March 15, 2001
INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA
MODERATOR: Questions for Pat.
Q. I only saw the third set. I assume you must be pretty pleased.
PATRICK RAFTER: Yeah, mate, it was good tennis. I don't think I can play much better than that. I served very well in the end. The last two and a half sets, served a very high percentage. I served very well. I started returning well, mixing my game up. I'm very happy with today.
Q. There was hardly an error in that last set, was there?
PATRICK RAFTER: It was great tennis. I said to him, "I can't play any better." I thought he played well. You know, one of those matches you come off and say, "It's a good match, just too bad."
Q. Have you been getting steadily better and better in --?
PATRICK RAFTER: I raised my game today. I didn't think there for a time that my game was good enough to beat his. He raised his game in the third set. He went to sleep a little in the second. That was probably his error. He let me back into the match in the second. The third set, I raised my game, he raised his game. For a while there, I thought he was going to be too good. It was just one or two points here or there and the match just swung.
Q. You didn't play him in Davis Cup, but did you think about Davis Cup at all?
PATRICK RAFTER: Oh, yeah. I mean, it's very different, though, Davis Cup. I'm sure it was there in the back of the mind. It was nothing personal out there. We were just having a go at each other, getting stuck into each other, just playing tennis like whoever it is, nothing personal out there. I think we both -- well, I know I enjoyed the match anyway.
Q. The comments you made earlier in Australia, that this could be your last year, are you in a way taking a bit of pressure off yourself, now finding it easier to play - perhaps not easier to play, but without having so much extra pressure on you from the outside?
PATRICK RAFTER: Another way to look at it is I feel more pressure because I want to perform every week. I don't want to go out losing. I think, if anything, I don't feel it either way. I don't have an opinion on it either way. I'm just playing good tennis anyway. Sometimes I come off and I lose, and I've still played good tennis. It's okay. We all have those days.
Q. Is that still a possibility for you, that this could be your last year?
PATRICK RAFTER: Yeah. I answer this question every time I come in. I'm a little bit sick and tired of answering the same question. Yeah, it is a possibility. I want to somehow not answer this any anymore. I think it's my fault, though.
Q. Are you a little sorry you didn't keep that information to yourself?
PATRICK RAFTER: Well, I did it for the Australian public, not for anyone else.
Q. So do you think you're going to retire this year?
PATRICK RAFTER: I'll kick the shit out of you (laughter).
Q. Do you want some help?
PATRICK RAFTER: No, I think I can handle him (smiling).
Q. You could play Pete.
PATRICK RAFTER: Right, yeah.
Q. Played him in a pretty dramatic match in an important place. Do you think about that match often?
PATRICK RAFTER: Yeah, sometimes it enters my mind. It was an opportunity that I had to win that match. I got very nervous. I think right now it's very different. I was coming off something. I'd been playing good tennis, but I hadn't had too many great results. I was just so happy to be there in the final, I guess I lost track of the match. When I got into a winning match, I got very nervous, very tight. This is a little bit different. I'm starting to prove myself and starting to play good tennis. But Pete, you know, he's one of the best ever. See how it goes on the day. But he's got a tough match tonight. He knows he's going to have to play well to win. But, you know, the possibility is there to play. I've got to serve like I did today and somehow get his serve back.
Q. Serious question on the end of the year. If it does come to that, and you got just one major that you can win, knowing your love of Davis Cup, knowing what you did at Wimbledon last year, if you had to choose, could you choose?
PATRICK RAFTER: No, I don't ever go into a tournament like that, or any major or Davis Cup or any tournament. I go there trying to win every one. If I can win one, I'm just so happy and grateful for that. I wouldn't say this is more important or this is more important, whatever. They're all very important to me, and I'll take anything I can get my hands on. That's the way I look at it.
Q. The situation going into your two US Open finals was slightly different. You were playing pretty well, everything was going well. How different were those nerves going into Wimbledon? Was it because of the situation surrounding you or was it partly because it was Wimbledon?
PATRICK RAFTER: I think it was a bit of both. The US Open, you're right, I was playing great tennis. I had the results on the board. There was nothing to think of on the court. When I got out there, I hadn't been in the situation for quite awhile, hadn't been in the final of a Grand Slam. And, hang on, this is Wimbledon. Sure, that plays a part. I think both played a part. I didn't stand up under the pressure. Simple as that.
Q. How much stronger you think you might be if the opportunity arose again?
PATRICK RAFTER: Oh, mate, I'd hope to think a bit better.
Q. Since you have this idea floating around, "Maybe it is my last year, maybe it isn't."
PATRICK RAFTER: La-ti-da.
Q. Once you take your break, what comes next? I assume you're not going to take the rest of your life off?
PATRICK RAFTER: I could.
Q. Have you given any thought to that?
PATRICK RAFTER: No, have no thought of what I want to do. I want a big break for about six months. I'm sure something will pop up.
Q. It seems like, listening to you over the years, one of the things you like about tennis is just the battle, going out there and fighting the fight against whatever opponent you have. In retirement, you may not get that battle. Have you thought about what you're going to get up for every day that's going to get your juices going?
PATRICK RAFTER: I think just not going and jumping on a plane will get me excited, not being in another hotel room. I think that's reason enough to get out of bed with a big smile on your face.
Q. If they played every tournament in your backyard, that would be great, you'd be here till you were 50?
PATRICK RAFTER: It would be a lot easier, put it that way. Then you'd probably want to travel, so.
Q. With Rod Laver courtside like he was today watching your match, does that add more pressure to you or inspire you more?
PATRICK RAFTER: I didn't see him. I didn't see Rocket. He's a legend, isn't he?
Q. Was he a big hero for you?
PATRICK RAFTER: God, yeah. He's a hero for everyone. There's nothing not to like about the guy. He's just one of those guys, he's a great bloke. I didn't see him. If I saw him, he would have just inspired me.
Q. Can you talk about the way you're playing? Does this level you're playing this tournament, how does that compare to some of the other times you've played at such a high level?
PATRICK RAFTER: Well, I think, you know, the Aussie Open I played pretty consistently. I just got better and better as the matches went along. This seems that way. It''s happening again this week. I want to keep the momentum going this week, next week also in Miami. Two big tournaments. Then there's Davis Cup. I'm going to work really hard for the next three weeks.
Q. As someone who clearly doesn't like the plane travel and everything, why would you set up your schedule South Florida, California, South Florida?
PATRICK RAFTER: Got to be on a plane somewhere. I mean, you've got to be flying somewhere, get to somewhere. I mean, I don't live in America; I live in Australia. I live in Bermuda, but I just came from Australia, Davis Cup. Got to get here.
Q. Could there be an all-Aussie final?
PATRICK RAFTER: A lot of work to do yet, mate. We'll just slow down a little bit.
Q. What do you think is keeping Lleyton from making the jump between where he is right now to, say, your level or Guga's or Agassi's or Sampras'?
PATRICK RAFTER: He's close. He's very consistent, no doubt about it. Sometimes he gets a little overpowered by certain guys. Day in, day out, he's probably one of the most consistent competitors out there. It's going to be tough on him, too, to continue to do that. He's got a very physically and mentally demanding game. He'll make it, I think. I've been a big believer in Lleyton's game. I've seen him in big-match situations. I think if he gets a couple more big-match situations, you'll see how good he is, like a semifinals again or a finals of a Grand Slam. You've got to beat him. I don't know the answer for why he hasn't really made it just yet. But he's only 20. Leave him a bit of slack yet.
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