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January 23, 2001

Patrick Rafter


THE MODERATOR: First question, please.

Q. Do you think that when you made the eleven games of the last twelve it was also because he was a bit stressed because he played against his nature at times, serving and volleying so much, that he has never done it?

PATRICK RAFTER: Yeah, you have to give him credit. He changed his game. He wasn't having any success in the first set, and he turned that completely around. And when you start noticing another guy change their game, you think, "That's great," you know, because they're doing something they don't enjoy. But he served very well, and I couldn't put the ball down at his feet because he was serving so well there for quite a while. He was very aggressive on my serve, and, you know, I guess it really was against his nature. But, geez, I was really impressed with the way he changed it.

Q. Think those two double-faults were a change of the game?

PATRICK RAFTER: He started getting a little bit tired, I think. He started seeing, you know, probably victory I guess, and I knew that I could still have a chance of getting back into the match if I could break and hold. And, you know, once you get back to 4-all, it's an even ball game again, and that's what was on my mind.

Q. Obviously you've made the semis in all the other Slams. Does it feel different to do it here?

PATRICK RAFTER: It feels good to do it here. It feels very satisfying, relief, and it's really good to enjoy the crowd atmosphere as well. You don't get this quite anywhere else, for me anyway. I mean Timmy might get it in London and Andre obviously gets it in New York. The French boys get it. But it's good to have it here.

Q. Do you feel in any way that the fact that what happened to you in Spain, that you weren't able to contribute as much as you wanted to there, perhaps inspired you a little bit more to want to do that much better here this time around?

PATRICK RAFTER: I always try to do my best wherever I play, and Barcelona for me was a very, very big disappointment. I would have liked to have had a chance to redeem myself anyway in the last match. But I just felt so inadequate for what I did, and just so proud of Lleyton. So I don't think it inspired me to do anything extra here or anything special.

Q. Did you feel any different coming in to this particular Open than perhaps you have in the past, or not at all?

PATRICK RAFTER: No. I felt like I was hitting the ball pretty well. And I knew that I had a good chance. And the draw, if you look at my draw and you look at Lleyton's draw, you know, I feel very, very lucky to have my draw.

Q. Given that you said this might be your last year of tennis, your last Australian Open, how much of a bonus is looking ahead now to Thursday night and having the occasion of Andre and Centre Court, the lights, the big court, that sort of thing?

PATRICK RAFTER: I haven't played a match here for a while under lights. So to go out there and play and win tonight was very satisfying and very enjoyable again. And I remember six years ago, I think I played Andre, I lost fourth round. I can just remember it was a real rock concert atmosphere. I'm sure they're going to pump it up, and the crowd are very excited at night. I don't know if they got a bit of alcohol in them or not... (Laughter.) They're very fired up and it's great to play under.

Q. What about playing Andre? How do you feel when you're preparing for a match against him?

PATRICK RAFTER: Well, I consider him one of the best players of all time. I think you just hope you can go out there and stick with him, and I know if I can stick with him, that I've got just as much chance of winning as he does. I'll prove that. But he's the sort of guy who can play you straight off the courts. If his eye's in, he's one of the most dangerous guys. If his eye's in, you don't want to play anyone like that. I've played him a few times when his eye's in, it's not much fun.

Q. Would you approach it any differently than you would, say, the semifinal at Wimbledon last year?

PATRICK RAFTER: Listen, I'm not going to approach it any differently to the way I played tonight either. I'm approaching it the way that I'm hitting the ball well, I'm playing pretty well, I'm fighting well, I'm playing the big points well. All I can do is relax, go out there and enjoy myself. That's the way I've been playing my match. That's the way I'll go out Thursday night and enjoy the atmosphere.

Q. Andre said before your match he was hoping you would win because he thought it could produce a really exciting match.

PATRICK RAFTER: We do have good matches. You know, sometimes I've lost very comfortably to Andre, but the tennis is good because he just keeps passing me, passing me. And it's ... (Laughter.) It still is good tennis. You're seeing winners and everything. I'm sitting there scratching my head, but it's still good tennis. Wimbledon was a good match. Andre probably wasn't quite as sharp as he had been. I was playing pretty well. We produced some pretty good tennis. We can produce good tennis. It's a classic match-up of serving and baseline and rallying and serve-volleying. We have a good time playing each other.

Q. When you get to those sort of stages where Agassi's really got his eye in and you might have a few games where you just got passing shots going left and right, there's nothing you can do about it, is it sort of the experience that you have so you don't get too frustrated about that, you realize you can hang in there?

PATRICK RAFTER: Yeah, everyone goes through it. Everyone has their good moments during the match, and even tonight you saw Dominik go through a pretty good spell of serving there. But it was serve and returning, your whole game comes together. Some people go through it, but it's very, very hard to maintain that type of quality. And so you've got to -- and I think that Andre -- I think nearly everyone realizes on the tour that you can't keep that up. And if you can, then, gee, I'll take my hat off to you.

Q. When you play Andre Agassi, do you always have a chance at some stage of the match, do you think? Is there always a point where you think you can get him? Or sometimes he plays and you just don't have that chance?

PATRICK RAFTER: Oh, you know, he might give you a sneak look, yeah, every now and then. If he's playing great tennis, he's still going to give you a little look but you got to be good enough to take it and know when the right time is to take it. You have to make the right shots at the right time. If that doesn't happen, then your window will close.

Q. Did you have a feeling tonight at any stage that you could lose this match?

PATRICK RAFTER: Well, I think a lot of people thought that Dominik was going to get through there for a while. He was very dominant after the second set, and early in through the third. You know, I sort of started changing my serve and volleying a little bit. I stayed back a bit more, sort of see what I could get out of it and swung around. But, yeah, I mean I thought I was going to give a big wave and thanks for coming and walk off the court.

Q. Have you been surprised what happened in the fourth set?

PATRICK RAFTER: Yeah, but the guy, he still competes very well. He's a great little competitor. Even down 4-love, he was saying, "Come on," the first pump. That's something you got to be scared of. A lot of guys hang their head, walk around, you know you got them. When someone's doing that, you got to concentrate on every point and don't let them get one free point still.

Q. A lot of people thought your match with Andre at Wimbledon was certainly "the" match of last year. He said it sucked. How good of a match was it? Is it the best match you've ever been part of?

PATRICK RAFTER: For me, it would be one of them. But I did realize Andre was -- he did put a few really bad games in during that match. He wasn't quite as sharp as he was a year before. The year before he was very sharp and I was playing well. I never really felt I had much of a chance against him. So, you know, he might say it sucks, and I can understand where he's coming from. But I consider myself, I've had some -- probably some of my best all-around matches with Todd Martin as well. He's come off, we both say, "That was great." I've lost to him like that, too. I consider some of my matches with Todd some of the best I've ever played and matched up well.

Q. Do you think the attitude serves you well going into the match, it's an enjoyable experience. I suspect most would probably hate it. But the fact that you're saying you're enjoying it, is that perhaps an inspiration as well, a good attitude to take into a match like this?

PATRICK RAFTER: Yeah, at the same time you have to be committed. I am committed and I am hungry. But at the same time, I am relaxed and I am happy. So for me, it's working well right now. I don't, you know, if I come into this tournament very underdone and I come up with this sort of attitude, "It's kind of fun," I'll be on the golf course the next day.

Q. Is it time to get your dad and the rest of your family on the plane, or will they wait until the weekend?

PATRICK RAFTER: They'll do what they want to do.

Q. (Inaudible).

PATRICK RAFTER: Yeah, I heard the little fellow. I remember in Wimbledon this year, I didn't even know he was over there. I heard his voice, I went, "Holy hell, he's there somewhere." He's got one of those distinctive voices that stick out. He's a good little fellow. I'll be looking forward to a case of beer with him at the end of this tournament.

Q. Andre said today that you're one of the few traditional serve-and-volleyers around today. How do you account for the evolution of the game to a game that's so dominated by back court players?

PATRICK RAFTER: I don't really know. I guess it could be role models. I guess Andre's to blame for that. (Smiling.) I don't know if people look at people and say, "Gee, I want to play like him, and that's the way I'll play." If that's the case, a lot of people have looked at Andre. He's one of those great role models to watch as well. But I don't know. I mean, I'm just taking a bit of a joke. But I guess the loss of grass doesn't help around the world. And my heroes were like Cash and Edberg growing up, and Becker and I loved the way they played, McEnroe coming to the net. That's the way I wanted to play. I can't account for anyone else, the reason why they do or don't do what they do.

Q. The road is still long. But someone would probably remind you about Mark winning the Australian Open. Have you ever talked to him and did he say anything to you, tips or anything?

PATRICK RAFTER: No, I've seen old Edo prowling around the locker room just with a towel around him. (Laughter.) No, I consider -- I really do take it one match at a time. I haven't looked at the big picture of maybe I can win this tournament. If I'm to win this, I've got to play two of the great matches of my career. I've got to do it here and right now. Am I ready for that, time will tell. But right now it's one match at a time. If I can do that, then I'll be very happy.

Q. Is there something superstitious with the beard?

PATRICK RAFTER: Yeah, I really do need to trim it up. It's shocking. It's very ugly, and -- but it is something, I guess. I just feel like -- I would love to just go out there and just something altogether and shave it off. But no, it's not gonna -- I think it would be a stupid thing to do. But it does need a trim.

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