April 18, 2003
THE MODERATOR: Vince Spadea is in his third semifinal of the year - Memphis, Indian Wells, and here in Monte-Carlo. He is the only player to have reached two semifinals at Masters Series events this year. He's gone 9-2 in Masters Series events. He's the first American in the semifinals here since Aaron Krickstein in 1992, who went on to lose in the final to Thomas Muster 11 years ago. Questions for Vince Spadea.
Q. Congratulations. How would you describe the match for someone who wasn't able to attend it, unfortunately?
VINCENT SPADEA: Well, I played very well. Good, solid match. I played very consistent, and then I attacked when I had an opportunity. I served pretty well. I took advantage of his second serve. I think it was a big part of the match. It was difficult, more than the score. But it was a ground stroke match. He has a lot of power from his ground strokes, so he's dangerous. So I was able to make a lot of good retrieves and also make some winners to be successful.
Q. How satisfying is it for you to have turned your career around so well from three years ago when you had that appalling run of luck?
VINCENT SPADEA: It's very exciting. It's pleasing to know that my decision-making and my commitment back to the game of tennis has so far come good. Making strides that I haven't made before has been even a greater experience. It was hard enough getting back to the point where I was in the tournaments and competing consistently against these type of high-ranked players, but now to prevail sometimes a step further and further, it's been even a greater accomplishment. So it's a lot of energy and excitement for me.
Q. How has it been achieved?
VINCENT SPADEA: Through a lot of hard work, a lot of decision-making, building a support team of coaches and positive influences in my surroundings. And, downright coming down to me, my focus and adamant approach to give this game one more serious try, and knowing that my youth is going to go sour at some point.
Q. Did the work ethic change at some point?
VINCENT SPADEA: The work ethic, it didn't change completely. It changed from the time I was a little lackluster and my approach was sort of careless. But I have had a lot of intensity in my years, and I applied those good experiences into what I know now. And, I made some additions in my team of advisers to the point where I could improve upon that. So it's been really great so far.
Q. Your career is quite strange in a way that you didn't stop playing, you just stopped at a certain moment winning. It's not that you retired, you were still in the game, but it just happened that you were not able to win.
VINCENT SPADEA: Yeah, I lost my edge. If you lose your edge for 5 percent or 10 percent, it can mean a great deal of difference.
Q. It is quite unique.
VINCENT SPADEA: Yeah, I wasn't injured for six months or one year. I was injured temporarily maybe two months at two or three different times during this period, but I never had something that was so significant to take me out of tennis. I just happened to not have that passion and not have the capability to win.
Q. You were number 19. Now you are close to that again.
VINCENT SPADEA: Yeah, I'm getting closer. It's one of my goals, to get back into that position, and maybe take a step further. To make it to these later rounds in Tennis Masters is a great improvement, something I never was before. I said this maybe six months ago, I feel like I'm a better tennis player, I'm building towards a better career now than I did even when I was in the Top 20. But it's not easy to be there, so I'm pursuing just to get back there, and, hopefully, show some more good results like that.
Q. You take inspiration from someone like Agassi?
VINCENT SPADEA: I took inspiration from an Agassi, a Capriati, a person who was injured like a Muster when he had that knee injury and came back. There's a lot of great examples, but it's a rare achievement to be able to do so. In my position, it was quite different because I was ranked quite low and I wasn't the name of these types of people. I had the inspiration of them, but I didn't have their status. So coming to the tournaments, I didn't have any wildcard opportunities, I didn't have any support from any outside connections to maybe give myself a little bit advantage to make a comeback. So it's been really down from the ground level, from the bottom of my efforts.
Q. How is your relationship with clay, surface-wise?
VINCENT SPADEA: Well, clay, I was in a quarterfinal here four years ago. I made some finals , a final in St. Polten. I was in many quarterfinals , ATP in Europe. Made third round of the French Open two times. So I've won matches on clay. In Florida there's clay courts all over town.
Q. Which do you like better, hard court or clay?
VINCENT SPADEA: I don't know. I think it's similar, very similar. I've played well on hard court as well. I think it's similar, though. Growing up, when I was young, I played good on clay. I won an Orange Bowl tournament on clay and had some -- if you see the past winners of a tournament like that, they played great on clay: Courier, and I think Kuerten won, Lendl. I think I had an opportunity to play well on clay even throughout my life, so this is good to see...
Q. Speaking about those old times, was your father always with you? He's following you again, or no more?
VINCENT SPADEA: He doesn't travel as much. He stopped traveling when I started to play some more challengers. He did it with me for so many years, and I don't think it was fair for him to have to go back to all those tournaments, so I told him I will do my thing. He gives me advice, and I travel with different people now. But, no, he comes sometimes, maybe if it's...
Q. Still singing?
VINCENT SPADEA: Yeah, he's singing, entertaining. He's doing a lot of things. Doing real estate.
Q. Did he ever try to teach you singing?
VINCENT SPADEA: No (smiling).
Q. Your semifinal, have you got any thoughts on how you're going to approach that?
VINCENT SPADEA: Obviously, it's a big challenge for me. Ferrero has always been an outstanding clay court player, and he's posted significant results. But, you know, it's a match-up now. Now it gets to the point where you play only two players left to win a tournament, and you have to design a strategy and a force to try to win. But, obviously, it's a great challenge. I played him in 2000 in a Davis Cup dead rubber match, and, you know, it was just -- we lost to Spain and I played against him.
Q. Did you win the first set?
VINCENT SPADEA: I lost in three sets. So I have experience playing against him on red clay in Europe. It was in Spain, so... It's been a while, though. Obviously, I expect him to be in good form, like he was today.
Q. You said earlier that you added to your support team. What particular qualities were you looking to add?
VINCENT SPADEA: I was looking to incorporate new people, a new approach to tennis and to my game, to add things to my game. Because whenever I retire, I want to know that I did the best thing I could with my tennis game. I brought in some coaches to help my serve, to help my volleys a little bit, even my ground stroke game, my forehand, and just to see -- I went and made some phone calls to the people I believed in and I wanted to see what they felt about me.
Q. Would you mention the name of those people that are on your team helping you?
VINCENT SPADEA: Well, I think people know. I mean, I know in the United States they know I was starting to work with Pete Fisher, the doctor, Pete Fisher (phonetic). I've worked with him since 2001. I started when I made this decision. I started part-time with a tennis psychologist as well to get different insight.
Q. The name?
VINCENT SPADEA: Dr. John Murray (ph). He's in Florida, in my town. He has a book out. It's called, "Smart Tennis." He was helping some Olympic athletes at the time, and I felt I didn't have much to do at home and I needed to just see -- you read about athletics now getting more interested in this, not just for people who have problems, but people like Tiger Woods. You hear and read about these success stories. So I felt like that was a good just option to try. And I started traveling with just some traveling coaches that were young and hungry. It was important for me to get with people who were passionate and hungry, because I was at that point where I had been eight years on the tour, I needed people to help me with energy as well.
Q. You never thought about stopping in very bad moments?
VINCENT SPADEA: Not stopping. I eventually would have probably kept playing, trying hard, and, you know, maybe making Top 200, Top 150, maybe Top 100. But unless you really, really focus and commit at this point, then you will just play challengers. The challenger circuit is very underrated. It's challenging (laughter). This player I played today, he's had a few years fighting hard in this circuit. He's starting to come slowly. Now it's a great tournament for him. So I'm sure he's very thrilled. When I played the challengers, I went to the quarterfinals, I lost with Roddick. Blake was playing in the challengers, you know, all these players who now you see Top 50, Top 30. It's not easy, unless you're ready to win against them.
Q. And the smallest village you played in when you were playing challengers, where was it? The smallest place, very small, unknown.
VINCENT SPADEA: Well, I played mostly challengers in the United States so a small town in Missouri, small town in Texas, you know, driving a lot.
Q. Ball boys, there were ball boys there?
VINCENT SPADEA: No.
Q. Umpires, maybe?
VINCENT SPADEA: (Smiling). Umpires, yeah. Ball boys, no. But it was a very humble experience - and scary, you know. Because it's fearful when you're at the brink of success to, you know, sliding down further.
End of FastScriptsâ€¦.