March 14, 2003
INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA
MODERATOR: With the win today, Vincent advances to his first career Tennis Masters Series semifinal. Questions for Vince.
Q. When you played him earlier this year in Adelaide, he beat you. What was different about today's match?
VINCE SPADEA: I'd never really seen him play that first match. Sometimes it's difficult to know a guy's weaknesses and tendencies. Today I think I had a better read on what my strategy was going to be because I thought I knew his game a little better. I went about my game plan and executed very well off all parts of my game.
Q. What was your game plan?
VINCE SPADEA: Well, I mean, he's a very good ground stroker and he moves well. It's similar to what I try to do. I was going to try to take advantage of his serve because my return is one of my better shots, try to gain some leverage on the point that way. Also on my serve, I was going to try to gain an advantage early on in the rally. Once you get in the rally, he's difficult to attack and to beat. We had some tough points. You know, I got to some of his weaknesses, and it was just a small margin, even though the score was not as close as it seemed.
Q. When was the last time in a tournament of this quality that you hit the ball so well over a consistent period of time?
VINCE SPADEA: How long has it been? Probably 1999. It's probably been about four years. It's been a bunch of years since I've hit the ball really well in any kind of event. I've just been stringing along about a year and a half of real consistent, solid tennis. It's culminating to points like this week. I'm just grateful that I was able to go out and relax and play like I've been trying to train and improve my game, because I have been focused on a lot of different parts of my game.
Q. What is the toughest thing about playing Brian Vahaly?
VINCE SPADEA: I mean, Brian is a very tough groundstroker. He takes his backhand very early. If you hit the ball short, he'll put you on the run. He's capable of just moving you around a lot, tiring you out. At the same time he's very consistent so he can play, you know, a steady game. He's not only a counter-puncher, he can also attack with his backhand down the line. You just have to be patient and wait for your chances to attack him, try to win some free points with whatever weapons you have.
Q. Would you say you had a sweetheart draw this tournament?
VINCE SPADEA: I mean, on paper, you can make an argument for it. That's just the way it goes. I can't really help what my opposition was this week. But at the same time, you know, I've shown that I've beaten Top 10 players over the years consistently. If anything, the jury was out based on how I would go through a tournament like this when players that were beatable, less highly ranked, I could accomplish that. So I think I've proven a lot this week. If anything, it might be a bigger accomplishment than what I had in the past when you used to beat -- you know, I made the quarters a few times in the Tennis Masters Series. I beat two Top 10 guys per those tournaments. If anyone wanted to make an argument about it, if you play two qualifiers, you know, Paradorn I don't think was an easy match.
Q. He's the only guy you played in the main draw that wasn't involved in the qualifying.
VINCE SPADEA: Right.
Q. Would it be accurate to say that you had tougher matches in the qualifying than you had in the main draw?
VINCE SPADEA: I wouldn't say -- well, maybe the scores might tell you that. I think every day I've gotten better, my form has gotten sharper. I think I've just increased my competitiveness every day, and I think the Norman match was definitely tough, and the first match. There's adversity no matter who you're playing basically. But, no, I wouldn't say those were my toughest matches.
Q. Forget sweetheart draw. Do you have a sweetheart?
VINCE SPADEA: No, I'm single.
Q. In San Jose, Justin Gimelstob was commenting at length about his fall in the rankings, now he's had some recent success. He went on to say that you were his hero. You dropped so far down, came back. The only you could do that is if you have something deep within. How does it feel to be the hero of Justin Gimelstob? What did you have within you that caused you to become that?
VINCE SPADEA: Well, first of all, that's nice of him to say that about me. He's showing some great progress himself. He's starting to show role model status in himself with what he's accomplished in the last few months. I had to take it upon myself. Like you said, it was within me in 2001 to make some decisions, get in my head and my tennis priorities back into what was going to be something of a progression, because I was floundering for two years and actually moving in the wrong direction, to the extreme. It wasn't like I had excuses where it was like, well, I was really injured for a year, you know, I lost my whole ranking because I didn't play. In some ways I was out there making myself a worse tennis player for some reason. I got a team, I designed a program, and I went about it. I was forcefully, adamantly, mentally, and physically going for a comeback. I asked the people that I felt wanted to be passionate about tennis, knowledgeable, and that would encourage and motivate me to do so. I worked with Dr. Pete Fisher, I called him. I started working with a tennis psychologist off and on. I started with a great fitness program. So all the way through, this was more or less a project, and it wasn't sort of a fluke that I'm starting to play back to my form of four years ago.
Q. You still have an association with Dr. Fisher?
VINCE SPADEA: Yes.
Q. What's he brought to your game?
VINCE SPADEA: He's brought so much to my game. He's improved my serve tremendously. He's improved my mental outlook, my strategy. Even the things I did well - my forehand, my backhand - I feel have improved. He's very serious and passionate about tennis. Those are the kind of people I wanted involved with what I was trying to do because that's what -- it hasn't been easy, it's not magic, but he definitely has a gift.
Q. How do you deal in your own mind where a man who obviously is so tremendously gifted in one area of his life, but has had a serious problem in another? How do you deal with that?
VINCE SPADEA: It's not difficult to deal with. I go to him for his expertise the same way you go to a doctor or a lawyer, for their expertise in their work. You're not really concerned or concentrating on their personal life or the outside-the-office life. The same way he is towards me. We go, we have a professional relationship, and after we go our separate ways and continue to live. To me it's been very easy. It's a business approach. There's been good chemistry and things have worked out so far.
Q. How often do you see him in LA?
VINCE SPADEA: As often as I can. I go out there probably four or five times a year.
Q. What happened in 2000?
VINCE SPADEA: 2000, I just basically think maybe I lost a little interest. I lost some matches. I was injured, had a chronic shoulder problem for weeks on end. I pulled out of a bunch of tournaments. Then I came back a little early. When you're not playing a hundred percent, you're going to lose. Even if you're playing a hundred percent, you're going to come close to it, to winning or losing. It just came down to losing some close matches, then started to get a little bit thinking unclearly, not really taking time off to prepare and those types of things. I think that's what happened. Some of those matches that I did lose, I was serving for the match. I lost tough three-setters to guys who were ranked really high. It wasn't sort of a total destruction where I was tanking matches or I wasn't out there -- well, maybe I was competing 85, 90%, maybe I was injured 10%. Those combinations. After a while, you start to wonder. The confidence factor comes in, all that. But the broadcast of the actual losing streak was so significant that I think that helped me in a way. I wasn't cognizant, aware of it, until it started to get sort of way down the road, towards the Wimbledon era. Also the -- whatever. That's what happened.
Q. Look ahead to playing Lleyton Hewitt.
VINCE SPADEA: Well, he's favoured to win today. I can't say that he will for sure. If I happen to play him, I've played him twice, lost to him twice. I haven't played him since '99. Obviously, he's a great player. He's accomplished a lot so far. My game's improving. I feel like if I'm on, I can be competitive with anyone. Of course, I've beaten world No. 1's before. I think anything can happen in any given match. But obviously he's tough to beat no matter what's going on.
Q. Tennis fans know about Lleyton, Andre, Pete. People don't know that much about you. Is there one thing that's particularly interesting or unique that you've done in your career or personal life that you can share with us?
VINCE SPADEA: I don't understand the question. In terms of career?
Q. In terms of you, that makes you a unique person or special.
VINCE SPADEA: I don't know how to answer that question. I haven't come up with any identities that I want to really bring out at this point. I'm still trying to work hard and get my name out there so people recognize my name first. The more I'm in the press, then I can maybe divulge more about me and what my personality's like. I think naturally that happens. At this point I have a long way to go before people start prying into what kind of person I am. I can't really give you too much info on that, at least in a press conference.
Q. Do you think it gets to the heart of your character that you've had dips and you've been able to recover from them, you're on another recovery right now?
VINCE SPADEA: Is that my personality -- I'm an extremist or something? I wouldn't say that.
Q. No, that you're able to conquer adversity.
VINCE SPADEA: Yeah, I feel like I have a strong-willed heart. I do have capabilities of greatness at times. It's just a matter of putting the talent and effort and mental skills all together. I'm motivated now, and I think it's creating a good situation for me to win more and more based on what my past has been. But I wouldn't say my tennis results would reflect what kind of personality I have in terms of Type A or whatever you call that stuff.
Q. When you went through that long losing streak, there were obviously points in matches as it went on where you would say, "Here goes again." Do you ever have to fight that off now, that you think it's slipping away, de'ja vu?
VINCE SPADEA: No. You always feel like that when you're competing, you're always trying to get the edge. If you lose a bunch of points, you're going to be like it's coming again. That's the actual losing of a match, it's not the actual losing of the matches that happened. To me, that was just -- it was kind of something that happened and people recognized it more than I did. I'm not really looking back, I'm looking forward. If I happen to lose a match this year or whenever I'm playing, when I'm losing a match, I don't think about anything.
Q. What would it mean for you to win this tournament?
VINCE SPADEA: It would be a great accomplishment. Obviously it would probably be the highlight of my career. I wouldn't want to talk about that right now. I don't think it's close to happening yet. I still have a lot of good tennis to play. You know, being a qualifier, getting far, deeper into the tournament, is encouraging. I haven't really done that in a while. I mean ranked 56 this week, I didn't expect to play a lot of qualifying matches this year, at least for the first part of the year, while I'm ranked there. It's been great to put matches together. I mean, this is probably the most matches I've won in a row just because -- I mean ever maybe. To win a tournament like this is so extraordinary. No matter what happens this week, the idea is just to stay hungry and humble and consistency is the most important thing. I'm looking to go out there and give it my best shot week in and week out.
Q. Do you have to qualify in Miami?
VINCE SPADEA: No, I'm in the main draw.
Q. It's a bigger draw?
VINCE SPADEA: Yes.
Q. You played Juniors, then went on the tour. Do you recall when you realized that it was no longer playing a game, that you had a job playing tennis? Do you recall when that was?
VINCE SPADEA: Probably when I was like 19 or 20, just when I turned pro. You realize the traveling, the expenses and the prize money, all those things make you realize, all the work you do in the gym, all the tennis balls you've hit are mounting to something monetary. If you really think like that, it can also be a little bit of a problem just because you want to enjoy what you're doing. You don't want to force yourself to do things just based on what the reward is.
Q. It's more like a way of life than a job?
VINCE SPADEA: A way of life, enjoying of a challenge of business. I think that's the way to look at it. You're setting goals, trying to meet goals. I mean, to the point where no matter how bad it gets or how great it gets, you have to sit there and think, "What's going to make me wake up the next day and go to the gym and do these things is not that I can make another hundred thousands or 50 thousand, it's that I enjoy doing that." When you get to those extremes, you would probably not want to do that unless you really enjoyed meeting your next goals. That's how great businesses are built, I think, and great athletes. Enjoying the competitiveness. Jordan out there is playing still. It's not because he's making a big salary. He likes to win and he likes to compete and likes to get out there and do what he loves.
Q. Is making the semis of a Masters Series the highlight of your career?
VINCE SPADEA: I don't know. I was in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open. I don't know how you would compare those two.
Q. I'm asking you.
VINCE SPADEA: In my opinion, it's one of the highlights, yes, of course. I think it's a highlight almost for any player unless you're maybe Pete Sampras or something. Still that would probably be one of the lesser highlights. But I think it's a highlight no matter what you're doing, who you are.
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