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September 12, 1998

Patrick Rafter

Flushing Meadows, New York

Q. This is the second time you've beaten Pete in fairly controversial circumstances. First time you get a line call. Now he's kind of limping around. Do you feel like you've beaten him twice and you should get a little more respect?

PATRICK RAFTER: I don't know what was said in the press conference. To me, I think it was just one of those hard-luck stories for Pete. You know, I don't think -- if Pete was fit there, it may have been a different story. No, I don't -- listen, I feel happy that I've won. But obviously there's something taken away a little bit from his injury. It was a very genuine injury, it appears to me. No one goes into the semifinals of a Grand Slam with an injury, I don't think. So, I'm very happy to take a win against Pete whenever I can get it.

Q. How do you feel?

PATRICK RAFTER: I feel pretty good, yeah. You know, obviously a little bit tired. I just want to go back and relax and get ready for tomorrow. It's pretty important that I sleep well tonight, do all the right things, just wake up on the right side of the bed.

Q. What does it mean for Australian tennis, two Aussies in the final of the US Open?

PATRICK RAFTER: I don't know. You'll have to ask people back home, I guess.

Q. What do you think?

PATRICK RAFTER: I think it's fantastic. I've seen Mark progress through this tournament, I think he's got a fantastic attitude at the moment. He's very happy, he's having a great time. And he's shown us that he can play some great tennis. It's good for Mark. It was only a matter of time before he really came out of his shell and started playing well. It's a good occasion for us tomorrow.

Q. Was it hard to keep your level of play when you saw that maybe Sampras wasn't at his best?

PATRICK RAFTER: Yeah. I thought he may have been sick. I didn't really know what was wrong. But it was more -- sort of more upsetting I guess in a way when he put an ace down. I'm thinking, "What's wrong?" It's that sort of feeling. You're not quite sure what is exactly wrong or what you have to do to win the points. Do you play it a little safer? Do you do those sorts of things? You've just got to kind of concentrate and try and make him play as many points as you can.

Q. How do you feel you're playing now as compared to the same time last year, going into the final?

PATRICK RAFTER: Well, it was a completely different match against Pete and Michael Chang this time last year. Two very different styles of tennis. You know, I did what I had to do tonight to get through that match. I'm very, very happy with the way I played and progressed. The match I played against Michael Chang, I couldn't play any better. It was a great match for me. With Pete, you never -- he's hard to gauge because he's got such a tremendous serve and he comes up with some great returns. You just think, "Am I playing bad or is he far too good for me?" So it is hard.

Q. Pete complained he had problems with lateral movement. Did you notice that? Did you try to exploit it?

PATRICK RAFTER: I noticed it more and more as the match progressed. One out to his backhand side he seemed to have a bit of a trouble there. I tried to get him out there a little bit. But, you know, as you say, when he bombs down some serves, all you're trying to think is "get the ball into play," you're not trying to place it anywhere.

Q. 1994, a match against Jim Grabb. He had an ankle injury.


Q. You got too careful in that match. Did you learn something about playing in situations like that?

PATRICK RAFTER: I don't put down that match -- I guess a combination of that match and half a dozen other matches since I played since '94 on that occasion, that I've learned how to deal with that and concentrate on your own game and do what you have to do. I've been able to do that. But Jim was probably one of the most -- was probably the first big, really big occasion that I had to deal with that. It was very difficult at the time.

Q. Any worries? How do you combat having any sort of letdown after this kind of match after Sampras?

PATRICK RAFTER: Do I have any letdowns? No.

Q. Any worries at all?

PATRICK RAFTER: No. I just hope I pull out well. It's a five-set match, three-hour match. Some days you just don't know if you're going to wake up with a sore back or whatever. I'm pretty confident that I'll pull up pretty good. I've had six or seven weeks of very intensive tennis over the summer here. I think I can pull up out of this match and feel okay.

Q. I was talking about mental, this kind of fight out there. You have one more match to win.

PATRICK RAFTER: Mate, again, I don't really know how I'm going to feel until tomorrow. It's the finals of the US Open, I should be feeling good.

Q. Did you have any conversation with Pete either right after the match or in the locker room? If so, what conversation did you have?

PATRICK RAFTER: Well, right after the match probably wouldn't have been a good time. I just saw him as he walked back and I walked out here. He was very complimentary to me. So, you know, it was very nice of him to say. As I said, it's a big occasion. And he was genuinely hurt. There's just not much he can do about it, this probability of injury.

Q. Do you players have to contend with this all the time? Does it have a humbling effect at all?

PATRICK RAFTER: Well, we do -- there are certain occasions when thhese sort of things do happen. I noticed the injury. I knew he was going to fight on because he's got such a great serve and he could put down some big serves. It was up to me to try and make those returns. Even though he was injured, he could still serve well enough. And that was a pressure on me to make sure that I hold my serve. Because if he got on top and he got a sniff of getting back into the match, I felt like I would have been in a lot of trouble.

Q. How are you going to approach this match tomorrow? Any idea?

PATRICK RAFTER: The same as last year, I guess. Just because it's an Australian?

Q. Not because he's Australian. You're both going in there to win. His game seems to have matured a lot.

PATRICK RAFTER: I played him a few weeks ago, and he's playing quite a bit differently now than what he was then. I'm not going in with any special voodoo treatments, or chanting, or anything. I'm going to do -- I'm just going in there to do my thing. I don't know. I don't know. Just go in the same way.

Q. He's playing really much differently now than then?

PATRICK RAFTER: Yeah, he's playing a lot better. He's got a better head on his shoulders as well. Even from five weeks ago when I played him in Toronto. He sort of dropped his bundle a little bit. When he got down, he packed it in. You will not see him do that on this occasion tomorrow, because he's a whole different person.

Q. I understand tomorrow now that you're in the final, what priority do you put on No. 1 by the end of the year?

PATRICK RAFTER: No, nothing at all just yet, Mate. It's a long way to go yet for me. I'm going to try to get through tomorrow. No. 1 will come. If it comes, it comes. I mean, I can't do any more than what I've done over the summer.

Q. He was missing his first serve a lot, especially in that first set. Then he was pulling out these huge second serves. Were you sort of getting down on yourself that you weren't jumping on his second serve?

PATRICK RAFTER: Pretty tough to jump on his second serve when he's serving harder than my first serve. I was trying to make him play. He was just serving so big. In a way, it was a little frustrating. That's the way he plays a little bit. He wasn't hitting the ball that great, I don't think. On my serve, he had plenty of opportunities. He was just -- he was never sharp from the word go, I don't think. You know, he can definitely hit the ball a lot better than that.

Q. Quite some time you and Mark had a little bit of a falling out.


Q. Have you two made your peace now?


Q. How do you feel the spirit will be out there tomorrow?

PATRICK RAFTER: Towards each other, there will be no animosity or any bad feelings. There will just be -- it will be a good feeling. But, you know, if someone wants to get excited about a big point or whatever, they're not going to hold back on that sort of excitement. I know I'm not going to. I'm pretty sure Mark's not going to. This is the US Open finals. I don't think it should be taken personally out there if someone gets excited.

Q. No matter what happens out there, there will be four different players that win the Slams in '98. Does that say anything about parity on the men's tour?

PATRICK RAFTER: Yes. What happened last year, same thing happened last year, though? I think it's starting to happen more and more. The most amazing thing is that it happened on the women's side. It's starting to become a bit more competitive on the women's side, as well. No, the men's is no big shock, I don't think. Anyone knows they can lose to anyone on any given day. That was shown in my first round match with Arazi.

Q. How well do you say that you know Mark's game? What's the key or the biggest key for you tomorrow to beat a guy like that?

PATRICK RAFTER: Make him play a lot of balls. It's as simple as that. I don't have a lot of control over the match. Do what I have to do. I try to get his serve back. He's going to be very tough. You know, he just goes out and hits the ball hard. I've just got to try -- when he does get them in, just try to make sure that I do something with it and put him -- make him play another shot.

Q. Who is it that initiated the contact that got yourself and Mark back on speaking terms?

PATRICK RAFTER: It was -- I felt it was Mark's -- Mark who did this this time.

Q. Were you surprised by that?

PATRICK RAFTER: Well, only because we weren't really talking so much. And it was a big effort for him. He came up and started making conversation. I thought -- I just came off a great week. He had a really bad week. I just thought, "Well, that was pretty good." I think when he came out and said that, it was in Cincinnati, after he'd done that, I think he felt -- I think he felt good within himself. I relaxed around him. He relaxed around me. Ever since then, it's been only good feelings.

Q. With regards to the family at home and stuff, have you talked to them? Do you plan to talk to them before the final tomorrow?

PATRICK RAFTER: Yeah. I'll be talking to mom to change my flight to Monday tonight. It was Sunday. Well, it's been going back every day so far, so it's been one of those occasions.

Q. There will be no doubt some people will say this victory is tainted because Pete was injured. For a guy who basically only had four days off since the hard court season started, the guy who had to come through a tough five-set first round match, would you be offended by that kind of talk?

PATRICK RAFTER: I was a lot more offended by the last occasion, Cincinnati, when everyone thought that the serve was out. First of all, I had match point, and I missed the first serve. Still had a second serve to go. It was like, you know, people thought that because of this bad line call, he lost the match. That thing worried me. That got at me a little bit. But today, no. I mean, that's just fine. You know, he was genuinely injured.

Q. My basic question, is fitness an excuse for not winning a match?

PATRICK RAFTER: I don't look at it more as fitness. I think if he's chucking up in the corner 5-All in the fifth, you know, then that's something else. But that's different. He obviously pulled a muscle, and that's just bad luck. You know, then you've got to learn to try to win from there, as well.

Q. You say Mark is a completely different person. Can you say how he's different, and what do you attribute that to?

PATRICK RAFTER: Completely different just in his -- well, he's completely different in the way he's playing. I'm sure Cash has a lot to do with that. Just in his -- he's a kid again. You know, before he wasn't talking in the locker room. Now he's as crazy as he ever was. You know, he's relaxing a lot more, and it's good to see.

Q. What did you think after you lost the first set, Pete jumping around? Did you get some extra motivation?

PATRICK RAFTER: No. He's getting in your face a little bit. That's great. But, you know, it's hard psychologically to come back from that. You know, it's a big downer. I had two set points, two great opportunities to win that. I just thought he still wasn't hitting the ball that great. You know, he wasn't returning my serve that well. I didn't really feel that I was serving that great either. I felt like I was still in the match. I just wanted to get through the first game or two, then all of a sudden things can turn around.

Q. Now that there are two Aussies in the US Open, if you were in charge of American tennis, so to speak, what do you think the one or two things that American tennis can learn from the Australian tradition and Aussie tennis?

PATRICK RAFTER: Tough question, this one. In terms of training, techniques, is that what you're saying? Commitment?

Q. Your call.

PATRICK RAFTER: I really don't know.

Q. Is there a chemistry among you, coming from the tradition --

PATRICK RAFTER: I think tradition has a big part of it. Generally, all the Australians, we all pull together a lot, especially around big occasions like the Grand Slams and around the Davis Cup. We usually are always there for each other. We always put in a hundred percent. That's not to say the Americans don't. They do, you know. They've got great examples as in Pete and as in Michael Chang, you've got Gambill coming through, Todd Martin. I don't really know the reason. I believe a lot in cycles. You might look ten years down in time and our tennis might be rat shit, but someone else might be fantastic. Just goes in cycles a little bit.

Q. When did you first play Philippoussis? Are you guys like junior rivals?

PATRICK RAFTER: No. He's four years younger than me.

Q. Do you remember the first time?

PATRICK RAFTER: I've got more hair on my face, I've got more hair up here (laughter). No, I hit with him when he was about 16 or 17 once. And he just had such a powerful game then. It was just a matter if he could control his head and put it together. And he did that in '95 and '96. He showed that he could be a Top 20 player and stay there. And he's done it again for '98 we're in, aren't we? I haven't had a lot to do with him as Juniors because we were different age groups.

Q. Can you just take us through essentially what you've been doing the last day and a half, from the Pearl Jam concert?

PATRICK RAFTER: That was one of the best concerts I've ever been to. I tell that you. Pearl Jam, Ben Harper. I had a great time there. What did I do? Thursday, Friday. Well, Thursday I did nothing all day. I didn't even come out to the courts. I just stayed -- did nothing. Friday I came out, for about 35 minutes. Just by the time I get out of bed, get ready to come out, have a massage, just chill out.

Q. Coming back to that moment after the tiebreak that Sampras was jumping, to me it. The rhythm was, "Oh, he's showing a lot of respect for Patrick's game." It should encourage you to go ahead. If he jumps like that, it means --

PATRICK RAFTER: It means his leg's all right.

Q. Do you think something like that, encouraging?

PATRICK RAFTER: Obviously, his leg wasn't hurting then. That's beside the point. No, it doesn't. I felt -- I think the reason why is because it was a very close tiebreaker, and he thought he wasn't playing that great, you know. It looked to me the way I was playing, I wasn't playing great either, but he wasn't playing that great either. The first set was sort of working each other out a little bit. You know, he was very excited about it. He wanted to show everyone else that he was excited. Again, get in your face a little bit as well. I've got nothing against him doing it. So, no, I think it was just a spontaneous reaction from him.

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