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January 18, 2004

Andre Agassi


THE MODERATOR: We're here today, thanks to American Express, and their Long Live Dreams campaign, brought Andre here for us. I'll maybe kick off by getting you to say a couple of words about the campaign, your thoughts.

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, it's a pretty general question there. But I've enjoyed very much being a part of American Express. The campaign, especially, was a lot of fun for me. They've done a lot of great work for my foundation, and they've helped me change a lot of children's lives back home. And I just support their involvement with tennis. They've been 10 years the official card of the US Open, five years the official card of the Australian Open. I found a lot of reasons to enjoy this relationship that I hope continues for a long time.

THE MODERATOR: We'll open it to questions.

Q. How has your preparation differed this year, if it has, from any of the other years you've won?

ANDRE AGASSI: It's hard to sort of change something that isn't broken. As you get older, you have to make adjustments. You have to listen to your body a little clearer, which means pushing yourself when you're feeling like you can really make progress, and sort of being aware of where you need to give yourself the breaks. But overall, it's been an intense program that has lived up to everything I expected it to be, and every bit as good, if not better, than years before.

Q. Was there a starting date for it after Houston? Did you take a little time there?

ANDRE AGASSI: To be honest, it was before Houston sort of the plan started. You know, I took advantage out of the time away from tennis with the birth of our daughter, to use that as sort of a long -- a lot of days where I could slowly build and get myself to feeling good again. I was dinged up pretty good last year for a about part of it, feeling uncomfortable in the hips, a lot of things that were sort of you don't get over in two days like you did when you were 19. So I used it to feel better, but also to start building and strength training. Trained through Houston, got in a lot of great matches there, which helped me, but then just picked right back up. So it's been more time I've had now getting ready than I've had before, which is probably needed.

Q. How do you rate Melbourne? Is it on the card as another tournament, or do you and your family think, "Great, we're going to Melbourne next week"?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, excluding being confined in the cabin with two kids that you're trying to keep from disturbing other passengers, we look very forward to coming here (laughter). This is one of the greatest places to be once you're here is sort of how we approach it. We look forward to it. We're glad we're here for a number of weeks - at least hopefully be here for a number of weeks. It's just really relaxing.

Q. And as a tournament, how is it rated, in your opinion?

ANDRE AGASSI: This is one of the big ones. This is one of the ones that you keep with you the rest of your life. It's a great achievement to be a part of this field, to be playing in this tournament, let alone the possibility of winning it.

Q. How do you see the competitive balance this year now that some of the young guys have confirmed themselves? How do you compare the state of men's tennis at the top, compared to other times in your career?

ANDRE AGASSI: You know, I'm looking at it through a different lens now than I used to. I think the game is deeper and stronger. There's many more great ball-strikers now, which means on any given day, some spectacular tennis can happen and you can lose, starting with your first match. I never remembered it being quite that way in the beginning part of my career, through most of it. You always felt like there was the opportunity to really get through a few. Now you can't take anything for granted. I think that speaks to the depth of tennis and, again, the ball-striking ability of most of these guys.

Q. What are your thoughts of Lleyton Hewitt, where he was, where you felt he was last year, where he is now?

ANDRE AGASSI: What's my?

Q. Your observation of where Lleyton Hewitt is now, considering how long he was at No. 1, then his sort of trouble last year. Do you think he's back to where he was or he could be?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, certainly he could be. I mean, if he thinks falling to 15 in the world is an accomplishment, he should, you know, have been around me a few years ago. I would have shown it what it really means to work hard and fall to 140 in the world (smiling). So things can change fast. It's not easy to be on top. Everybody's firing at you every single time you're on the court. Especially the way he plays the game, he works so hard in every match, it's easy to understand any sort of physical or mental struggle that could occur at any given time. But we've seen him rise above that many times. To finish No. 1 in the world two years in a row speaks to his capabilities. He didn't play the fall. He looks to be in great form. I'm sure he has a great year ahead of him.

Q. It's been such a successful place for you the last few years. Why is that? What are the key things that make this so great for you?

ANDRE AGASSI: I think, first of all, I always come down here prepared, rested and prepared, which you don't always have that luxury through the course of a year because there's so much tennis going on and there's so much traveling happening. You're always negotiating the rest and the training and the preparation and the recovery. And I think as you get older, it's more key to make sure your body's had the rest, make sure your body's well prepared to sort of be at your best. I also think the court is a great court for my style of play. I enjoy the hot conditions, the breezy conditions. It sort of all works together where I try to make somebody play a great match to beat me. That's ultimately the most you can hope for.

Q. What have you learned about your first opponent tomorrow night, if anything?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I watched him play a little bit on tape. You know, you never quite know what you're in for till you feel it firsthand. But I've seen the basics of his game. It's hard to know what somebody's capabilities are based on a match or two on the tape. But, you know, I'm going to have to go out there and execute my game and try to make him stop it. That's sort of what I do most of the time, is focus on that side of it.

Q. Were you ever in that position where you had a wildcard into the US Open? If so, what was your feeling then?

ANDRE AGASSI: The first US Open I played was 1986, and I was straight in. I didn't have a wildcard.

Q. Every year you prepare, you kind of do the same thing. But every year you're getting a year older. I assume you can't do exactly the same thing. Do you kind of raise the increments, lessen the increments, try something a little different to try to keep an edge every year?

ANDRE AGASSI: I think the difference of sort of getting older and the changes that need to get made is sort of knowing how to listen to your body better so that when you tell your body to do something, it listens to you. So I found my training changes not from the standpoint of intensity, but sometimes the structure of the intensity.. If I pull up a little bit stiff or sore, tired from the day before, I try to pay a little bit more attention to that. I try to take advantage out of the times that I'm feeling really good and make sure I'm looking out after myself if I don't. Sometimes it means taking an extra day off. Other times it means asking more of yourself. It's sort of a long-winded answer. But the truth of the matter is, it's such a negotiation as you get older to know how to push yourself without running yourself into a wall.

Q. Having had the forehand experience of David Nalbandian in the last few days, how do you rate his chances here? Would you put him up with the favorites to win here?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah. How can you not? He's proven himself to be one of the best in the world, period, let alone the way he played down here. He played great in Kooyong. He played tennis that's very capable of beating anybody. He's going to have to do it seven times, and he's going to have to show that he knows how to do that. And that's all part of putting your career together.

Q. I know it's a little early in the game, you haven't had much experience with it yet, but how much more is two children than one child to travel with and try to compete?

ANDRE AGASSI: It's probably about ten-fold, to be quite honest. The toughest part I find, quite honestly, with one child, sort of you and your wife, you know, you play with the child, you feed the child.

Q. You double-team them?

ANDRE AGASSI: You're doing it together. You feel it's the life you've always had, but now all of a sudden you have two, and I don't see her for hours at a time. At the end of the day you put your feet up and go, "Oh, doesn't this feel good. Maybe we should go to sleep so we're ready for tomorrow." So you don't do everything together very much anymore, for a period of time. We have to tough out the next year and a half.

Q. You said this might change your whole idea of what your schedule would be like. Do you think that you will have to make adjustments according to the second kid?

ANDRE AGASSI: For sure. One thing I know for sure is Stephanie's already had to make adjustments. You know, it's just extra work, you know, making sure that I'm in position to be at my best or to accept the compromise. I haven't compromised anything yet, as a specific answer to your question. But it's a lot of work to keep sort of that from happening. You know, the traveling probably wouldn't happen as much, which might leave me in sort of a different state of mind. But as I get older, I'm going to have to be pretty selective, too, on what I play. I played 13 tournaments last year, kept myself in position to give myself a look at the big ones. And this year I'll have to do the same. I don't know if that's going to mean 13 tournaments, maybe one more, maybe one or two less. I feel like I'm constantly making decisions. And with two kids, it throws in another variable.

Q. Last year John McEnroe in commentary said Todd Larkham had no place being on Centre Court. Those were the words of John McEnroe. What is your reaction to that?

ANDRE AGASSI: If I remember correctly, he played a four- or five-hour match the first round, and he was on IV drip from cramping. I mean, I got news for you: that's not easy to recover from that, and on top of that to have to play Lleyton. It wasn't a great platform for him to show his best tennis. But I don't know if I would have been so quick to criticize that as to sympathize with it.

Q. I have a picture of you as a toddler with a tennis racquet. You've obviously fulfilled your dreams in your career. What would you say to kids or anyone, adults, who maybe have set a goal or set a dream, and they're struggling, trying to get to fulfill their dream? What do you say to people to inspire them to reach their dream?

ANDRE AGASSI: Any dream, just by definition, is a long ways off. It's something that you dream about. You need to sort of work backwards from it. To me, you have to first understand what it is you want to accomplish. You have to then sort of look at yourself and be honest about where it is you actually are. Then you have to set up a plan that keeps you focused on a million small steps that need to happen that continually build that momentum for your life. So you set your plan, and then you work your plan. And your plan should include a lot of little victories every day.

Q. Long live dreams?

ANDRE AGASSI: Long live dreams.


End of FastScripts….

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