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September 1, 2001

Patrick Rafter


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. First set tiebreak, you're down 3-2. Rattle off five straight points. What changed at that point?

PATRICK RAFTER: I guess I just took my chance pretty well in the breaker and from there it was sort of tough conditions. We're both trying to find our feet. And Nic really never found it, never really found what worked best for him. He started making some good returns on my serve near the end and it looked like that might be the way to start returning. But he found that game a little bit late in the match. And on his serve I think he struggled finding the right ball toss. It was very tough conditions to get any rhythm out there at all.

Q. You know anything about the guy you're playing next?

PATRICK RAFTER: Nothing. He's a hairy fella. (Laughter). Just gonna be, you know, you don't want to play Pete at the best of times, even at the worst of times. So for him... Just go out there and give it my best shot. Nothing really more you can say about it.

Q. Pete obviously has not been playing his best tennis this year. Do you have a sense he may be more vulnerable this year than he would be in years past?

PATRICK RAFTER: I'm gonna treat the match like he's still the No. 1 player in the world. And he's the guy you don't want to play. Simple as that. He's the No. 1 guy you don't want to play. And that's the way I've always treated Pete and that's the way I'll treat him in the next match - with a lot of respect. I know I'm going to have to play very well. I still think it's interesting to listen to the commentary during his matches. In the first set it was how old he was, how bad his backhand was, how bad all these things were. All of a sudden at the end of the match it was he's the greatest player again, he was a great athlete, and he had a great backhand. It was quite annoying watching listening to the commentary today and them writing him off and being negative about him, which was very frustrating to hear. I know he'd be frustrated with that.

Q. Have you ever been in a fourth round match like this?

PATRICK RAFTER: Yes, I have. 1995 Australian Open, Agassi. I got killed. (Laughter). That was a big night match in Australia. I was just, you know, trying to find my feet. Maybe that was the third round, maybe it was the fourth round. No, I think might even be fourth round, I don't know. But it was a really hyped up match in Australia.

Q. Is there a key of how do you approach playing Sampras on hardcourts?

PATRICK RAFTER: Oh, listen, I've played a good match against him in Indian Wells, was one or two points in the match. He'll serve and volley first and second serves. I'll be serve-volleying first and second serves. Just got to get his serve back, simple as that. Make him play a lot of tough volleys. Pete does volley well. He moves around the net after he makes his first volley. So you got to put him under a lot of pressure on his serve, which is very, very difficult to do, how good his serve is. And my serve's just got to be pretty well similar, play the way I'm playing.

Q. He's beaten you the last three times you played?

PATRICK RAFTER: Has he? Bastard. (Laughing).

Q. Does it count for anything?

PATRICK RAFTER: We've had some tight matches. Wimbledon was very close. Indian Wells was a very close match. I can't remember the last one. Whenever it was. But, yeah, I mean we've had our matches where I've beaten him three times, he's beaten me ten times. He's beaten me a few more times again. It should be a good match.

Q. Do you feel any looser because you're going to take a break at the end of this season?

PATRICK RAFTER: No, not at all. No, it's not looser. It's not tighter. It's just the same. I'm not feeling like this is a whole lot of pressure for the last Grand Slam. I've got to do well. Nothing like that at all. Just the same.

Q. Whether it's a day match or night match?

PATRICK RAFTER: Day, I'm sure. Bloody better be. Sick of these night matches.

Q. How do you explain how Pete has been unable to win a tournament this year? You know, you're saying people write him off. How do you explain his dry spell?

PATRICK RAFTER: Well, I don't know what Pete does in his off time. I really don't know. But he's getting himself, I think, two or three finals at least this year and he's given himself opportunities. Just because he hasn't closed them out doesn't mean he's not going to win one for the year. He just hasn't played a lot of tennis. He lost a lot of early matches, and a few of the times he stayed over in Europe which is pretty good of him. He usually just gets on the next plane and goes home. I know on the clay court he stayed over and did some work. I don't know how hard he's working or what his priorities are. But we all have our bad, you know, if he's working hard then maybe he's just having a bad patch. We all have them. He's a great player but we're all vulnerable to him.

Q. How about yourself, you haven't dropped a set yet. Are you playing better than '97, '98, as well as?

PATRICK RAFTER: No, pretty solid. I'm working out the matches pretty well. I think that's the big keys of my game right now is that I'm trying new things when things aren't really going well. And I'm looking for the weaknesses a little bit better than what I had in the past, trying to exploit the other guys' weaknesses. It's been working pretty well for me.

Q. What about the comparison to the years you've won here?

PATRICK RAFTER: Yeah, I've been hitting the ball pretty well. I think I've been thinking a bit better these days, a bit older and wiser. I'm a wise fella.

Q. On a different subject, your countryman, Lleyton Hewitt, has gotten himself in a little bit of a stew. Not talking about that incident directly, but talking about the issue of race in tennis, do you feel that the ATP Tour or the USTA, one of the governing bodies, these two address this issue? I don't know whether that's talking to the players about the issue or sensitivity training. Does it need to be talked about in any way?

PATRICK RAFTER: Is this your way around the question?

Q. No, I'm really writing a story about the issue broadly, not just Lleyton.

PATRICK RAFTER: Race... You know, with Lleyton's situation, first of all, those sort of things I won't talk about. It's nothing to do with me. I know you want to try and get this, so I'm just going to let you know right now --.

Q. Seriously, I don't want to get there.


Q. I'm not interested in what you think or don't think about Lleyton. I really am interested, though, because you are one of the more respected voices in this game to know what you think about the issue broadly. It's been brought up with Lleyton, with the Williams sisters this week. I mean, it's out there.

PATRICK RAFTER: Yep. Again, it's such a delicate situation that doesn't need to be, which shouldn't be. It shouldn't be an issue. You just treat everyone the same. To me, it's ridiculous that race is an issue at all. I don't know, it's just a strange thing to me. I know it's out there, but it's -- I don't know. I don't know, it's a really tough question. But for me, you don't look at someone and say, "Oh, he's black, he's white, he's Asian and I have to look at him a little bit differently." And I don't know the issue in tennis. I've never seen an issue, especially not in the men's game, that's for sure. I've never seen a black or white issue in the men's game at all. When there's a black tennis player, they've always been extremely well liked on the tour, as is James. And I know Lleyton does like him. But with the Williams sisters, I don't know what the women -- I'm pretty sure, you know, they haven't got a race issue with them at all either. But I don't know. It's just a really messy situation, if you ask me that doesn't need to be an issue. Shouldn't be an issue.

Q. Can you talk about heat of the battle, like athletes do, is there a point where comments made shouldn't be allowed on the court regardless of what they are, if they can be interpreted as worse than maybe they were intended? Does there have to be a point where an athlete shuts down and says, "I have to be a gentleman or I have to be a gentle women"?

PATRICK RAFTER: That's just life in general. Doesn't have to be on a tennis court. I think that's just life.

Q. Do you think that --?

PATRICK RAFTER: Is there a place for heat of the battle? No, I mean of course not. There's certainly not an issue for that in anything. I certainly don't see it. Then if people do, then I don't know what their agenda is. But I'm pretty sure -- geez, you found a way around this question, haven't you? I don't know. I just really don't want to answer that question because there are too many ways you can interpret it and put it back to a situation.

Q. Have you ever been in a situation where you wanted to say --?

PATRICK RAFTER: Oh, God, no. Not at all.

Q. I'm not saying racist. I'm saying in general where you just wanted to swear to the world.

PATRICK RAFTER: Beat the shit out of someone down the other end?

Q. Exactly.

PATRICK RAFTER: Yep. I wanted to beat the shit out of Tarango a couple times.

Q. And you stopped yourself.

PATRICK RAFTER: No, well I wanted to go but he didn't want to. So that was it. (Smiling). Listen, no, there are issues, yeah. If it's a -- yeah, I've had a few -- you know, if someone's hacking me off on the court and I don't think they're acting properly, yeah, bloody I'll speak my mind if they've been acting up or playing up or saying things to me. Geez, yeah, I'm ready to get right back into their face.

Q. At what point do you say, "No, I can't say that"?

PATRICK RAFTER: No, there isn't. I'll say everything. Yeah, I mean if I'm against Tarango, it was great. Should of have seen it. It was a beauty.

Q. Do you remember what you said?

PATRICK RAFTER: Yeah, I can't repeat it. (Smiling).

Q. When was that?

PATRICK RAFTER: It was in Antwerp. A few times we've played, we've had complications. He sort of does that to wind the other guy up. But it just makes me mad and wants me to beat him even more. Sort of works against him a little bit. Against other players, I don't think there's any of it. I think Jeff's done it in fun before to see if he can wind you up. He does a good job of it. But there aren't too many guys on the tour. There definitely are times where you lose it, yeah.

Q. Do you think in sports now that's encouraged? People want to see it, they want to see guys go crazy?

PATRICK RAFTER: A lot of the sporting bodies don't really allow - I know back in Australia with the Rugby league and Rugby Union, if you punch someone now, you're suspended for six weeks or whatever. Before it used to be great fights, you know, all sorts of things. Now you just don't see it. I think a lot of the sports have cleaned themselves up for the better of the sport. But people still want to see it, I guess. And in tennis, you know, you've had the John Mac who set, I don't know, something -- set sort of a funny example out there. But he attracted people to go and watch. It was fun to watch and I enjoyed watching it as well. "When's he going to snap? When is he going to lose it?" It's great to watch. It is fun to watch, but it is sort of a sad way for entertainment.

Q. Is it the "watching the car wreck theory"?

PATRICK RAFTER: Yeah, I mean certain things -- it's always fun to see things go so far without going too far, without stepping over the boundaries.

Q. Is it stepping over the boundaries more now, do you think?

PATRICK RAFTER: What are you referring to?

Q. I'm referring to sports in general. Is it happening more often that people aren't stopping at that point where it's past entertainment?

PATRICK RAFTER: To me, I think the sports generally have cleaned themselves up very well. I think you always are going to have your exceptions though.

Q. You're not gonna comment on whether you saw the Lleyton incident?

PATRICK RAFTER: I saw it. I saw it. I'm not going to comment on -- that's up to his -- for him and his party to talk about, not me.

Q. Have you seen him?

PATRICK RAFTER: No, I have not seen him.

Q. What do you think about Nicolas Lapentti?

PATRICK RAFTER: He's an idiot. (Laughing). Nicolas and I, we're good mates. It was a tough situation out there. It was tough conditions. I think mentally

and -- especially mentally it was very hard to hit the ball and he was struggling out there. He wasn't playing his best tennis and it's very hard to play good tennis in those conditions. But Nic, he just didn't play very well tonight.

Q. How much of Pete's match did you see on TV? Did you see anything?

PATRICK RAFTER: Oh, no, just Pete playing, you know, his game. I was impressed with the way he served. He played well. He was aggressive and he played well. I think people are trying to write him off, but, you know, not me. I'm , you know, I'm weary.

End of FastScripts....

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