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July 7, 2000

Patrick Rafter


MODERATOR: Afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen. First question, please, for Pat.

Q. You're serving for the match to get into the final at Wimbledon against one of the world's greatest players. One of the ball kids hands you brand-new balls. Do they feel any different than brand-new balls in the second round against a guy who is ranked 106?

PATRICK RAFTER: All I know is that I realised I couldn't start the game any worse than what I had the last two times against Andre. Started off with a double a first time, a double the second time. I knew I couldn't startt off any worse straightaway. I didn't realise new balls were coming up. It's always nice to serve with them. I had some good rhythm. I just went out there really relaxed actually.

Q. Did you decide to crank it up with those balls?

PATRICK RAFTER: No, no, I just had good rhythm. I was happy with the way I was serving in the last set. The only thing I was thinking of is, "Just stay relaxed, go for it. If he comes up with it, too good."

Q. How far is this beyond your wildest expectations coming in?

PATRICK RAFTER: Well, yes, it's been a long road back, I think. I think that's the most satisfying part about it. Now I'm back in the final. It has been probably a big shock. But I don't want to think about it right now. I want to go ahead with the job and put in my best on Sunday.

Q. What did you feel like last year after that semifinal? What were your emotions?

PATRICK RAFTER: I was very satisfied. It was my first time I'd done very well at Wimbledon. I got beaten by someone a lot better on the day. You've just got to cop it on the chin. That's what I did.

Q. Did it give you any incentive today?

PATRICK RAFTER: No, not really. No, it wasn't driving me. I didn't need anything to drive me. I went out on the court and I was pretty relaxed, just trying to find my rhythm. Eventually I found it in the fifth set.

Q. Do you feel like the job is only half done?

PATRICK RAFTER: Got a lot of work to do, yeah. It looks like probably it's going to be Pete now. You don't want to play Pete at any time, but especially not at Wimbledon. It's going to be a tough to the last. If I can play like I did against Andre today, I think I have a chance.

Q. It's a different game against Pete. Would you like to talk about what your game plan was against Andre and the extent to which it did or didn't work?

PATRICK RAFTER: Well, Andre, you have to serve well. I think he put that pressure on me. I think if you look at my stats for the first few sets, first three sets anyway, the serving statistics weren't good. He just makes you serve very well. I knew I had to go out there and serve very big. I missed a lot of first serves, but the second serve I was very aggressive on. I guess my second serve percentage, points won, must have been quite high in order for me to be up two sets to one. Against Pete, it's pretty well a reversal. You've got to try to get his serve back somehow, and he's going to be serve-volleying. You've really got to take your chances. There will be no baseline rallies. I won't be able to chip-charge.

Q. How much did you feel the soft balls from the baseline were working to your advantage?

PATRICK RAFTER: The soft ball? Slicing?

Q. Yes.

PATRICK RAFTER: That's what I do all the time anyway. The good thing about today is I mixed it up very well. In the past I probably haven't done that enough. Came over my backhand quite a few times; a few shots really came off on some big occasions.

Q. The doctors said to you that you have a certain amount of serves left in that shoulder. I mean, is that kind of how you look at it?

PATRICK RAFTER: Yeah. I'm really just taking it week by week, just really grateful being out here. As you said, that's what I have been told. I have done a lot of work on the shoulder, as well. I'm hoping that I can get a few more out than what they expect (smiling).

Q. Are you a different player now than before the surgery?

PATRICK RAFTER: No, I think I just came back as good as I was playing the year before. I was starting to play well in '99. '98 was probably the best year I've ever had on the tour. Today was a match that I couldn't have played any better under the circumstances, on a big court against one of the best players ever. I think it was just probably very satisfying to have actually done it on those grounds.

Q. Can you take us through what you do each day? You said you do a lot of work, have to do it every day on your shoulder. Can you take us through what it is before the match, after the match?

PATRICK RAFTER: Well, before I come to the tennis centre, I do a stretching circuit - well, a couple stretches, whatever. Then I do some band work. I tie a band to a tennis racquet and I do some work on particular shots, serving and things, tie it to a wall and do some serves. At the end of the match today I'll go and do some more band work, just with the rubber stuff. Day off I might do a few light weights on the back of the shoulder. That's pretty well it. When I have time after this -- well, I don't. When I do get time off, I do a couple-hour gym session every second day on the shoulder.

Q. When this tournament started, did you think you were capable of this kind of match so soon after the surgery?

PATRICK RAFTER: Well, it's been a while. I think it's had its ups-and-downs. I was hoping it would be right by Wimbledon. But it's always hard to say how well you're going to play here. I really hadn't had a lot of runs on the board coming into Wimbledon. Obviously the week before was very successful for me. Still hadn't proved myself on a big match situation yet. I guess today it shows that I'm probably coming back.

Q. Your best match since when, in your opinion?

PATRICK RAFTER: Probably the Davis Cup match against Todd.

Q. Pioline?

PATRICK RAFTER: No. I was playing well against Cedric. Probably Davis Cup match against Todd in Boston. I was playing well in Cincinnati, too, actually.

Q. Your girlfriend in the crowd, is she a great inspiration for you here?

PATRICK RAFTER: You've been told to ask that question, haven't you? Well, I mean, it's just good. I've got a really good support group around me. She has been traveling with me all year so far and will continue for the rest of the year. We're good friends as well as being boyfriend and girlfriend. I think having her and my brother Peter with me all the time has been great.

Q. How many Rafters might there be in the friend's box by Sunday?

PATRICK RAFTER: My mom and dad are flying in.

Q. How long a trip is that?

PATRICK RAFTER: Well, it will take them a while. They'll be leaving in the morning, Australia time, and they'll get in seven o'clock in the morning Sunday. You know, I don't know what our plans are, if we're leaving Sunday night straightaway or stay for the dinner or what's going on because we have Davis Cup and it takes two days to get home. I've got no idea when our flights are out. Maybe my mom and dad might need a couple days to hang out.

Q. For the first four sets of this match, Andre Agassi was hitting some great service returns. You were struggling even just to hold your serve against him.


Q. Something happened in the fifth set. You started getting first serves in, and you never once had to play from behind on your serve. What was it that clicked in?

PATRICK RAFTER: The end of the fourth, I just started finding the rhythm on my serve. When I'm serving well and playing well, that's the way I serve. I can recall probably serving that well in '98 before the US Open. I was going in serving great. That's the first -- it's been a while since I served like that. I was pretty tired, you know. I was starting to suffer a little bit. I could feel the cramps starting to come on. I wasn't going to overdo it, try and muscle everything. I just relaxed. The rhythm came and the serve is there. Hopefully I can serve like that on Sunday.

Q. Coming up, you were one of the players who noticeably was not intimidated by Pete. I wondered if you could talk about that and if you enjoy going out and playing him.

PATRICK RAFTER: Pete's always a very tough match to play against. It's not that I wasn't intimidated. He has a presence about him that's tough. I remember going out in that match in '93 and playing him, being very scared, but things just went my way, ended up winning it. Since then, we've had some battles, and he's won most of them. But I have had my couple of wins over him. This is a Grand Slam final. He's been here many times before. It's my first one here at Wimbledon. I've just got to try to go out there with the same attitude I went out on the court today - be relaxed - and hopefully I can serve like I did in the fifth set today. That's what I'm going to need to do.

Q. How do you celebrate a win like this?

PATRICK RAFTER: You don't. You don't celebrate until after.

Q. And thinking about Sunday?

PATRICK RAFTER: I'm just going to try to relax, you know, tonight have a light dinner and go to bed. You know, there's no celebrations until probably Davis Cup is over.

Q. You and Pete have had your moments away from tennis, a few things said over the years. How do you two guys get on these days?

PATRICK RAFTER: We get along fine. I called him up and resolved all our differences. I respect Pete for a lot of things. I think in a lot of ways he's lightened up over this year. He's very approachable, and he's a good fellow. I don't have any problems with Pete.

Q. Is there an extra edge still in a match between you or not, given what's gone on prior?

PATRICK RAFTER: No. I think there's too much at stake to be worried about each other, thinking about your differences with each other. It's all put behind us now. This is Wimbledon finals. He's going for his record. I'm just trying to find one here.

Q. By "a band," are you tied to a wall or something? What are you doing?

PATRICK RAFTER: I tie it to a doorknob.

Q. And you just swing?

PATRICK RAFTER: Tie it to the end of a racquet.

Q. Rather than bondage, it's bandage?

PATRICK RAFTER: It's not that sort of rubber (laughter).

Q. Touche'.

End of FastScripts....

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