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September 8, 1998

Patrick Rafter

Flushing Meadows, New York

Q. Can you compare the quality of your play to last year now? Seems like you've gotten into the tournament, obviously.

PATRICK RAFTER: Yeah, very similar, I think. I think I'm probably serving just a little bit smarter than what I was last year. I was serving very well last year. But this year I can maintain that with consistency and just sort of mixing it up a lot better, volleying really well, moving well, just playing a smart game when I need to.

Q. You seemed to really frustrate Goran out there. When he was in here before, he said no matter how many winners he thought he was hitting, you were just hitting them back.

PATRICK RAFTER: With Goran, my main aim was not to really hurt him from the baseline, but just try to run a lot of balls down. You know, it's the only way to play him, for me anyway. I have to play within myself. I'm not going to try to blast him off the baseline. Try to just keep the ball coming back. When I was on the defensive, just try to make him play a tough volley.

Q. As you look back on the game, was it difficult, like last night, was it difficult to come back?

PATRICK RAFTER: No, not at all. I actually wanted to do that. I didn't mind coming off at all because I saw the way he played against Todd, he got back in the match, he started serving well. He was starting to serve a bit better last night, as well. He came back today with very little rhythm, and he didn't play that great either. So I was happy with the break.

Q. What were the things, as you look back, what were the key moments in the match?

PATRICK RAFTER: Well, probably one of the biggest ones, he got a bit unlucky where the racquet went. I was under pressure. I was up 3-1 in the fourth set, deuce, three breakpoints. It was a big relief, you know, to get that point penalty. I think that was a pretty big break. That racquet could have gone anywhere. Could have just gone straight back up into his hand, as well. But it landed funny, nearly hit a ball boy. It was a big break.

Q. Can you talk about the difference about playing here in the daytime, playing here at night? You started this match at night, finished it in the daytime.

PATRICK RAFTER: I don't find that big a change. I don't know. I was playing well last night, but to come back today and play, I didn't have a preference either way. I looked at the match and the situation very similar. I didn't try to concern myself about the different conditions at all today.

Q. Is there a different feel about the place, though?

PATRICK RAFTER: There is a little bit. I mean, it's a bit more electric at night. The noise seems to really radiate at night more than the daytime. Again, when you're playing tennis, you sort of block those sort of things out anyway.

Q. You were here in the days before they spruced the place up.


Q. I'm just curious if it's a calmer Open? Before they were talking about dropping bombs on it, the smells, the food, everything. When you come here now, is it a different place?

PATRICK RAFTER: I think it's probably more coincidence. I don't look at the place, I don't say, Wow, this is great, now I can play well. I don't look at it like that. It's a new place, I mean. I don't know. I just look at it the same as the US Open always has ever been. I have a different outlook to this tournament now. I've learned to play really well on the hard courts. It's my surface.

Q. I understand there was a time a few years ago when you were really frustrated, even considered quitting tennis. What's the lowest point that you ever were at?

PATRICK RAFTER: I wasn't enjoying it very much in I think it was the year of '95, end of '94. I lost interest with the game. I wasn't enjoying myself very much. Probably especially more '94. I was having a really up-and-down year. Then '95 I was sort of injured, I was just really concerned about the injury, how bad it was. Every time I was going on the court, I couldn't put in a hundred percent. So then having those three months' break at the end of '95, '96, made me look at the game completely differently.

Q. When you started back, did you imagine that you could have come this far?

PATRICK RAFTER: No, no, I didn't think I'd come back quite as well as this. I always wanted to. But, you know, '96 I think it was a great year for me. I ended up 60 in the world, but I trained really hard. It laid the foundations. My attitude in '96 just changed.

Q. There's a cliche in baseball saying it's harder to stay on top than getting to the top. Do you find being the defending champion harder than last year?

PATRICK RAFTER: Definitely. I lost first round in 1996. I come into '97, wow, I had a tough draw. I'd done really well the couple of weeks before. I had 14 in the world, my highest-ever ranking. I just came in here having a good week. Now this year, this year I came in with a good attitude again. I felt like I'd defended a lot, I've learned to deal with the pressures. Just come to this tournament, see whatever happens happens.

Q. The difference between trying to get there and getting there, last year, in all your career, you were trying to win a Grand Slam, like all players.


Q. All of a sudden you get to the stage and win it. Is there a difference after that? Do you just sit back and have a bit of satisfaction, perhaps a letdown, then you have to create new goals for yourself?

PATRICK RAFTER: Yeah, definitely.

Q. You're trying to get there your entire life as a kid.

PATRICK RAFTER: You learn to deal with everything. It's not just setting your goals. You learn to deal with a whole new lifestyle, whole new pressure thing, expectation thing. When you can learn to deal with that, as we've seen Moya go through this year, he's starting to come out of it like by the look of things now. It's just a matter of time, not just for me, but these other guys to learn to deal with that. I know Pete had a problem with that as well.

Q. When did you get past the point this year of saying, "It's so great, I finally got there, I won a US Open. Wait a minute, I want to win more now, get more Slams -- and I can do it?" When did you get to that?

PATRICK RAFTER: I don't look at it as I have to win any more Slams. I feel like I'd love to win some more. The point of this year when I looked at myself and said, "Oh, gee, all of a sudden I feel good again," was definitely in Rosmalen when whole lot of pressure lifted off of me. It's one of those things. You keep hanging in there, doing the work, and things just happen. Have a positive outlook.

Q. People always go through changes in their lives, even without big events happening. But since your victory here last year, can you say how you may have changed as a person within yourself in any way?

PATRICK RAFTER: I'm definitely getting better at saying no. You come across a lot of people now that really want to take bits of you. All of a sudden instead of ten people hanging around you, you might have a hundred people, for example. You just learn to be very blunt with people because you know who your friends are and who they always were, and they're the ones you cherish, and you spend time with. Now, I'm not rude to people, but I can be blunt, you know. It's important to have your own time. A lot of times you just don't get that. Unfortunately, it's not really in my makeup, or probably a lot of people's makeup, but you have to learn to keep a tight little circle around you and not get -- I mean, if you go off and sign everyone's autograph, and talk to everyone, you have no time for yourself and you become pretty stressed out. That's what I've found. That's how I've learned to sort of say no to people.

Q. As a player, you always wonder What it's going to be like when and if I ever win a Slam. What was the thing you didn't expect that hit you in the year afterward?

PATRICK RAFTER: I sort of rode the high fairway after the US Open. The indoor season is never my best season anyways. I find it hard to adapt to that surface. I was pretty happy with the results that I ended up having. Then it sort of hit me that, Wow. I went back to Australia, and thought, "Gee, I've got to start performing here. These people are expecting me to do well." I took that burden on, fought through some tough matches. I had a hard Davis Cup round, which is always very difficult to handle. And then, you know, you have to learn just to get out of that, out of that expectation pressure situation. I mean, I guess that's the biggest thing. I thought I could deal with that. But having gone through it, it was definitely another experience.

Q. So before you win, it's your own expectations. All of a sudden after you win, the other people's expectations come?

PATRICK RAFTER: I felt that more in Australia. It's only a natural thing to do. Again, you know, you try to have a very positive attitude, you try to go out there and think, "I'm going to do my best, I'm going to do my best." But nothing can really prepare you for that. Hopefully when I go back to Australia, I can deal with that better.

Q. How are you playing now? How are you rating your game?

PATRICK RAFTER: It's solid. I'm doing what I have to do. You know, Jonas is going to be a completely different match to what I played today. Obviously, I'm going to serve and volley. But, you know, the tactics and things are going to be very different. We've played each other a lot. He knows my game inside out. I know his game pretty well. It's going to be who can -- whose weaknesses will work better on the day.

Q. Goran said he was the best returner of serve in the game right now.


Q. How do you plan against that?

PATRICK RAFTER: Well, I just go in there hopefully serving as well as I have been doing. If I serve a high percentage and mix it up, and if he can beat me at that, then that's just too good.

Q. What is the best part of traveling by yourself without an entourage? Has there ever been a time when you said, "It would be good to have someone"?

PATRICK RAFTER: I think at certain tournaments, it's important to have people around you. I have my two brothers here with me. Especially, you know, for the majors, they can deal with all the phone calls, the tickets, all your friends that want to come along, without you having to deal with it directly. Having my girlfriend there with me has been great, because we can just go back and veg out together. If you want to go for a walk, we go for to walk together. Someone that's good company there. So, you know, all those things combined, it's great for these couple of really intense weeks. You know, there are always times when I need my own space. And when I go to Europe, I'm sure I'll have, you know, a couple of weeks, three or four weeks where I'm just by myself, just hanging out with my tennis mates.

Q. Have you watched any of Sampras' games so far?

PATRICK RAFTER: Not really, no. But must have played pretty well against Safin, I guess. I have Bjorkman first, Mate, if that's what you're leading to.

Q. Yeah, sort of. How did you like Bjorkman's imitation of you? Did didn't he do your serve the other day?

PATRICK RAFTER: Not bad. He needs a little bit of work. He's going to do a bad ball toss on me next time because I like to do that.

Q. You mentioned a girlfriend. Do you have a chance to go around and enjoy New York City at all this week?

PATRICK RAFTER: Unfortunately, I haven't. If I can get through Thursday -- if I can get through tomorrow, regardless there's a Ben Harper, Pearl Jam concert at Madison Square Garden. You'll see me there.

Q. You won't jump into the mosh pit, I assume?

PATRICK RAFTER: Probably not. I'll probably save my wrists (laughter).

End of FastScripts….

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