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December 3, 1999

Cedric Pioline


ITF: Questions for Captain Forget.

Q. Can you give us your feeling about this afternoon? Can you talk about Sebastien and his performance?

CAPTAIN FORGET: Well, the result is 1-All, which is not bad as a result. In '91, we were 1-All on Friday evening in Lyon, and in Malmo also. I hope tomorrow's doubles -- well, it will be crucial. There's no doubt about that. We will have to earn that point. I think it's possible.

Q. It seems that Sebastien was not sensitive to the pressure. What was your impression on the court?

CAPTAIN FORGET: Well, I believe that Philippoussis played an excellent match compared to what he can do on clay usually. It was a very high level of tennis, given what was at stake and the atmosphere. Sebastien had opportunities. He was a bit hesitant, but on the contrary, Mark Philippoussis was better and Sebastien played average. When you play average against Philippoussis, you lose all the time. It's logical. But anyway, Sebastien has not to be ashamed of this loss. I think Mark Philippoussis was stronger than he was today. He tried certain tactics, but between what he was trying to do and what he really did on the court, it was different and he didn't give Philippoussis much trouble. I think in spite of the slow surface, Philippoussis served very well, hit very hard. It's something you have to congratulate him for.

Q. What were you saying to Sebastien? How were you trying to make him come out of this bad situation?

CAPTAIN FORGET: I tried to tell him to give very few points away, to be very solid from the baseline, and to use his forehand, to move Philippoussis a lot on his serve. But he was not able to do it. He couldn't use his forehand. The ball was not coming off the racquet properly. He never put Philippoussis in danger, at no moment. I think the percentage of first serves was quite average. With his backhand, he played short. He had a point for 5-4 in the first set, and he was not convincing in his shots at that stage. Little by little, Mark was more and more confident; played better; was able to go at a higher pace, and that's the difference. If Sebastien had been able to play 20 percent faster than he did and take the opportunities, he could have done differently. But, unfortunately, today he was a bit halfway only.

Q. Are you disappointed?

CAPTAIN FORGET: Well, of course, I would have liked him to play a great match and to win. The only thing I asked them yesterday and the day before was to go to the limits of their strength. I think Sebastien had one chance of winning today. It was the case with Pioline today, but it was not the case with Sebastien. He didn't use that occasion. I think the main thing is that the player has to be committed; he has to play the best he can until the end of the match. If it was not his day, well, it's not his day. I'm sure that Sebastien was feeling guilty at one stage and was trying to buy back a conscience. Anyway, Sunday against Hewitt, he will have to raise his level of game, which is possible. But if he plays the same match as today, he won't win against Hewitt. He has to be aware of his capacities. He has to analyze the game of the opponent, and he has to be more convincing and more convinced of his game.

Q. What can a captain do to put him back in a position to win a match?

CAPTAIN FORGET: I think the main thing is to make him stop feeling guilty about this defeat. I lost in '91, my first match. This didn't prevent me from winning the last match after that. In fact, the objective is not winning each match; the objective is winning three points. I told him he had to prepare for a decisive match, a live rubber on Sunday. Now, on the court, I'm not the one playing, I'm not the one making choices, I'm not the one refusing to make the point. Sometimes I'm sick sitting on the chair. I prefer to be more distant. I chose the two players who were the most fit today. In practice they were at a very high level. Now it's up to them to win the matches. Of course, I try to support them and to give them good choices. But, in fact, the credit comes to Cedric. Today even if I helped him a little bit sometimes, the credit has to be given to him entirely. As to Sebastien, he can only be angry with himself, otherwise it wouldn't be tennis anymore.

Q. You talked twice about the Lyon final. Can you compare the two?

CAPTAIN FORGET: Well, I used my experience from Lyon. But the things I noticed in Lyon are not always the ones which can be useful to the players today. But I have also Malmo behind me. In the end, it's one Australian against one French player. When you're a captain, you have no power over the situation so it's sometimes frustrating.

Q. The doubles are very important in this competition. I would like to know if Cedric had had the same type of crowd that he had today - the crowd is important - if Cedric had had the same crowd today in his Grand Slam finals, would he have won the match?

CAPTAIN FORGET: Well, he played against Sampras, which he was at his peak during this period of time. It was impossible to win against him. The question now is whether the crowd would have been enough to make the difference and to fill the gap between the two players. It's very difficult to say. I think that today the crowd has a share in the success of Cedric. Cedric was able to communicate his enthusiasm to the crowd. This is something rare with Cedric. I liked it a lot. He had an intimate relation with the crowd. Sometimes I was thrilled on the court because of that.

Q. What made the difference in that match?

CAPTAIN FORGET: I think Cedric is more complete than Hewitt; he's more powerful. Both had an overwhelming desire to win. Hewitt is very fast on the court. I think the difference came with the fact that Cedric is more complete and mixed up the game more than Hewitt. He proved it when he won the game 6-5 in the third. It was very tactical shots he had to hit, and he was able to do them. He's capable to play these types of shots. Against Rafter, it might have been more difficult. Anyway, this time he was able to pull out.

Q. What did you feel at 5-5?

CAPTAIN FORGET: I felt bad. At that moment, Hewitt had nothing to lose anymore, so he relaxed and tried many more things. He had some luck. I don't think Cedric played badly, apart from the match point maybe where he got surprised. But the other one made two or three winning returns. From 5-2 until the end of the match, I felt that I was watching an exceptional match. As far as the quality was concerned, there was a commitment from both players, which was remarkable. It was a typical Davis Cup match - two guys were playing their best tennis with no limits, even for inaccessible balls. It was beautiful to watch. Each time I was thinking Cedric would finish the point; Hewitt was coming out with some extraordinary points. The logic of the game was respected. I think it's logical that Cedric won 7-5 in the third because he was more aggressive during the whole match; he was able to wait for the right moment. Of course, Philippoussis earned his victory and deserved it, but Cedric also.

Q. How is Cedric now? What did he feel on the court when Hewitt was coming back?

CAPTAIN FORGET: Well, he was frustrated because Hewitt was coming back. He was seeing that Hewitt had a bit of luck. He was thinking, "I can't believe it." He was starting to be worried. But I gave him the truth. I said, "Just believe in the quality of your game. You're playing at a very high level, and he is incredible. He's playing perfectly. You have nothing to be concerned with. You don't have to be angry at yourself because you're doing your best. You're doing the maximum you can do. This is the law of the sport." I hope it helped him because after that particular moment, he reacted and he continued and continued trying; he didn't give up. In the moment, he could fall into a hole, because of the frustration. When you are up 5-1 and you have a match point, and then the other one comes back, it's very difficult. They played three hours and 40 minutes for three sets. Also they were a bit tired. There was a lot of tension.

Q. Hewitt said if he had won the third set, he would have won the match.

CAPTAIN FORGET: No, I'm not sure of that. I think Cedric was ready to play one or two sets more. The other one played the end of the third set in a phenomenal way. I don't believe Hewitt would have been able to maintain that level until the end of the match. He would have had ups-and-downs. When you are two points away from a match, when you are at three sets, winning a match, it's a great difference. I think it's incredible saying that.

Q. Since '78, all the teams winning the doubles have won the finals. Do you think it will be the same this time?

CAPTAIN FORGET: Probably. Now statistics, you know, they are not always right. Maybe we will win the doubles and lose the two singles afterwards. It's also possible. Anyway, the one winning the doubles will have a good option for the final, for winning the tie. But everything will not be done. Anyway, the team who will lose the doubles will not have to give up anyway. (Cedric Pioline arrives at press conference.) The hero of the day.

Q. You looked very stressed in your chair. Is it the worst day you had as a captain of Davis Cup?

CAPTAIN FORGET: No, no, no. Emotionally it was very strong, of course. I didn't bite my nails, which is what I usually do. I suffered, of course. I had extraordinary moments. I watched a beautiful show. It's always difficult. I think everyone in the room was concerned with Cedric's match. We will remember the match he played in Nimes against Krajicek. It was about the same intensity. I suffered as much as he did, which means that the victory is even more beautiful.

Q. Cedric, can you tell us how you feel?

CEDRIC PIOLINE: Fine, thank you. Everything is okay. I had a little probably doing pee-pee. But, no, I'm okay. It was long. It was difficult also. The decision was difficult, but it's okay. I think we're prepared well. I knew it would be that type of a match. I was not surprised. Well, three hours and 40 minutes to play three sets, it's a bit long.

Q. You played a complete match, apart from your serve. Maybe that was the negative point of your game. How can you explain that?

CEDRIC PIOLINE: I don't know. Negative? Well, how come? What do you mean?

Q. 48 percent of first serves is not the best you can do.

CEDRIC PIOLINE: Yes, but there were many rallies on the court, long rallies. But when my serve was going in, my first serve, I was winning many points. Maybe it was also because I was taking risks. It's not obvious to play serve-and-volley on a second serve on this type of court.

Q. In the middle of the second set, you played more serve-and-volley. Was it part of your tactics?

CEDRIC PIOLINE: No, it was part of nothing (laughter).

Q. It was to make it shorter?

CEDRIC PIOLINE: No, because I saw it was working, that's all. In the beginning, I was a bit afraid because I know he returns very well. I thought if he returned on clay, it would be slower, so he had more ability, so I was a bit worried. Then I saw that it worked, so I used it.

Q. Physically, you felt perfectly well from the first to the last point?

CEDRIC PIOLINE: There are always ups-and-downs. In the third set, in spite of the score in the beginning of the third set, I was a bit tired. But after, it came back again. It was a full match, I believe.

Q. How do you explain the difference between a player like him to beat you twice, and why is there something more in Davis Cup?

CEDRIC PIOLINE: I don't know. I think it's the fact that there is a high challenge. It's a fact that you play for your country with all the crowd behind you. There's sort of a pride, meaning you don't want to lay down.

Q. Talking about the atmosphere and the support you had around you, isn't it something that you miss with the two finals in the Grand Slams?

CEDRIC PIOLINE: Maybe. I'll tell you next time (laughter).

Q. Shouldn't we have the same people around you for a Grand Slam as the Davis Cup, because it works very well?

CEDRIC PIOLINE: Well, it's a different kind of competition.

Q. The Swedes were doing that at a certain period of time.

CEDRIC PIOLINE: Yes, why not? Nothing is impossible. In Wimbledon, it's going to shock people anyway. If people yell the way they yelled here, it would be shocking at Wimbledon (laughter). But why not?

Q. Were you surprised that Sebastien's match lasted only two hours? Did it bother you?

CEDRIC PIOLINE: I was a bit surprised that it was so fast, indeed. It was a good thing that it was not too long because it was the right time for me after the meal I had. It was perfect timing. Of course, today he was dominated. There was not much for him to do.

Q. Are you going to talk to Sebastien?

CEDRIC PIOLINE: Well, I didn't watch really closely his match. Beyond the game, I can talk with him, of course. I'm certainly going to talk with him, to tell him many things (laughter). But I think it can help him. I don't know how he felt today. If it was only tennis, or if he was a bit overwhelmed by the situation, I don't know.

Q. There was a big difference between both of you. We felt he was under pressure, and you were looking to be supported by the crowd.

CEDRIC PIOLINE: I think it's important to accept what happens, accept everything that happens. It's impossible to fight against what is happening. There are 10,000 people. They are overexcited. There's a great challenge at stake. You cannot ask people to keep quiet. We can't say it's not the final and things like that. We have to accept what happens and we have to manage the situation the best possible way. I think it's the right way to go.

Q. To come back to your match. Three times you were widely ahead; once in the tiebreaker, in the third set also. Each time you were caught by Hewitt. How do you explain that?

CEDRIC PIOLINE: I think at certain moments he played very well. He played exceptionally well. Maybe myself in certain moments, I could have put more pressure on him, force him to make a mistake. When things happen several times in a row, you can wonder about them. This is something we have to discuss with the captain, my coach, to know what they think about it.

Q. What do you think about Hewitt? He seems unique on the circuit.

CEDRIC PIOLINE: He plays well. There's no mystery. He's very fast. He's a very good fighter. I believe his game is very tiring also, so I'm not sure he will be able to play every year, year after year, in the same way. All the players will start to know him a little bit better; know his weaknesses and his strengths. But it's true that when he plays that way, he's very good.

Q. How difficult do you expect your match against Philippoussis to be on Sunday now that you've at least seen a little of the way he's playing now?

CEDRIC PIOLINE: I think it's going to be difficult. He played very well today, apparently. With his game, his serve, his power, he is someone who has a complete game. It's going to be very difficult and you have to be aware of that before the match. Now, I hope that we will be at 2-1 for France before that match, so maybe there will be less pressure on me at that moment.

Q. What feeling does it give you to be the saver of the situation? It happened to you several times.

CEDRIC PIOLINE: You get used to it (laughter).

Q. Really?

CEDRIC PIOLINE: No, it's pleasant. It's a nice thing. It also means it's a lot of pressure because people get used to it. They say, "Well, Cedric is going to make up for the other loss." It's not always easy to manage that. It's also a pleasant feeling. When you don't miss, it's pleasant. It was difficult because there was the challenge, the pressure, and you have to face all that. It's valorizing in a certain way, makes you feel good.

Q. When Hewitt came back in the third set, Guy Forget believes that Hewitt was playing an exceptional game at that moment, but your level was very high at that moment also. Were you aware of that or was it necessary for your captain to tell you?

CEDRIC PIOLINE: No, I was seeing that he was trying to give everything he had in himself. He also was a bit lucky. He tried certain things. What he tried went in. I mean, it's a bit frustrating on the other side because you play well, you are in a position to finish the match, and it doesn't happen. It's not easy to remain concentrated, to tell yourself you have to continue. At 5-All I had a bit of luck also in my game. It was that or he was taking the set. In fact, Guy just confirmed what I was seeing myself.

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