this match against Agassi, but just in general? Seems like points against Kafelnikov where you came up were among your most successful.

JEFF TARANGO: Obviously today, I think anytime you come up, you lose. If Henman were to beat Corretja today, it could get really ugly out there. I think Andre is hitting the ball really well. He's one of the best passers in the game. Even Becker stays back when he plays Andre.

Q. I didn't mean so much this match.

JEFF TARANGO: I've been working on it. I've been coming in a lot more. I think indoors it's even more important to come in. Outdoors, slow hardcourt, my best shots are my groundstrokes. Let's say I don't come in and finish off the point; I feel like my opponent is really being punished in the point. That's not always such a bad thing, to get around 4-All, 5-All in the set, have your opponent hurt a little bit. It's a trade-off. You see the best players on the big points at the net. That's why I was surprised to see Andre at the net on some points today. That's how he got to be No. 1 last time, was coming to the net on those big points. I think he played a wonderful match today. I think I could have played eight percent better, it would have been a three-set match. I'm really not disappointed at all with the way I played this week. I started from behind the eight ball without a bye, really fought my way into the tournament. My ranking next week might be my highest ever.


JEFF TARANGO: I'm in the 50's now. With 150 or 170 points, should move up quite a bit. It's just a building tournament. I don't think there's any reason why I can't be in the quarterfinals of all the Super 9s on any surface. I think I play just as well on clay as I do on hardcourt now. We'll see. It's a good building tournament. It helps my confidence a lot this week.

Q. Am I right in thinking that the sight of you as a logo-free zone is coming to an end, have a deal coming up with one of the manufacturers?

JEFF TARANGO: I don't know. Do you know something I don't know?

Q. I may be misinformed.

JEFF TARANGO: I don't know. Obviously there's been a lot of talk. I want a deal that I think I deserve. I mean, I don't think Steve Campbell is not getting paid what he deserves this week either. The players maybe need to just kind of hold out a little bit. I don't know. I mean, I'm in at least two feature matches every week this whole year. Obviously Australian Open, I count that as a double-up (laughter). I think if a company were to get behind me, I think they'd get more than their money's worth.

Q. You have a market value and you're going to hold out for it?

JEFF TARANGO: No, I'm not going to hold out. When they offer you a bonus deal and the bonus starts in the semifinals after Grand Slam, I think that's a little ridiculous. They put their clothes on me and I'm supposed to thank them forever for giving us this merchandise. They're building it and making it in sweat shops.

Q. Can you say approximately what kind of deal you would want, what you would consider equitable?

JEFF TARANGO: I would hope that maybe a company could come along that I could have an influence on some of the designs, some of the fashion. I think it would help a lot. There's some pretty ugly stuff out there right now. Maybe I could help that out. When I did the shirts a few years ago, all the clothes seemed to get a lot better. I think tennis becomes a little brighter. Tennis is about going out there, having fun, playing, a sport. It shouldn't be this dull and dreary colors. I think I could have a good influence on a company. I'm more than just a nice butt out there on the court.

Q. Where would you draw the line, say, "I'm not going to wear that"? There's a few guys out there wearing some pretty weird colors. What wouldn't you wear?

JEFF TARANGO: I think the yellow shoes are definitely not my bit, nor were the orange ones. You know, there's just some stuff that is good, some stuff that's bad. At the right time and the right place, maybe those orange shoes or the yellow shoes would be great. You've got to pick the time and the place, a little bit more forethought.

Q. What do you think of Kiefer?

JEFF TARANGO: Like I said, it's a little dark. The orange is okay, but it's a little dark. He probably needs something a little more lively, just because he seems to have his head down and be focused and concentrating a lot when he's playing tennis. He doesn't have too much emotion. I would do something different there. I mean, Rafter could go a little more plain. I think all the different players are different. There's so many Europeans doing well now, you would think that they would be dressed a little bit more fashionably. I'd like to see Giorgio Armani get into tennis, to be honest.

Q. You were referring to your shirts ten years ago. Did you have an endorsement deal then?

JEFF TARANGO: My mom was making shirts then. She designed them. Every city I went to, she changed the motif of the shirts. It was a lot of fun. I mean, like fall colors in the fall, pretty basic.

Q. Do you have an agent or do you negotiate yourself?

JEFF TARANGO: I have someone who finishes up all my contracts to make sure I'm not going to get screwed. I like to have a hands-on, personable feeling with the companies I'm with. Not too many companies are like that right now. I'll just wait around and hopefully something will happen.

Q. So it's not so much a matter of money, but design influence?

JEFF TARANGO: I think it's a lot the design influence and it's also the fact that the money that they're offering is really kind of embarrassing, when you have Andre with a $120 million contract for ten years. I think the money they're offering everybody else is a little ridiculous.

Q. If you can say what kind of monetary deal you think would be equitable, I don't know if you can discuss specific numbers?

JEFF TARANGO: No. First of all, I think it's very tacky that we put even in the paper ever what the prize money is that any of the players make. I think it's completely irrelevant. If you want to follow the rankings, that's fine. I think it's really tacky that the golf and tennis put prize money lists in there. When I go home, it's really not fair for my friend working all day long in an office to look at how much money I'm making playing tennis. It kind of throws everything out of perspective. I'm not changing for the amount of money I'm making, but I feel guilty how much a friend of mine is making. Maybe he's making more contribution working for the Sierra Club or whatever. I think it's a little tacky, so I prefer not to talk about that.

Q. Isn't that a fact of sport, being a professional?

JEFF TARANGO: Yeah, it is. The players I don't think try to make as much money as they should. If the players were money hungry, they would have a consolidated union and they would demand more than four and a half or seven percent that they're getting from the Grand Slams out of how much money they're making. The Grand Slams are making so much money, and the players are only taking seven percent of that money out of how much they're making every year. Obviously we're not like hockey or baseball where they're getting in the range of 50 to 35 percent. I don't think the tennis players are money-hungry. I think there's a lot of demand out there for a lot of the top players, and they just happen to make -- some of the top guys make a lot of money. I don't think the guys get together and think all the time, "How can we make more money?" Maybe some of the other sports do. In the long run, that hurts tennis because we don't get the respect day in and day out that a Sprewell gets. Rios is doing anything that Sprewell was doing, but yet they're negotiating $5 million a year there. I think that the players could get it together. If they want to talk about money, if the players want to put the money out there, they should do something like that.

Q. Don't you think the popularity of a sport is an issue, too? Basketball has exploded in popularity.

JEFF TARANGO: Basketball is only in the States. You have tennis as the only international individual sport out there. There's so many more people playing tennis worldwide than there are basketball. I think that tennis probably isn't marketed correctly.

End of FastScripts....

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