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February 17, 2021

Diede De Groot

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Press Conference

D. DE GROOT/Y. Kamiji

6-3, 6-7, 7-6

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Congratulations on your third Australian Open singles title. Talk us through the emotions going through the match.

DIEDE DE GROOT: You can maybe tell, I'm still tired, still out of breath.

I think the first set I was really in the zone, I did the right things. I really managed to, yeah, sort of play in the process, like invest in my game. I did that really well.

Then the second set, it really went back and forth. Even 5-3 down, I came back - 5-3, I think - I came back to 5-All. Then 6-5, but I didn't manage to then finish it. I don't know, I really went back and forth, yeah.

Q. The ending was a bit premature. How do you regroup to come back and actually finish it?

DIEDE DE GROOT: It was really hard. I don't think anyone out there, not my opponent, not the people watching, nobody at home, not myself, knew that it was a 10-point tiebreak. Yeah, when he said that, even then I was like, No, it's not.

He's like, Yeah, it's a 10-point.

I was like, No, it's not.

I really had to refocus and go back and think to myself I can do it to 7-4, I can do it to 10. I just have to be tough, I guess. I managed to do it.

Q. Have you ever been in that position in a match before where you literally thought you'd won and then you hadn't?

DIEDE DE GROOT: No, no, definitely not like that. Not at an important match like this. Not where nobody knew. So, yeah, it definitely was a different situation. I think it made it even more -- I was more proud of myself just for regrouping, to finish it, yeah.

Q. Seemed in control in the second set, early in the second set. What happened?

DIEDE DE GROOT: I think what Yui does really well is she notices certain things, so I think in that second set, even though I was in the lead, I wasn't feeling as confident as I was in the first set. She really, like, picks up on it. She's back in the right game. Yui does that really well. She really took advantage of that.

Q. It's been your third Australian Open. Given the context of the match, given what the world is going through, what you've done to get here, how does this one compare?

DIEDE DE GROOT: That's a tough one because for a long time my first Australian Open was really the win that I appreciated most. That first one was really something I had to fight for. It was a mental match. It really made it maybe even the most important win of my career.

Yeah, this one, it might level. It might be even better. It's tough to only play three tournaments last year, then start the year off here in Australia reasonably normal, to sort of be there straightaway. You can't leave anything behind. I didn't do that, so I'm really proud of myself.

Q. Is it the first time you've ever played a 10-point tiebreak?

DIEDE DE GROOT: At the end of a third set, yeah, in a singles match. In doubles it happens quite often where they, yeah, don't play a third set but play a 10-point tiebreak. Not in singles, no.

Q. When you got to 10-4, wasn't the same kind of emotion at 7-4, but there seemed to be some tears. Is this one especially special to you given the circumstances?

DIEDE DE GROOT: I think the emotions really came from the fact that we have been out here for five weeks. I think in those five weeks I had two days off. It really has been all about just training, training, training, then playing loads of matches.

You really need to sort of have that in your mind, that it's going to be a long trip, it's going to be a lot of tennis. But I think those days just putting the work in really came out and I was just happy to sort of pull through. It was the emotions of a strange ending of the match that also made it really difficult.

So, yeah, that was sort of all of it came together and it came out.

Q. Is this the first Grand Slam title you've won that you've not had Amanda with you courtside?

DIEDE DE GROOT: Yes, maybe. I hadn't thought about that yet, but I think so.

Q. Is she back home because of COVID?

DIEDE DE GROOT: Well, really there's a few reasons. Five weeks is a long time for someone to come, especially when you come home you need to quarantine for two more weeks. It doesn't just end tomorrow.

Then, as well, not having a lot of tournaments for us last year, we don't earn as much as the able-bodied players. It's a lot of money to bring someone for five weeks.

There was a few reasons, but I decided to come out here and, yeah, really just forget about all that, just do it myself I guess.

Q. Singles title No. 50, as well.

DIEDE DE GROOT: Sorry, what was that?

Q. That's singles title No. 50, as well. A half century of singles titles.

DIEDE DE GROOT: That's cool.

Q. Even by yours and Yui's standards, that was a close match, very tight?

DIEDE DE GROOT: Yeah, yeah. I think it's the tightest one that we've played. It really was going back and forth. I think in the last set, nobody knew what was going to happen. Even though I was down, I was up again, then I was down again, it really went back and forth.

Q. 3-All seemed to be the turning point of each set, then things changed for either one of you in each set.

DIEDE DE GROOT: Yeah, I think really a tennis thing. At the beginning of the set, everyone is just sort of calm still. As the match progresses, as it goes to 3-All, you know sort of like, okay, the person who wins this next game is going to go to 4-3, and that's really an important game that you want to have. I think both of us felt that.

Q. Going back home, you mentioned you have to go into a two-week quarantine. You've had five weeks out here. How much of a change is it going to be? How much do you appreciate and have you enjoyed being in Australia, the Australian Open making this happen?

DIEDE DE GROOT: Yeah, I think the biggest difference was going to be the temperature. We were below zero. We had snow and ice back home. So that was going to be a very big difference.

But it seems like the temperature is going up at home, as well.

But I think, yeah, it's really special that we had the chance, and Tennis Australia created this opportunity for us to play here and to have, like, a normal start of the year in Australia where the rest of the calendar is still very uncertain, tournaments are being canceled. But we did have the opportunity to play here. I really appreciate it. It makes it worth having to quarantine here as well. I think it's worth it to play a tournament like this.

Q. Yui just had a press conference. She said maybe the quality of today's match was really high. Of course she wouldn't say she didn't regret, but she maybe played one of her best matches today. How did you feel about your performance and level of today's match?

DIEDE DE GROOT: Yes, I feel the same way. Yui really pushed and pushed on me. She really - I don't know how to say it - like she made me have to play my best game. Yeah, I think the way the score was, as well, it really made it that we had to bring the best.

Q. Last year was tricky for everybody. You changed the chair two years ago. You might have needed time to get used to it. Maybe you couldn't practice as much as you want with the coronavirus. Talk about the progress you made from last year to this year.

DIEDE DE GROOT: I think last year, what made it difficult is that I had a back injury, which really lasted very long. I think it lasted maybe like a year where I was really struggling with my back.

I think a few changes, like the chair, COVID, everything came together which made it really difficult for me in January, throughout last year. But right now I feel like everyone is getting more - it's strange to say - but more used to how things are. Same with me.

Q. Your back is okay? You started practicing as much as you wanted?


Q. When did you start practicing?

DIEDE DE GROOT: I think maybe September. It really was a long time.

Q. How do you see the rivalry between you and Yui? Do you think it's now equal to Nadal and Federer, Borg and McEnroe?

DIEDE DE GROOT: Maybe like a mini Nadal-Federer, tiny version.

It's really big. Both of us, we bring the best out in each other. We always try to improve to the next game. We know each other very well and we will always try to be better for the next match.

Q. It was a very intense match. Is it one of your best matches against Yui?

DIEDE DE GROOT: I think one of the most nervous ones. I think both of us were up and then down and then up and down. That made it very intense.

So, yeah, definitely most intense match.

Q. Today the serve was very good. How did you improve your serve today?

DIEDE DE GROOT: Yes, one of the things I tried to train in the lockdown, have a bit of a different motion. It's more relaxed.

Q. Your thoughts about the Tokyo Paralympics this summer?

DIEDE DE GROOT: I'm really looking forward to it. I'm also already preparing. I know it's going to be a long summer because a lot of tournaments have changed the dates to the summer. I know that going home right now, we won't have tournaments until May maybe. That's going to be a long time where there's no tournaments. But then it's going to be a lot of tournaments.

I'm already in my head thinking about that place, trying to stay fresh, trying to improve.

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