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September 13, 1998

Patrick Rafter

Flushing Meadows, New York

Q. Did you ever think it was going to be that easy?

PATRICK RAFTER: You know what, that wasn't the first question I expected.

Q. Congratulations.

PATRICK RAFTER: That wasn't it either (laughter). You guys will get to the question, don't worry. I'll tell you when you get to it (laughter). No, I mean, after the 2-All game, I think I just showed a bit of emotion there. I was a little bit frustrated at myself. I just really seemed to loosen up, you know, I took my chances on Mark's serve. And then from then on, I just gained more and more confidence.

Q. You're leading 3-2, he's serving in the third set. Unbelievable point at deuce.


Q. Was that the turning point in the match? Did you feel like that really deflated him a lot?

PATRICK RAFTER: I think that had a bit to do with it as well. He went a little bit easy on his next service game at 5-2. He lost his momentum and rhythm on his serve because I was making a lot of returns, making him play a lot of tough volleys. He was going for a little bit more on his serve. He lost it a little bit. And it was hard for him -- he wanted to pick it up again in the fourth set. But, again, I jumped off to an early start. Psychologically, he never recovered.

Q. That point was so important. Could you take us through it as you saw it?

PATRICK RAFTER: I think I had breakpoint there 30-40. He miss-hit a forehand volley a little bit. I thought, "Oh, no."

Q. Then he hit the overhead.

PATRICK RAFTER: That's right. Then I thought, "When am I going to get my break I need?" He's someone you have to make -- you have to play a great shot against him to break him. So then I had that opportunity. You know, I got a let cord there at deuce. You know, nothing really went right for him at that point. That was the turning point, I think, in the match. It could have been.

Q. You almost failed to make it past the first round. How does it feel now to be US Champion again?

PATRICK RAFTER: That's what I was thinking when I was sitting down at the change, nodding to myself, thinking, This is not right, I should be at home right now. So, you know, those sort of feelings were going through my mind. Again, to repeat what I've done was also going through my mind. Very lucky. I felt that way the whole tournament, very lucky to be here.

Q. Last year at this time, you were like in a complete state of shock. You've been the best player in the world for a few months, culminating with this win. What's the difference? How do you feel now?

PATRICK RAFTER: I was asked that question I think it was with Wally Masur in the locker room. He said, How does it feel? I said, It feels a little bit different. Obviously the last year I was jumpy, I was nervous, I was all over the place last year. This year I feel like although I got lucky in the beginning, I feel as the matches progressed that I belonged here. So the feeling was not quite the same. I think it will really hit me in another week or two.

Q. Is that why you were so subdued in your celebration when you won? None of that jumping.

PATRICK RAFTER: Well, yeah, that and also I'm playing Mark. Obviously the initial feeling was not quite as exciting as last year. I mean, don't get me wrong, take nothing away from this title, but last year, I think it was more nerve-racking. I got off to a start of 5-Love this set. I think it was becoming inevitable that I was going to win the match. Whereas last year, it was, you know, I was probably a little bit more nervous in that game. Cynthia, you haven't got your red dress on.

Q. I brought it.

PATRICK RAFTER: Not good enough.

Q. One of the things that Pete Sampras said the other day when he was in here, we were talking to him about your rivalry, the fact that you're coming up now as a guy who can challenge him, he sort of said, "I look at a guy as a great player if he can come back and do it again, not if he does it once." Whatever he intended at the time, we don't know.

PATRICK RAFTER: Maybe you can ask him that question if he thinks that now. For me, again, I won another Slam, and it hasn't sunk in yet. It's very, very exciting for me, especially to repeat it.

Q. Are you thinking No. 1 is now something that's right there for you?

PATRICK RAFTER: Listen, it is there. I wish the next few tournaments were on this sort of surface. I really have adapted my game around this sort of surface. And to be a No. 1 player in the world, you can't be -- you can't play on this sort of surface all the time and be the No. 1 player in the world. So I have to be able to prove myself on the indoor courts again.

Q. Australia is similar.

PATRICK RAFTER: Australia is similar, but not exactly like this.

Q. Obviously there's elation at being the champion again. You have a fellow Aussie there a bit crushed at the moment. What are your feelings for Mark now?

PATRICK RAFTER: I don't know how dejected Mark is. As you said, he is very upset? You know, it's a big occasion for both of us. And I think me having the experience last year really helped me this year. I was very, very relaxed in this match. Walked off the practice court, I was talking to the guys thinking, This is completely different from last year, I was so jittery. This year I was just cruising, you know, it was like another match for me. I played like it was another match for me. I had five unforced errors, nerves really never played an issue in today's match because of the experience. What I can say to Mark probably won't have any effect on him directly right now, but I'm just so happy for him to do well, and he is going to be one of the top players in the world once his whole game comes together. You know, it's exciting for him. Hopefully he can see it that way.

Q. (Inaudible) that your love of hard courts is all in your head?


Q. Can you play just as well on grass? How you going to sort of bring that about next year?

PATRICK RAFTER: I don't know. I feel the -- the reason I feel that way is because I move so well on this sort of surface. When I move well, I play well. My game goes hand-in-hand with my movement. The problem I have with the grass and sometimes the clay also is the movement side of it. I just don't -- I'm not as explosive as I can be. I don't get to as many balls and intimidate players quite as much. That's where I find the differences between those surfaces. Obviously, I have to get that out of my mindset if I want to become -- to rival Pete at the top.

Q. You were saying that you didn't want to celebrate too much because Mark was there. How difficult was it to mentally prepare for this match?

PATRICK RAFTER: As I said, it wasn't at all.

Q. Did it change anything, having Mark as your opponent?

PATRICK RAFTER: If anything, it made me more relaxed. It didn't make me nervous at all. If anything, it had a calming effect. Whether that's a good or a bad thing, I don't really know. If I was really up for the match, maybe -- I don't know. It's hard to say.

Q. Why do you think it had a calming effect on you?

PATRICK RAFTER: Why? Not necessarily because it was Mark, but it was the finals. I'm not quite sure if Mark had that effect.

Q. I know there may have been some misunderstanding with McEnroe's remark.

PATRICK RAFTER: That was the first question. I was just waiting for it.

Q. Is it nice to prove him wrong?

PATRICK RAFTER: Well, listen, if he did happen to say it, I don't really know. I will always defend John on this side of it. It would be great to have a little dig at him. But John's only been very positive to me in the locker room. So I've got no bad feelings to say to John at all.

Q. You haven't lost on this court yet. Is there something specific about the surface, this hard court surface, that brings the best out in your game?

PATRICK RAFTER: It could be that, and it also could be the atmosphere and the feeling that I have with this surface -- with this arena, as well. But definitely the court conditions definitely help.

Q. What specifically? Is it the space? Why this instead of like in Melbourne?

PATRICK RAFTER: Maybe it's the pressure, too. I haven't put my finger on this one. Ask me this question in a year's time. I think -- the last six months for me have been a real learning experience. Maybe I can take that learning experience Down Under for the tournaments.

Q. You had a difficult time last year, living probably up to your own expectations, as well as an entire country. By June, you were kind of dejected. Now you've turned it around. Obviously, more of that is coming your way. Do you think you can be better prepared to deal with it?


Q. How so? How are you better able to prepare for that?

PATRICK RAFTER: How? I'm getting better at saying no, although I haven't said it in the last couple minutes (laughter). You know, it's something that I have to be really strong at. And the expectations taking the pressure off, I've been able to do that.

Q. There's a little Moroccan over in Paris who might be having a late night glass of wine. If you could say something to Arazi at this point, what would you say?

PATRICK RAFTER: What would I say? I don't know what he thinks of me just at the time. There was ill feeling at the end of that match, it was pretty evident. I don't really have anything to say to him.

Q. Was that a key to your run here?

PATRICK RAFTER: If I got through the first match, always the first match is very difficult, obviously has a lot to do with it because if I didn't get through that match, I wouldn't be here to talk to you guys today.

Q. But it helped you with your confidence?

PATRICK RAFTER: No, not necessarily. No. All it -- no.

Q. Just got through?

PATRICK RAFTER: Just got through it.

Q. A lot of players were coming in talking about the wind, the weather, how distracting it was. Did you just walk around saying, "I don't know what they're talking about"?

PATRICK RAFTER: No, I see it, but I've been able to learn to deal with it and not use it as a distraction, but only as a positive thing for me. For me, it's only worked in a positive way.

Q. When you went on your run at the end of the third set and then the fourth, did it feel like you were in a zone making all these shots, points together?

PATRICK RAFTER: Yeah. I started off like that, and I ended that way. I started making a lot of passing shots, a lot of returns, a lot of tough shots for him. Just a combination of him losing maybe a little bit of spirit, intensity, and myself making him play very tough shots. You know, that's the reason why the score line in the end was the way it was.

Q. Now having won here at the Arthur Ashe Stadium two years in a row, what impact, if any, did Arthur Ashe have on you on or off the court?

PATRICK RAFTER: Well, we really got brought up only with hearing the Australian names. Obviously, as you get older and you pick up names of Arthur Ashe, it didn't really hit me how symbolic he was to tennis until this arena was actually built and how much he really did mean. Actually, seeing it on Mike Tyson's arm was another big thing. I thought, He is such a big role model for everyone in America. What he meant to me, obviously he's a great champion, and I've always asked Newc and Roche what sort of bloke was he? They've always said very, very, good, positive things about him. Just seems like another champion.

Q. Only five unforced errors. Is that the best you've ever played? When you're having tremendous rallies at the net, winning them, can you talk about the feeling that brings, if it's fun?

PATRICK RAFTER: Again, I really have to sit down and watch the match. When you play, you don't really understand how well, how badly. When you sit back and look at it another day, you can think, "Oh, gee, I did play very well." I was aware how well I was playing, I mean, hitting the ball. I was fighting myself mentally a bit, I was a little lackadaisical, my attitude, I was too laid back. I was looking for a spark to get me going.

Q. Those great net rallies, they don't do that?

PATRICK RAFTER: I won quite a few of those. When you start winning those, you have to learn to try to keep winning them because if you can keep that run going, it becomes very detrimental to the other guy mentally. So you try to keep it going.

Q. One of the things, yesterday when Mark was playing, he was hitting 128, 132, 136, his second serves were 120. Today he rarely got past sort of 110, 112 on his first serves, his second serves sometimes less than 100. Was that not what you were expecting? Did that make it easier?

PATRICK RAFTER: Well, it did. I think what happened was I was just making his serve all the time. He figured, "Well, why do I go for a big serve when he's making me play all these big tough returns anyway? Why don't I try to kick it in, get to the net, make the first volley." I think he was trying to style his game around mine a little bit. He sort of lost his game plan a little bit. He'll learn to be better and stronger for that.

Q. Until today, only six other people have ever repeated in The Open era, like Sampras, Connors, McEnroe. You're now amongst that lot. Do you feel the gravity of the moment?


Q. Being included in those names?

PATRICK RAFTER: Not yet. It will hit me, though. Damion Kunce, Kristine Kunce's husband game in the locker room and said, "You repeated that, that is just a phenomenal effort." I was aware of it before, but when he actually said it to me, it did hit home. I thought, "Yeah, it is."

Q. This match started a little bit late with shadows on the court, no lights. When the lights finally came on, did that help you at all on service return against a guy that serves this big?

PATRICK RAFTER: No. Again, it was mainly -- I felt it was just him losing rhythm and me keeping the pressure up, combination of the reason why I got his serve back.

Q. What are your plans now for the future, the rest of this year?

PATRICK RAFTER: Plans? I have Davis Cup, which I leave to go back to Australia tomorrow. And then I have five tournaments in Europe, a couple of weeks off, and then you'll see me at Hannover. A busy boy still.

Q. Seeing you playing in this way with a lot of confidence, twice the champion of the US Open, is it possible that the turning point in your career, you mention now Davis Cup, was precisely the tie against France two years ago in which you were given a lot of support? I remember, for example, the match against Cedric Pioline?

PATRICK RAFTER: That was one of the many turning points that happened for me in '97. Obviously it does help to carry on your confidence into '98. But a lot of things have still happened since that result, as well. The reason why I am here, again, talking, if you ask me now, maybe it's worth two or three percent, compared to last year's five percent or ten percent of the reason why.

Q. Only two men have won this tournament three times in a row. Can you possibly look ahead to how relaxed you might be as you come back next year?

PATRICK RAFTER: I really don't know how I'm going to be feeling this time next year. Obviously, I'd like to be in the same sort of same feeling, same attitude as what I've got now, and playing the same sort of tennis. I can't tell you how I'll be feeling.

Q. Is it possible for you to even think of yourself in the company of the gentlemen just mentioned to have won this tournament two times in a row?

PATRICK RAFTER: Again, it will sink in when people keep telling you that, and when I sort of get home and reflect on what I have done. To be in their company, what I can say now, is an amazing feeling. But it will probably hit home later on.

Q. What kind of added significance, if any, does this year's title maybe have because you beat the No. 1 player?

PATRICK RAFTER: Now I feel last year wasn't such a fluke then. This year I feel I've consolidated. Maybe I can kick on and have another great next six months, whereas last year, the last six months probably weren't quite as advantageous for me in terms of gaining points. I was sort of struggling with I guess even maybe if people respected me for what I'd done or, again, if it was just a fluke. So now I can look at people and think, I have done it again.

Q. And beaten Sampras, too?

PATRICK RAFTER: Beaten him a couple times. You know, it does feel very special.

Q. What are you going to do tonight to celebrate?

PATRICK RAFTER: That's not a hard question, Mate. There was a bottle of Dom Perignon when I got back yesterday. I'm sure there will be another bottle or two there in the hotel. There will be plenty of beer going around. There will be plenty of all sorts of alcoholic beverages going around this evening (laughter).

Q. I know Scud was disappointed, but one of the things, he may have said something he might regret, he said he was very upset by the fact that Newc and Roche were so heavily in your corner when there were two Aussies out there. He felt like they should have been more neutral. Subsequently said that he has no intention or has no plans to figure in the Davis Cup for Australia at any foreseeable time. How does that make you feel? Is that an awkward situation?

PATRICK RAFTER: Is that what he said just before when he came in?

Q. Yes.

PATRICK RAFTER: Listen, there's two ways to look at this issue. Newc and Roche's job is to work for the Davis Cup team. That's what they're hired for. Mark has not made himself available for Davis Cup selection at all. Now, listen, things have mended up between me and Mark. I can also see the point where Newc and Roche -- well, I didn't see Newc in my corner anyway. Newc was very biased. Rochey is, too, when it comes down to it. He was there with me this whole couple of weeks. He's been there with the Davis Cup team for three or four years. What I have to say about it is, maybe he might regret saying what he did say. You know, it would be unfortunate if he didn't play.

Q. Do you see where he's coming from?

PATRICK RAFTER: I do see where he's coming from. But I also see where Rochey and Newc come from, too. And they've only been very positive support. If he wants to bring their support on board, you know, like when I played Stoltenberg at the French Open, Rochey wasn't sitting in either box, he was sitting in a corner somewhere. I thought that may have happened again today. The big issue is, they're here for Davis Cup. If he wants to play for Davis Cup, they're happy to be in his corner.

Q. Do you feel stuck in the middle of this?

PATRICK RAFTER: Not really, no. I felt like I've done my work for the Davis Cup, and Rochey, I guess he had that feeling. It's a difficult situation for him. What is his job?

Q. Do you feel now that over the past years tennis is booming again in Australia?

PATRICK RAFTER: Well, I hope it will be, mate. I'll be going home very shortly. Be very interesting to see the feeling and the impact that this occasion has had on the Australians.

Q. Are you going to say something to Mark about Davis Cup?

PATRICK RAFTER: I don't think it's -- he knows the way I feel about it. It's not for me to say anything about Davis Cup to Mark. You know, obviously I'd love him to be on our team. I think there's potential for us to do very well. You know, for us to win it, I think we need someone like a Mark in there who is very capable of beating anyone on any given day.

Q. Do you get the sense he might take the invitation?

PATRICK RAFTER: No, I don't think it will. I think he knows the way we feel. We're very happy to have him back on the team. For me, I'm trying to help him come to terms with the pressure of tennis, and just show him how important Davis Cup play is. It's done wonders for me. Listen, I'd love to have him back.

Q. Is it just symbolic having Tony in the players box or is it actually (inaudible)?

PATRICK RAFTER: You know, today it was difficult looking up in the box for that particular reason, because I didn't want to make out to Rochey, I didn't want to go to Rochey, Yeah, or anything like that, because I understand his position. And he wasn't making any sort of remarks or any real gestures, I don't think, in the box. Now, the reason I went over to Rochey to make a point of shaking Rochey's hand in the box, is because in the speech, I forgot the most important man there, and I should have thanked him in the speech. It was just like a mental thing. I couldn't believe I didn't. So I went over to him to show him my appreciation for what he's done for me.

Q. Do you feel like the best hard court player in the world right now?

PATRICK RAFTER: Well, right now I do, (laughter). Right now, I do. I think that's been proven. But it's only been proven over six or seven weeks. But if that's all it takes, then I'll take it.

Q. How draining is it to go into the net time after time after time on your serve? You stayed back twice.

PATRICK RAFTER: Yeah, that was mainly just to try to mix things up a little bit, do something different.

Q. What is it like to have to go in time after time after time, charging, charging? Is it draining?

PATRICK RAFTER: I just felt -- I don't know. Today it was weird. I didn't know how I was going to feel today coming off the Sampras match from yesterday, how I'd pull up. I just pulled up stronger, better than ever. That's -- I can contribute that a lot to Mark Waters as well for helping me get fit.

Q. Do you feel sometimes like you might have -- like when Mark plays you, that he sort of looks up to you in terms --

PATRICK RAFTER: I think he originally did, but not now. He's gotten over that. He's got Cash in his corner, too, another great Australian champion. He knows how to deal with that. I think he's been a very positive influence on Mark.

Q. I know you like to play a lot of tennis matches. But seven weeks in a row of hard court tennis almost without a break. How do you explain coming this far and being this apparently fresh?

PATRICK RAFTER: Well, I think you go into a Grand Slam on adrenaline more than anything. I like to have a lot of matches. Next year you probably won't see me playing quite as many tournaments throughout the year.

Q. As you look back on the two matches you lost this summer, is it pretty remarkable? Can you think back to those matches and think, "I could have won that"?

PATRICK RAFTER: No, I don't look at it at all like that. Gimelstob match, I was a little bit flat and tired. I didn't move very well, but I was hitting the ball well. After the match, I was very positive. I thought, no worries. I'm going to have -- I'm hitting the ball well, I don't need to worry about anything. The other match, I was outplayed a little bit. Again, I was a step slow, I was pretty tired. But he outplayed me, showed how dangerous he can be. Arazi nearly did it to me this week, as well.

Q. Lots of people watching in Queensland today. A few words for the folks back home?

PATRICK RAFTER: I hope no one died (laughter). I hope that there weren't any snake bites out in Concurry (phonetic). Don't know. Thanks for your support, everyone.

Q. Last year you said one of your goals after The Open was to remain the same old sack of crap. Do you think you achieved that goal?

PATRICK RAFTER: I think I have within myself. Some people might not think I have because when I go out, I don't sign everyone's autograph and they think I'm an asshole or something. I look at it as I think I have. You know, the bottom line is, yeah, the main qualities about me have stayed the same.

Q. Will you keep this paycheck?


Q. Keep this paycheck.

PATRICK RAFTER: I kept the last one.

Q. Will you give --

PATRICK RAFTER: I gave a bit of it away. There will be a foundation that again I will support back home in Australia at the end of the year.

Q. Do you know which one it is?


Q. Does it get any better than this, the way you're feeling right now?

PATRICK RAFTER: It's not quite euphoric - that's the word, isn't it? I know what it means, I just don't know how to say it - feeling quite as what it was last year. But, you know, it's very satisfying, yeah.

Q. That topspin lob you have, was that an important --

PATRICK RAFTER: It just came out the last two matches. I don't know where it came from. I haven't hit one of those in years. Got a few in. And against Pete, I did, too.

End of FastScripts….

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