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March 14, 1999

Mark Philippoussis


GREG SHARKO: Mark wins his first career Mercedes Super 9 title. It's his second ATP Tour title this season. He's the first Australian to win the title here at the Newsweek Champions Cup. He'll also move to a career high No. 11 on the ATP rankings tomorrow. First question for Mark.

Q. How does it feel to win the biggest title of your career so far?

MARK PHILIPPOUSSIS: You know, it feels great. It's extra special knowing that Carlos was No. 1 in the world. I played some great tennis today. I was just very pleased.

Q. What do you think is the basic reason behind the great start you've had this year? You've started to come through in a way we've all been looking for for a year or two.

MARK PHILIPPOUSSIS: A lot of people mature quicker than others. I'm just a slow maturer. I love having fun. I'm a big kid. I just had a lot of other things on my mind. I've been working hard the last few months. I have just been enjoying myself, working extremely hard. I've just been concentrating on the court, just been fighting. Enjoying the challenge, I'd have to say.

Q. Was there one moment when it changed, when your attitude changed? Was there one defining moment?

MARK PHILIPPOUSSIS: Probably around Wimbledon time, I think, making the quarters there. I was in a bit of a slump in my career. I was thinking about quitting for a while. More of a relief than anything making the quarterfinals of Wimbledon. Just going on and playing some good tennis in the summer, then making the US Open final was a big turnaround for me.

Q. How close were you to quitting for a while?

MARK PHILIPPOUSSIS: Well, I mean, I was very close. I rang up my father and said I wanted to book a flight to go to Florida. Losing a match, I lost a lot of matches in a row, I was very depressed at that stage. Sometimes you say things also that you don't mean when you're depressed. I'm happy I didn't.

Q. Did he talk you out of it? What did he say?

MARK PHILIPPOUSSIS: He said, "Just relax." He'd be flying down. We sat down and talked. After that, just trained really hard with my coaches, just kept the head up, just tried to fight.

Q. Do you think getting back into the Davis Cup team for this year will put all that other stuff behind you and help as well?

MARK PHILIPPOUSSIS: Yeah. I mean, that's an issue that I've made some decisions in my life, right or wrong, you learn from them. It's very important for any athlete in any sport to play for their country. It is also for me. It was difficult for me. To see the other guys playing for the country, didn't feel great for me to watch. That's the decision I made. Now I'm happy that I'm back on the team, just looking forward to a good start.

Q. How big a part have Gavin and Pat played in your resurgence?

MARK PHILIPPOUSSIS: A huge part. It's always great having my family support. My family's done everything for me. My father has made me what I am. I definitely have to say that. It's just great having Gavin and Pat with me. They understand me as a person more than just as a pupil. They're more good friends. That's very important.

Q. What in particular has Pat perhaps added to your game?

MARK PHILIPPOUSSIS: Obviously winning Wimbledon and being there, having that great attacking game, serve and volleying, chip-and-charging. I've worked a lot on that, to add that to my game. I've built up confidence from serve and volleying, chip-and-charging. I feel good. If I'm not winning the points from the back, if I have to come to the net. I feel confident enough to do that.

Q. With this new found confidence and consistency in your game, in theory shouldn't really be anything stopping you from going right up to the top.

MARK PHILIPPOUSSIS: You know, I tell you what, I feel great at the moment. I feel very confident. I physically feel great; mentally. Only time will tell. I'll keep on fighting and enjoying my tennis. Anything could happen.

Q. You played one more match than Carlos. But in the end, it was you who looked the stronger player. Is strength another vital part of your makeup?

MARK PHILIPPOUSSIS: Yeah. I mean, I was -- don't get me wrong, I was tired out there (laughter). I didn't want to make it seem like I was tired. I kept my head up. Just my mental approach to the match, concentration I think got me through at the end. I felt tougher, just hung in there.

Q. He said that the key to the match was the third set. Do you feel that, too, since he won the fourth set?

MARK PHILIPPOUSSIS: I mean, it always does making it easier winning the third set. You can tend to relax a little in the fourth set knowing you're up two sets to one. I was sort of trying to save some energy in the fourth. But then I broke up. Unfortunately, I got broken again. I just tried to put on the pressure. Come into the net, and if he passed me, too good. Made some unforced errors. Got me the early break.

Q. When you looked across the net, at the new world No. 1, did you think at all, "That could be me one day soon"? Do you see yourself as the No. 1?

MARK PHILIPPOUSSIS: I think what's improved for me is just my self belief. There's always been talk about having the game or having the talent. The thing is, I think for me, it's just believing in myself and just giving myself the commitment to fight. Like in the past, I would have broken down if it went to five, sort of not gave it to him, but just mentally lost it in the fifth. That's what's improved. I'm feeling great at the moment. Like I said, anything can happen. I've got a whole year to go, a lot of tournaments to play.

Q. How far do you look ahead? With your game, do you and Cash, does the name Wimbledon drop into the conversation at all?

MARK PHILIPPOUSSIS: Not really, though it's dropped into my thoughts a few times. I don't like to think about things so far ahead. There's a lot of other tournaments to play before that. To be quite honest, every tournament I go into, I feel there's no reason why I can't win it. There's no reason why at all. That's what I'm thinking when I'm playing these matches, when I'm going to these tournaments. That's what's changed.

Q. What about the upcoming clay court season, how do you feel about that, your chances in those events?

MARK PHILIPPOUSSIS: I've won a clay court title. I feel comfortable on clay. It doesn't really worry me. I feel I can rally from the back if I have to. My fitness has improved. I'm looking forward to it.

Q. What was your particular concern today about his game?

MARK PHILIPPOUSSIS: I wouldn't say concerned, but just something that I was aware of is his consistency. He just makes you fight for every point, makes you win everything. I knew he wasn't going to give me much out there.

Q. Is that similar to the other two matches? Was it played out pretty similar?

MARK PHILIPPOUSSIS: It was very similar to Alex Corretja, just the heavy groundstrokes. Carlos has got a bigger forehand, I think. He can mix it up a bit more. He can come into the net.

Like I said, I just hung in there and made a couple of unforced errors at the end.

Q. Do you get the feeling that the gap is closing; anyone who gets on a really good roll, can have a chance of sustaining and getting a place in the Top 5, say? Everyone's having strange moods at the moment.

MARK PHILIPPOUSSIS: I'm not too sure about what everyone else is doing. Like I said, I've been training hard. I mean, I know where I'm going at the moment, which is good. Hopefully that's up. I mean, I don't know what to say. I'm just playing with some confidence, just hoping to stay consistent for these other tournaments.

Q. Earlier, when you were talking about maturing, the point was made about people were waiting for you to make your mark in the game, et cetera. Do you think maybe in a roundabout way, the attention focused on you was negative in that it was putting that pressure on you; you wish maybe there hadn't been all the talk about you?

MARK PHILIPPOUSSIS: I wouldn't say it was negative. It's great to me to see how people think of me, saying I've got a big game, what I could become, or what I'm capable of doing. It's flattering. But I had to put that all behind me and just worry about myself, what I wanted to do as a player and as a person, instead of what other people were expecting from me.

Q. Since you've been working with Gavin, has the change been more getting you to focus, or has it been actually a bigger change in the actual work that they get you to do, particularly Gavin?

MARK PHILIPPOUSSIS: Well, we work hard on and off the court. We don't work for a lot of hours. We just like to work for a short time, some very hard training for an hour, very focused, get off the court and do other things, get in the gym for half an hour, go fishing, play golf. Get on the court; do what you have to do, then get off and enjoy yourself. That's what we've been doing.

Q. Is there any way to put into words or express how much having the big serve helps the confidence when you're down in a game or facing a breakpoint?

MARK PHILIPPOUSSIS: Sure. I mean, I've worked on my serve since I was 14 years old. I'd go out on the court with my father and serve for an hour every day. Everyone works to have a weapon. I don't want to say that's my only weapon. I feel like I have a lot of other things to back up my serve just in case it's not working. But it does make life easier when it does, you know, work.

Q. Very often when a player wins a big title, it's tough to back up two days later and start a new event. Do you think it might be good for you that Lipton is not starting until much later in the week?

MARK PHILIPPOUSSIS: Definitely, I think that's a good thing. I'm going to go to LA with some friends now, have a good night, celebrate. I'll go home, relax, get to Miami early. Relax and have some easy days up there, get ready for it.

End of FastScripts....

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