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March 12, 1998

Patrick Rafter


MIKI SINGH: First question for Patrick.

Q. How significantly better is his game from when you played at The Open as compared to today?

PATRICK RAFTER: He's definitely playing a lot better. He had trouble with my second serve at the U.S. Open and not so much here. Mind you, I felt like I played 10 or 15 percent better at the U.S. Open than what I am now. That was encouraging for me now. That's the best I've hit the ball all year anyway.

Q. In the third set, did he just pull away?

PATRICK RAFTER: He upped his intensity a little bit. I didn't go with him. I just started serving very low percentage. You can't afford to do that against him, especially when he starts picking up his intensity. That was disappointing, not to have started the third set better. I felt if I got up a break, you know, if I held with him and got up a break, who knows what might have happened.

Q. Patrick, you started the match in a black shirt. Now you change to a red shirt. You're playing like hell in the red shirt. When you changed your shirt, didn't you have another red shirt to put on?

PATRICK RAFTER: That's the only one I've got at the moment. When I get to Reebok in the Lipton, I'll get some more red shirts for you. I was a little aware of the heat. Although I didn't feel hot or bothered, there was a beautiful breeze blowing. It's a very dry heat. There's no real problem with that. Do you think I was on fire with the red shirt on?

Q. That's a Tiger Woods shirt.

PATRICK RAFTER: I've done my dues with it, served its purpose, got up a break. Time to switch over (laughter).

Q. You're not superstitious?


Q. You don't have a shirt in your bag that you go to on the key game in the third set?

PATRICK RAFTER: No, no. I'm not that way at all. What's today? Thursday? Is it Friday the 13th? No, I'm not superstitious at all (laughter).

Q. When the third set began, you had broken him on three of his previous four serves. Did you have a good feeling about that set when it began?

PATRICK RAFTER: Yeah. As soon as I got up the serve, I was thinking, "I'm serving pretty well. What was I doing?" I have no idea why I thought like that. First time I thought like that in many years, I think. Started thinking when you shouldn't be thinking. When you're playing well, you play well because you don't think. You're in a zone. I guess I just started doubting myself a little bit, unfortunately.

Q. When you play Andre, do you go in knowing of his great ability to return, to pass, do you go in a different mental outlook than you do against most other players?

PATRICK RAFTER: Well, you know you have to serve well. You've got to try to serve to a position where you feel you can get a pretty decent volley, open up the court. You know, a lot of times he doesn't give you that option. He will return where you can't even get a volley. If he does, he'll get right at your toes and you have to pick up something, and he's going to pass you. You just have to try to weather that. When he does return to your toes, you have to try to make something of it. When you get that right volley, you have to make sure you make it. You know you can always break him. He hasn't got a huge serve. But today I thought he served exceptionally well. Served on the lines all the time. That's the best I've seen him serve for a long time.

Q. What does it do to you when you crack a good forehand volley and he guesses right, cracks it back ten times faster than you sent it out?

PATRICK RAFTER: Well, that one situation when it happened, he guessed. You know, I had to sort of guess as well. I went the wrong way. He just swings on his. He's got nothing to lose. One of those things doesn't really bother you too much. You just think, "He got lucky."

Q. How much better is he playing than when you played him in New York?

PATRICK RAFTER: Haven't had that question before.

Q. He thought 200 percent.

PATRICK RAFTER: I just answered this question.

Q. I'm sorry. I just walked in late. Forget it then.

PATRICK RAFTER: He said 200 percent, he's playing better?

Q. Yes.

PATRICK RAFTER: He's playing well. But I felt like I probably wasn't quite as sharp as when I was at the U.S. Open. I'm on the way back, so I'm happy.

Q. Pat, I wanted to ask you about that point. You always said you prefer to play outdoors compared to indoors. Do you think you're now getting back into the swing of things?

PATRICK RAFTER: Yeah. You know, Craig, the schedule for me this year hasn't been a smart one by any standards, what I've set myself. I usually set myself a very rigorous schedule in the past few years because I know I go out a lot of first rounds. I'm not doing that anymore. I'm winning two, three matches nearly every week. When you do that, you don't give yourself an opportunity to train. This year, it will be a tough year for me to get through. The next few years after this, everything will be cut down nearly in half.

Q. If you had to gauge where your game is right now, on what you'd like it to be, how far off?

PATRICK RAFTER: Ten percent off. You know, I think there were definite signs. It was very positive for me today, good signs of my serving, how I could play the volleys quite good, I moved well, my groundies were great. You know, I returned okay. I think, you know, it's ten percent, self-doubt, a little bit mentally. I'm not disappointed with today. I think, you know, I sort of compare maybe where I was at this time last year, I was a bit off.

Q. Watching the match, it was great tennis, it was exciting stuff. Playing it, did you enjoy it?

PATRICK RAFTER: Yeah, I did. Obviously, it's a little bit annoying when you get down an early break in the third set, you want to try to be a bit more competitive. When it gets tight, that's when the match becomes really exciting. I never really got to that situation, unfortunately. It would have been interesting to see how I would have handled it, knowing he's played all the good matches lately, tough matches, and he's playing well. But, no, it was enjoyable all-around, yeah.

Q. Did it bother you that the crowd seemed to be for Andre?

PATRICK RAFTER: You've got to expect that. No, not at all. I was very happy with the amount of support I did have. You always get the odd smart ass yelling out some weird comment from the back.

Q. Does anyone sit down with you, Pat, and plan your schedule or is it all up to you?

PATRICK RAFTER: It is. People give me advice, but I didn't really listen to them this year (laughter).

Q. So it's your own fault you're playing too many tournaments?

PATRICK RAFTER: Yeah, it definitely is. They let you know. I'm someone who doesn't take advice that great. I like to sort of learn the experience myself. I learn the hard way, but I'm a better person for it (laughter).

Q. This court tends to be maybe even ten percent slower than the U.S. Open center court. Is that harder for you serving and volleying or is that not the case?

PATRICK RAFTER: Did you gauge the court?

Q. Traditionally, over the years, everybody comes in and says this is a little bit slower than even some of the other hardcourts.

PATRICK RAFTER: I think also the ball is definitely different. It moves through the air a little bit differently. The court, I didn't really find the court that much different in pace, no. The U.S. Open, I don't know what I was thinking. I was in a different world anyway. I was in la-la land or something. I can't really compare. When you play someone as good as Andre, how he returns, always helps if the court's a little quicker.

End of FastScripts....

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