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August 29, 2001

Patrick Rafter


MODERATOR: Questions for Pat.

Q. At 2-5, how comfortable were you that he would blow himself out?

PATRICK RAFTER: Not at all. It was a bit of a scary time. You get down a set, start panicking a bit, start pushing things around, go for a bit more. That's when things start becoming dangerous. He gives you an opportunity with not a lot of pace on the first serve, so you feel like you should do something with it. You can get yourself in trouble that way. I found myself in matches before, similar conditions, blowing it. Today, just had to find my serving pattern. It's very different from day to night. I struggled with the first half a dozen games, that's for sure.

Q. Did you expect him to be so strong in the first set?

PATRICK RAFTER: Listen, he's a good little player. I didn't expect him to return so well in the first few games. I was trying to look for weaknesses, strengths, where he was covering at the beginning. I couldn't find anything. The court plays different at night than it does during the day. It was hard to kick the ball up and get it away from him. He handled my serve pretty well I thought in the first couple of games. Started to make me a little bit nervous, started to get a bit frustrated because I couldn't find a way to get it away from him.

Q. In the second set, you found your rhythm?

PATRICK RAFTER: Found my rhythm, started serving well, found where his weaknesses were. Christophe probably hung his head a little bit. I expected him to probably fight a little bit harder. He got a little bit frustrated out there and he couldn't find any way to hurt me after a while. I think it frustrated him pretty badly.

Q. I sat next to a woman who said that you were her favorite player because she's never heard anything bad about you. I was wondering how wearying that is to know you have this image that is of goodness personified? No one can be that way all the time.

PATRICK RAFTER: That's true. That's true. Listen, it's a matter of time before I stuff up. It really is. I mean, I try to live as normally as I can. Sometimes, you know, you act like a bit of a hooligan. I've got that in my blood a little bit. I'm pretty sensible, but at times we have our weak points. I just haven't been caught yet (smiling). Just a matter of time, though.

Q. Got to get out of the game while you still have your reputation.

PATRICK RAFTER: When you get out of the game, they get worse (laughter).

Q. Talking about James Blake yesterday, young American guy, mentioned over a period of 12 months that you were able to say a couple of things to him, encourage him. When you were -- did you get a lot of encouragement from the top players when you were young?

PATRICK RAFTER: What I found was a huge thrill for me was being in the locker room probably '89, '90, those years at the Australian Open, seeing a guy like John Fitzgerald walk by going, "Good day, Fitzy." "Good day, mate." He didn't know who the hell I was. I thought that was great. I remember Yannick Noah playing Lendl in the semifinals of the Australian. I said, "Good luck, Yannick." He goes, "Thanks, mate." It was such a huge thrill. Those things stick with me, especially those guys. There are a lot of guys on the tour that don't do that, as well. Sort of turn their head, you say hello, they do that (looking away). Especially when we were all coming through, as well, there were a lot of guys like that. Now there's some really good guys on the tour that say hello to everyone. It's good for young kids coming through. I met James, I really started talking to James probably a year or two ago in Bermuda at the tournament there. He was just a really good fella. Take people as you find them. Doesn't matter what their ranking is. If they're a dick, they're a dick. If they're a good bloke, it's good. He's a good fella.

Q. There was a poll in which they asked people who they'd like to be for a day, of Australians. You beat Russell Crowe, Ian Thorpe. Wanted to know how you felt about that.

PATRICK RAFTER: The Australians?

Q. Yes. You won like 31.3 percent, overwhelming.

PATRICK RAFTER: What do they want?

Q. They were asked who they would like to be for a day. They picked you over Russell Crowe, Ian Thorpe and John Howard. How does that feel?

PATRICK RAFTER: Thought it would be Russell Crowe, I reckon. They picked me. Good-looking girlfriend, I guess. That's why they picked me. Well, you know, the popularity in Australia, after Wimbledon, I haven't been home since, but I heard it was very, very positive. Then the public have been great back in Australia. That's I guess a sign or a reflection of how things went at Wimbledon. I guess if you put Goran in there, they might say Goran. No, it's just always a really nice feeling when you're recognized in little ways like that.

Q. Considering how different the conditions are at night here, Sampras or Agassi, which would you prefer to play at night?

PATRICK RAFTER: You'd probably have to say -- probably neither, I don't know (laughter). You know, I've played Andre in a few night matches in Grand Slams, a couple times in Australia, and at least once here. It's good to play Andre sometimes at night because you're the one doing a lot of work. He's going to run you around. At the same time, you get a bit more work off his serve. With Pete, he's going to serve big, whether you play him day or whether you play him at night. I played him here in the day, had success. Oh, listen, I'd probably prefer to play day, keep preferring to play day. Get into a better rhythm throughout the tournament.

Q. On your run to the title, how many times did you play at night?

PATRICK RAFTER: '97 Andre. I remember that match. That's probably only once. In '98 I started off the first match against Arazi. Must have squeezed me in there somewhere else, I reckon. Can't remember. Probably day is better.

Q. Top seeds have to play at night to give the TV something to show. Have you made any requests to play day matches mostly?

PATRICK RAFTER: Yeah, I prefer to play during the day. I made that point to them. The first match of this tournament, I said, "I'm sick and tired of playing a night match the last three years. I don't want one." "Okay, we'll play you second one if you win." I said, "All right. I'll get through that." "Maybe third one." "Steady on." It's out of my hands, but I think there are a enough top players on that they can shuffle them around, put them on day and night. I don't think it would be really fair if we had to play another night match straightaway. But I think it's generally play one night match a week. I don't know if that's a rule, but they try to get the players a bit of a say in that. I've tried to say I only want one match a week at night.

Q. TV screens interfere at night matches?

PATRICK RAFTER: No. I think if you get a lob put up, then it might sort of cross over. Change of ends, I wasn't looking. You couldn't notice it. I didn't notice it in the ball toss or anything. A great little added touch. That's the best crowd I've ever seen at the US Open ever, even during a finals, I think. It was a good atmosphere.

Q. Why was that?

PATRICK RAFTER: I don't know.

Q. Why were they good? A lot of Aussies?

PATRICK RAFTER: No, no, just a lot of people. It was packed as I've ever seen it for me. It was good.

Q. Seles was there earlier.

PATRICK RAFTER: I think that's what it was.

Q. Escude, I think you play him next?


Q. Lapentti, sorry.

PATRICK RAFTER: That's all right. Comments on Nicolas. I played him a few times. I've had success. Once or twice I got him when he wasn't playing his best tennis. Now I think he's playing some good stuff. He likes the conditions here, the ball flies. He's got a lot of topspin. He's pretty aggressive. He likes to come in, as well. I just hope -- I hope he still remembers that I keep beating him. It's some sort of mental thing for him. I respect his game. I'm going to have to play well. I know that. If I don't, I'm going home.

Q. Is it going to be on Saturday?

PATRICK RAFTER: Yes, I think so.

Q. Are you pleasantly surprised to be where you are considering how uncertain you were late last week?

PATRICK RAFTER: Uncertain about what?

Q. About how you might go, your body.

PATRICK RAFTER: I was pretty confident my body would hold up. It's a matter mentally. It's always tough the first couple of matches. Till you get yourself in the tournament, I think the players find the first couple matches are a little bit scary. After that, they find some rhythm and confidence. I pretty well speak for most players on that. When you generally see the guys go out, they generally go out pretty early, the big guys.

Q. Are there any famous people you'd like to switch places with, Australians?

PATRICK RAFTER: Any suggestions? I need a real list. Give me a few names.

Q. Russell Crowe, Ian Thorpe, John Howard.

PATRICK RAFTER: I don't want John's job, that's for sure. He can have that.

Q. John Fitzgerald.

PATRICK RAFTER: John Newcombe (laughter). I haven't really thought about that. You've got me. I'll get back to you. If I think of someone, I'll tell Miki.

End of FastScripts….

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