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September 9, 1998

Patrick Rafter

Flushing Meadows, New York

Q. Is that as good as you play?

PATRICK RAFTER: Yeah. I can't play much better than that, I don't think. Just volleyed very well, served very well, I could go on. Yeah, it was a great day for me.

Q. Jonas was just in here. He said that you said to him as you kind of walked off, that that is as good as you can play. He didn't play badly.


Q. You really killed him.

PATRICK RAFTER: Yeah, I just handled the conditions really well today. I think that has to do with growing up playing in the wind, because where we live it gets very windy, I played there for a long time since when I was young. And for Jonas, probably they don't get that sort of conditions in Sweden quite as much. I've learned how to deal with them.

Q. Why do you think you're playing so well?

PATRICK RAFTER: Oh, I don't know why. I mean, the conditions are great. I said I've got a good attitude, my attitude's changed. I'm just a lot -- everything's taken off. I just feel very light within myself. Moving well. When I move well, I play well. I said I'm serving well, volleying well. Everything's -- I don't know why. It just happens. You could ask me this question during Queen's last year, you could ask me, "Why are you playing so badly?" "Well, because I've got so much pressure." Everything goes in cycles.

Q. Do you feel something, with that first round match, are you playing on like borrowed time? Do you feel something good was going to come after you got out of there?

PATRICK RAFTER: No, not really. No. I've done that a couple of times in tournaments where I've got out of really tough first round matches and proceeded to lose the next round, a match down the road. So I was aware of that. I think, you know, Arazi -- my good tennis was right there. Says something about the way Arazi played me, how well he played.

Q. For years players talked about how this was the toughest Grand Slam, because all the distractions, the smoke, smells, noise, people, grounds, the whole thing. Has it, because of the new facility, become an easier Grand Slam or is it still the toughest to win?

PATRICK RAFTER: Oh, I was very grateful to get on the big courts last time, before this big stand was here. Last year I had the opportunity to play quite a few matches here. You know, I can't really recall the smells, the smokes, all those sort of things from the previous years because I really wasn't here long enough. The distractions, I mean, I don't -- I don't see many. The crowd can be very loud, but today was a good match. And when the spectators see a good match and good tennis, they're very receptive to the players.

Q. You could meet Sampras next, as it was in the final at Cincinnati. If you had not won that match, if you had lost it, do you suppose your confidence level going into any future Pete Sampras match would be different?

PATRICK RAFTER: Well, first of all, he has to get there. I think -- let's not try to jump the gun here. He's got a very tough match against Kucera, and he knows that. If I do happen to play him, it does help for me to know that I have beaten him recently. I won't go on the court feeling as intimidated as I had before. You know, but I'm still going to be very intimidated. He's just that sort of player. He's a very good player. But it will be nothing like what I felt before.

Q. What did you learn from that match against Pete, about your game, your approach to playing him?

PATRICK RAFTER: Well, what I did learn is if I'm playing well, then I can compete with all the guys. And that's very rewarding for me to see that. Before, when I thought I was playing pretty well and going out and I was losing, I thought, "Oh, gee, I thought I was playing well." And it just showed me how bad -- all my weaknesses. Against Pete, I was playing well, and I ended up winning that match. It's a good feeling to know that I can do it.

Q. Do you think on this surface, which is a little quicker than the one in Cincinnati, that you might have a little bit more trouble with his serve?

PATRICK RAFTER: Oh, mate, time will tell. As I said, let's not try to jump the gun too much on it.

Q. You haven't lost on this court. Do you think that will make a difference?

PATRICK RAFTER: That's a good point. I hadn't thought about it yet. No, it's -- I don't think that will play any part in the match. So far, it's been very kind. So I'll try and keep it that way.

Q. Can you talk about the summer, what has made you play so well and so consistently? Are you carrying that through here?

PATRICK RAFTER: I just felt like -- I had a few weeks off in Bermuda after Wimbledon. I just hit the ball really well, I thought. It feels really good. I just came into the tournament feeling like I was hitting the ball well. LA, I was playing well. But, you know, I wasn't too concerned with my loss. I can remember in LA, they said, "You're not disappointed." I lost to Gimelstob. They came -- I had a smile on my face. I'm not going to cry over this. You know, I'm playing well. It's going to come together sooner or later. It just shows that it did.

Q. There were a couple of times when he had you 30-40, 15-40 once, and you just sort of looked like you just knew you were going to win it.


Q. Is that confidence just inherent or is it coming --

PATRICK RAFTER: It must be from what you see. I don't know, I just go up there and pick my spots and I go for it. He did break me the second time he had his chance. I got a bit nervous, I guess only signs of nerves for that match. He makes you nervous because of how well -- how well he fights and how well he returns. He creates that with a lot of players. He did that to me today.

Q. (Inaudible) you were 16 months off your best form. Is that a goal for 2000?

PATRICK RAFTER: I don't know. I'm pretty happy with the way things are going right now. If it continues to be as successful as it is now in 16 months, I'll be just as happy. I don't know.

Q. You've talked about that you're getting some sort of letter or words of encouragement from Newcombe right before, right after Queen's. Can you talk about really what has sort of turned it around? You have two different years going on right now, it seems.

PATRICK RAFTER: Yeah, the first six months were pretty slow for me. The second six months have been very, very rewarding. You know, it wasn't just Newc. I think people keep losing sight of that. It was definitely Rochey. Rochey was telling me exactly the same thing. Newc just happened to hit the right spot at the right time. I don't know what it was. I was just -- I was ready to listen to what he had to say. I think it was -- I was coming to the lowest point of my career, then all of a sudden to the highest part, that quickly. My tennis was there. It's just the mental side was really holding me back.

Q. What was it that he said?

PATRICK RAFTER: "Just enjoy yourself again, don't put so much pressure on yourself."

Q. Where was the pressure coming from? Was it because you had won here last year or the expectations of a country, carrying on a legend?

PATRICK RAFTER: No. The pressures are what you create for yourself. It shows how easy you can turn it off.

Q. Why do you think you were ready then to listen to what he had to say?

PATRICK RAFTER: I guess it was the lowest part. I guess I had nothing to lose. I was hanging onto things. I felt during the French Open, I had to try to do the same. It's what I did the year before. It's important that you just go with how you feel. I was trying to create the same atmosphere at the French Open last year what it was this year. It was a completely different tournament.

Q. What was the match you played after receiving that, do you remember?

PATRICK RAFTER: Against Martin Damm.

Q. Did you feel completely different?

PATRICK RAFTER: Yes. I was enjoying myself all of a sudden. I won the first, I lost the second, I lost my serve at like 5-4 in the second. I was really down on myself. But I just was able to switch out of it and not throw my racquet. I was really under control. The whole mental side was all of a sudden different. Before, I would have really panicked.

Q. Compare this year with last year, at this same stage, how you have approached it mentally?

PATRICK RAFTER: This year's US Open?

Q. Yes, compare it with the last US Open.

PATRICK RAFTER: How am I approaching it?

Q. Yes.

PATRICK RAFTER: It was obviously a little bit different in how I was coming into the tournament. Now I just sit back and watch to see what happens with the other two guys. Mentally, I think that's about all you're talking about. If anything, I'm probably a little bit more sheltered this year. Last year, I was sort of going down to Soho, going into a bar and having a beer, and then sort of hanging out the next day. This year here, I'm not doing that at all. I'm just having my dinners and going back. Just don't feel like it.

Q. You and Jonas have become pretty good friends.


Q. You both had some similar experiences last year and early this year. Went from way out there, Top 10, then you both sort of crashed and burned a little bit at the start of the year. Have you had an occasion to sit down and talk about, "Why aren't we doing what we did last September, October"?

PATRICK RAFTER: We seem to go in very similar patterns. I just said to him a few weeks ago, I said, "I've had a couple of good weeks here, mate. I think you must be due here somewhere." We tend to follow each other pretty closely. I can't -- I don't know if Jonas wants any advice from me. He can have all of it that he wants. He's a real confident player. When he plays well, he's one of the best players I've ever seen play. When he gets on the indoor season, I think his tennis is slowly getting better and better. I don't really want to meet him in the indoor season.

Q. Jonas said earlier that you confided in him last summer in Australia, because of the pressure, that you really felt you had to get away or get out of Australia because of what was going on.


Q. Do you think this success makes it easier for you to go home or harder?

PATRICK RAFTER: Whether I had the success here or not, apparently again it's been very positive back home with Cincinnati and Toronto wins. Even the Hamlet Cup, I was just feeling really happy within myself. I was going to go home with a smile on my face and deal with whatever I had to deal with, regardless of how it went here. You know, I don't find the Australian public a hard public to please, unless you put in a hundred percent. That's all I've ever done. That's all they've ever asked of me. The only pressures I've ever felt is when I feel their expectations. Again, that totally only comes from me. It's only a natural thing to me. When I sit down and watch the rugby, I watch the cricket, same feeling.

Q. With the glare coming on you, some of the attention has been taken away from Mark Philippoussis a little bit, in a positive way. Do you think that sort of helped him develop his game better?

PATRICK RAFTER: Yeah, I think he was at his lowest point also the week before Wimbledon. And he came into Wimbledon thinking, "I've got nothing to lose." All of a sudden it started to turn around for him. The American tournaments haven't been good for him. But he's back to what he was a year or two ago. He's a lot happier. I can see him in the locker room, we're talking, we are confiding, we're getting back to being friends again. It's good. And he's going -- I think he's -- he might show his full potential here this week. And I think it is good for him. I think he's learning all the time, as well, how to deal with it. It has been tough, not for just him, but for me as well. You know, I like his chances here. Just the way he seems in the locker room. He's ready.

Q. Why did the two of you stop talking for a while?

PATRICK RAFTER: We just had differences in what I wanted to do for this year. I wanted to play a little bit more doubles. He didn't want to. I said "Okay, I'm going to go with someone else." Maybe it wasn't dealt with properly. There was a (inaudible) with the Davis Cup. This issue has been brought up many, many times before. And we just sort of went our separate ways a little bit. And he was dealing with the big hype and everything of the Philippoussis thing, of '96 in Australia, which he was very big. And, you know, he had a lot of things going on in his life. There's many other things going on. Things have sorted themselves out. He's getting older, he's maturing, he's dealing with things a lot better. You know, he's ready. Next year I think will be a good year for him.

Q. You've sought a lot of advice over the years from some of the Australia greats. You never talked to Margaret Court, who is one of the greatest in your country. Is there any reason for that?

PATRICK RAFTER: She lives in WA, I think. She lives in Perth. That's like a long way to go (laughter).

Q. Your paths have never crossed?

PATRICK RAFTER: Not really. I think we've met each other once, once or twice. Obviously, we know all about her. Again, she's a very big idol in Australia. So -- but, no, I don't know why. It's like two separate tours of women and men. They've always been very separate. Now they're becoming closer and closer, though.

Q. Pat, any worries that you played so well today, and you still have two more matches? Is it encouraging?

PATRICK RAFTER: Mate, I was playing my best tennis in Cincinnati, as well. So I'm pretty happy with things.

Q. Jana came in here and said that after she won Wimbledon, she now senses that players fear her, a different attitude toward her. Have you sensed a change at all toward you since winning from other players? Do you have that aura?

PATRICK RAFTER: I don't know, maybe just a little bit. But I think players also go out there and try to beat you now. The men aren't quite as intimidated as I think the women can get. Like Arazi, he wasn't intimidated against me. You know, he was very close to beating me. You know, you can lose to any one of the guys on any given day.

Q. Even though you're not serving that hard a lot, 100, 105, your opponents, with the exception of Arazi, aren't getting a good read on your serve. Why is that?

PATRICK RAFTER: I mix it up all the time. I have a different serve, it's a lot heavier. Maybe I spin the ball a lot more and let it work off the court. These courts are pretty favorable for those sorts of conditions.

Q. Can you see the frustration with your opponents?

PATRICK RAFTER: I don't really sit and watch them. I sort of serve the ball, I do what I do, I just turn around and go back. I don't really look at them to see how they're dealing with it. This is why these conditions here in America are very good for me. When I go to the indoor season, I do the same sort of serve. I get no response from those courts at all.

Q. You mention you don't think they are intimidated by you. You said earlier you would be intimidated by Pete.

PATRICK RAFTER: Pete is a different kettle of fish altogether.

Q. Is it because --

PATRICK RAFTER: He's been that great consistently. I've just been able to do something great last year. I had a great win last year. He's done it for the last six years.

Q. People have been talking about the conditions here. You've also talked about how your ball toss comes and goes. It doesn't seem to be affected by the wind.

PATRICK RAFTER: No. I've got pretty good rhythm at the moment.

Q. You like playing in the wind?

PATRICK RAFTER: Yeah. The wind has been -- I look at the wind as an advantage for me. I don't look at it as upsetting. If it's a windy day, I think, "It's not real good conditions, but I can use this to my advantage."

Q. Pat Cash has been working with Scud, he's turned around since he's been with Pat. Have you observed that or had any interaction with Pat Cash at all?

PATRICK RAFTER: Not more than what I normally have with Pat. We always talk, have a laugh. We played doubles together in '96, so we do know each other pretty well. Nothing has been different since he's been working with Mark.

Q. He hasn't interacted with you in terms of your game?

PATRICK RAFTER: No. I mean, I wouldn't -- I don't know. I mean, I've got people around me here, you know, that give me that advice who know my game, like Rochey and Fitzy who I've worked with. They're the two people. He's got his work to do, I've got my things to do.

Q. You're quite right that you have two matches to go. But if you win this tournament, and particularly if you beat Pete Sampras on the way to winning it, there are a lot of people that are going to recognize you're the best player in the world, regardless of what the rankings say. Have you ever thought about the weight that that might carry and how you might react to being labeled or even ranked No. 1 player in the world?

PATRICK RAFTER: Not really. Again, that really hasn't entered my mind. If I do get ahead of myself sometimes, I have to sort of pull myself back. As you said, sometimes you can get that thinking going, "If, if, if." It's pretty important to stay in the present here. That's what I want to try to do. I'm not going to probably answer your question quite as well as you want me to. You know, over the summer, I've probably had the best results out of everyone. Whether that makes me the No. 1 player for three weeks in a year, you know, that's not the way the system works, that's just the way it goes. But Pete has shown over consistent years why he's No. 1. If I do happen to win this tournament, that puts me in a very good position to become the No. 1 player in the world further on in the year, so I'd love you to ask me that question later on.

Q. Has it generally been your experience when you're playing really top tennis that no matter how it ends, whether you win the tournament or not, you're going to keep that -- that level will be there, whatever your final match is? Have you ever had a great run at a tournament, then on day X suddenly it's not there?

PATRICK RAFTER: I used to have that. Especially last year, I was -- when I made the five finals, I never really came up the next day and produced good results, except here at this tournament. Now, I don't know if it has to do with my attitude or what it is. Now I just go out there thinking, I'm playing well, all the negative thoughts, whatever thoughts creep into your mind, just put them aside because they're going to have to beat you on the day, because you're playing well enough to be with them. That's the way I address every match now.

Q. What are Kucera's biggest strengths as a player? How do the players on the tour see him right now as a force?

PATRICK RAFTER: Kucera's biggest strengths, very good return of service. You know, effective, very good groundstrokes along with that. Potentially able to serve well. Just a fantastic mover. He's got very good balance. You know, I think -- if he returns well and puts pressure on your serves, that's when he'll start serving well. That's a dangerous position to be in. That's where Pete has to be careful tonight. If he gets off to a good start, it's going to be tough for Kucera to track him down.

Q. Midway through the third set, there appeared to be a number of courtside meditations. How important are these keeping the focus on the match?

PATRICK RAFTER: You know, I was doing that throughout most of the third set. Your mind starts wandering again into the future. What am I going to be doing tonight? Am I going to be happy, sitting back with a smile on my face, I'm in the semifinals? When you start thinking like, that that's when you start thinking negative thoughts.

Q. What's the process you use?

PATRICK RAFTER: You just have to try to bring yourself back to reality. Catch your thoughts. Get back to what I have to do here, the job, concentrate. I've been doing that very well this week.

Q. Going back to Cincinnati for a second, on that match point that was overruled by the chair umpire, have you ever seen Pete that angry or agitated about a call after the way that happened?

PATRICK RAFTER: No, I haven't seen him that mad about a call or anything. The whole thing was taken way out of whack, though.

Q. What do you mean?

PATRICK RAFTER: What do I mean? I mean --

Q. The ball was in?

PATRICK RAFTER: I thought the ball was in. I think the replay, some people have shown replays for the ball to be in. You know, I think the whole situation with the media just took that thing right out of proportion.

Q. Do you think Pete was way out of whack?

PATRICK RAFTER: Yeah, I think so. He knows I think that way, as well.

Q. Do you think you got under his skin, Pat?

PATRICK RAFTER: Yeah, he's a bit upset.

Q. Does it matter to the Australians if Pete breaks Emerson's record?

PATRICK RAFTER: I don't know. I don't really know. I think the Australians do recognize him as being one of the greatest players ever. I don't -- I don't feel that with the guys, you know. Just whatever happens happens. That's the attitude that I have. I've spoken to Rochey, seen Rochey. He doesn't see it one way or the other.

Q. How closely will you watch tonight's match or will you not watch it at all, Sampras-Kucera?

PATRICK RAFTER: No, I don't know. I'm going to go out for dinner, out for a beer, then I'm going to relax and chill out. If he's on when I get back, if I feel like watching, I'll watch it. I'm not going to go home to watch it. I'm not going to send Rochey here to sit by the courts to see if I can pick up some tips.

Q. Do you want to know who wins before you go to sleep?

PATRICK RAFTER: Again, that doesn't matter.

Q. How much do you attribute beer to your success, Pat?

PATRICK RAFTER: I've been fantastic this whole summer. I've -- I've hardly had a beer. I think it's just -- for me it's a great way to just relax, you know. I just have -- you guys all think I'm an alcoholic or something (laughter). It's just totally in moderation. Wow, I've got to have a glass of water tonight and chill out.

Q. Just as an aside, when Mark Hutton won his first game for the Yankees, he showed up at the press conference with a beer. American reporters thought it very strange.

Anyway, when McEnroe said you were a One-Slam Wonder, what did that do for you?

PATRICK RAFTER: Well, initially it may have made me a little bit upset or whatever. But, you know, this thing -- I don't know how much out of context this thing has been taken. Again, I've been asked this question a million times. I keep defending John in this, because he's come up and made his comments that it was taken out of context. He just said that I hadn't done very much since that, he wondered if I'd ever win another one. You know, I think if I do happen to win this one, there will probably be a lot of flak on John. Unfortunately, he's got to deal with that.

Q. Further than that, just given that the tournaments you won coming into that, if someone was to say that now, would you be a little bit more defensive about your record? Would you feel entitled defend --

PATRICK RAFTER: -- my record?

Q. Yes.

PATRICK RAFTER: I don't know. This One-Slam Wonder thing, for me, it's a big achievement just to win one. People think you're going to win another one. I don't care. I'd love to win another one. The point is, I've achieved so much already. I don't feel I have to win another one. One-Slam Wonder. To win a Slam for me is such a big achievement. I don't know. Maybe a One-Match Wonder would hurt me, if I won such match out of the blue.

Q. One-Beer Wonder.

PATRICK RAFTER: One-Beer Wonder.

Q. What is your beer brand?

PATRICK RAFTER: What is my beer brand? I have to be careful what I say here, I think.

Q. Better say Heineken.

PATRICK RAFTER: I don't know what I'm going to have tonight. I'm going to have one beer, chill out. Am I allowed to do that? I hope I'm allowed to do that.

Q. Are you still going to go to Pearl Jam tonight?

PATRICK RAFTER: Definitely, I'll be there.

End of FastScripts….

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