August 14, 1996
NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT
JOE LYNCH: Leander won the Olympic bronze medal in the Atlanta Olympics. Flew home for
the celebrations and flew back this weekend. First question for Leander?
Q. If you flew back, did you get jet lag out there? Seemed like you never got into the
LEANDER PAES: Played last evening and I was feeling awake, feeling a lot more
comfortable playing an evening match. At the end of last evening's match, I felt a little
tired physically, but this morning when I woke up, I was really sleepy. I tried to get out
and do some running, get my body to be awake, but got on the court and I was not there. My
whole rhythm was disorientated. I was feeling very tired physically. When you play a
player like Rios, who is as talented as he is, you give him the upper hand, it's going to
be really tough to come back.
LEANDER PAES: He's a very talented player. I've played him three times including today.
The one thing that you don't realize about him is if he starts well, if you give him a
lead early, he starts hitting out. On any given day, he can play very, very well or he can
have an off day. I love playing someone like that, love playing someone who hits passing
shots and down the baseline and stuff like that. Today my feet weren't quite there, so I
was struggling today.
LEANDER PAES: No, not today, I couldn't.
Q. Can you put in perspective, two guys playing tennis out there, one who is monstrous
in Chile, maybe the most famous sports player there, can you put in perspective for
America what you did and how you were welcomed by India when you came home?
LEANDER PAES: It's going to be tough to express and relate as to what the feeling was.
At the same time, just to give you a certain example, when I won Juniors Wimbledon I had a
welcome of about 1,500 people at the airport. When I went back after the Olympics this
time, I arrived at four o'clock in the morning, there was the only tennis federation
president, vice president and 5,000 other people waiting for me, including press,
reporters, TV, camera. I mean, that's not including the security guards. We had about a
good 500 security men there. They were just getting bowled over.
Q. That was India's tennis president or the president?
LEANDER PAES: India's tennis president. I mean, at the airport at four o'clock in the
morning, I thought it would be quiet and peaceful. I thought, Yes, I can go home and get
some sleep. Little did I know. I went into a little room to try to finish with the
pictures and the media, and the camera men who were outside, they took a brick and they
threw it through the glass pane, broke the glass pane to put the cameras in. That's when
it started getting dangerous for me and I got up and had to take off. I promised the media
some other time. I said, I'll be at the hotel, do it this evening when we don't have any
glass panes around. It was something else.
Q. What was it like for you (inaudible)?
LEANDER PAES: It was so close to my heart. Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to get my
own Olympics medal. There's something about the Olympics rings that I just wanted my own.
I wanted it so badly. I worked really hard for it. Ever since I've been a kid, it's been
one of my biggest goals. Playing Agassi in the semifinal, having two set points was a
special moment. He played really well and won that match. Playing for the bronze medal,
after the first set, I was reminded of my goal. This is your chance, you've worked your
whole life for this, let's get on with it. You're tired, but let's go. I came out
fighting, and the whole second set I broke twice, had a chance to break again. Even in the
third set, I broke, but lost. It's a dream, living in the position of achieving something
you dreamed of. Sometimes you go over hurdles that a lot of human beings don't. It's an
attitude that was with me that whole Olympics two weeks.
Q. Back at home, having talked to people who were there, what was it like as you were
progressing through to the semifinals?
LEANDER PAES: A lot of press coverage. I was on the front page of about four national
papers every single day, pictures, mini article on the front page, another big article
about the match and the write-up, how the games went on the sports page. They gave me like
about a minute and a half every day on the news, which is a lot of time. I mean, I've got
all the recordings and all the paper cuttings and stuff. My dad is preparing his own
scrapbook now, Olympics scrapbook. It's a lot of fun. I really enjoy what I do. I love
playing tennis. Even today, I mean I was beaten really badly, but at the same time I was
out there to have the most fun as I could. Some days you have tough days like this. Some
days you lose, some days you win. You've got to a keep a smile on your face and be
realistic with what's going on.
Q. After the first game of the second set (inaudible)? Seems like even though nothing
was going your way, "I finally did something, this is great"?
LEANDER PAES: That's right.
Q. Is that what was going through your mind, had you to do something?
LEANDER PAES: I hit an ace on the last point. One ace (laughter).
LEANDER PAES: Correct. Basically took me 20 hours to get to India, and all through that
flight I was trying to get prepared for what was happening at home. Basically the hour
before I left, got the fax sent to me about what was happening during the day I was in New
Delhi, during the day when I was in Calcutta. My dad and captain were with me on the
flight. They simply went through the whole I continue rather. I met the president at
10:45, president of India at 10:45, had to meet a whole bunch of kids at 11:30, I had to
meet -- maybe a little off with my times, but after that I had to meet a major sponsor of
the Indian Olympics team, Citibank, oil company which is a sponsor of the Indian Olympic
team. Basically I had 15 meetings that whole day, 15 functions. I'm getting a pro at
giving speeches now. That was the first day in New Delhi. I got to bed at 12:30 that night
after dinner function that the Indian Olympics president and the Indian tennis association
president gave for me. I finished that and got to bed at 12:30. Woke up the next morning
at 6 and took a flight to Calcutta. Got there at about 9:30. I was greeted by about
another 4,000 odd people there. The cops were really warned, told what to do. We had about
a thousand cops outside. They learned what happened in New Delhi. They came out. I had out
riders, guys in the front with machine guns, guys in the back with machine guns. Not even
a fly came to hurt me. That was neat.
Q. You went back Sunday?
LEANDER PAES: Yes.
Q. 20 hour flight as well?
LEANDER PAES: Yes.
LEANDER PAES: Yes.
Q. To where, London?
LEANDER PAES: Calcutta-Bombay, Bombay-Frankfurt, Frankfurt-New York, New York I took
the ferry from JFK to Long Island, took the ferry over here.
JOE LYNCH: Planes, trains and automobiles.
LEANDER PAES: That's right.
LEANDER PAES: First time I played I won, second time I played, last year, I lost in 6-1
in the third. I was up a break in the third 3-1 or something like that.
Q. Were all those this year?
JOE LYNCH: Indian Wells Challenger last year.
LEANDER PAES: Then here last year.
Q. The first time you played at Indian Wells till today, how has his game changed
physically or mentally? Does he seem a lot more confident out there? He's risen amazingly
in the rankings over the last year.
LEANDER PAES: I found one thing. I didn't test him too much. One area I found got a lot
better with him is his first serve. He's a lefty, so that gives him an advantage when he's
playing because he can slice that ball out wide. When he's playing a shot, I'm looking to
come in, punish it. I felt he got a lot of first serves in. I don't know his statistics
today, but he got a lot of first serves. He kind of pulled me wide, pulled me out. He was
varying his serve a lot. That's something that I was struggling with today. I think I had
two breakpoints all day today. He missed a forehand winner up the line.
Q. You going to stay in the United States or going back to India, 20-hour flight?
LEANDER PAES: I'm not going to make that mistake again.
Q. How long will it take you to get your bearings and play the way you were being at
LEANDER PAES: I think it's physically to get in shape. The reason is I'm tired. I need
to take a few days off to let my body recover, training, running, weights, getting back to
my routine. Going to India, I got off my routine. That kind of threw me off balance for a
while. It really showed out there today. I'm going to do from now to when the US Open
starts for me, which would either give me about a week. If I get the wildcard at the US
Open, would give me about ten days. That's what I'm looking at.
Q. When will you know if you have to qualify or not?
LEANDER PAES: The first time I've been in this position. I'm going to ask on Friday,
call the USTA and ask on Friday. I will definitely know by Tuesday evening because the
quallies start on Wednesday.
JOE LYNCH: I believe the draw is Wednesday.
LEANDER PAES: That's right.
JOE LYNCH: Anything else for Leander? Thank you.
End of FastScripts