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November 16, 2003

Andre Agassi


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Andre, is Federer a guy who can kind of put his game at another level in this situation?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I think he's proven that he can play great in big situations, there's no question. You know, today, he played really well. I didn't pull up the way I would have hoped to after yesterday's match, and it was just enough of an edge off my game to where he could just run with it. You know, he did what any great player would do, which is just take care of business.

Q. You say he's great; how great?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, all you can really do at this stage is just gauge the standard. He's doing everything. He's doing everything great. You know, he's a great mover, great striker of the ball off both sides. He's a factor from the back of the court, when he comes to the net. His serve is very effective. He knows the game real well, knows court position. As good as it gets out there.

Q. When you watch him, do you get excited about what he could achieve in the game?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, you look at everybody's potential when you see their weapons, and he has certainly great potential. You always leave room for the competitor's heart and spirit, and sometimes that accomplishes incredible things. Other times, it keeps you from reaching your potential. His potential is some big accomplishments, no question.

Q. You're obviously disappointed. Can you look at this week being that you hadn't played in a couple months and feel pretty happy with how you do?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, I mean, no question about it. It's so key for me these days to get a day off, you know, to give myself that chance to sort of get the jets I do have fired up again, you know. I felt like every time I had those questions answered, I did. I had some tough matches, which I was looking for, aand got through three of them. So those are all good signs. But, you know, today I needed to come out and play a guy that's been rolling. I needed to play my best and I needed to be sharp, I needed to be moving well, I needed to be feeling real good. Everything needed to be right. I mean, that's really the only chance you have, is if you're at your best. Today he just took that away from me.

Q. Did you hope the rain break would save you?

ANDRE AGASSI: No. I was afraid that stopping was only going to make everything feel worse (laughter).

Q. When he's in a rhythm and zone, are you trying to lengthen points?

ANDRE AGASSI: It depends what you're dealing with, you know. Listen, I'm not here making excuses. The guy deserved to win this tournament. He played better all week long. We had a great match when we first started the week. Down two matchpoints and he still won that one, so... With that being said, I didn't pull up great today after yesterday. Every day, each scenario is different. Today, I'm limited with what I can -- how well I can push towards a ball, how well I can stretch for a ball. It was a -- just beat up. The edge was off my game. That's the subtlety that makes a great distinction. I mean, he did what he needed to do today but he probably even could have played better.

Q. What makes his serve so tough?

ANDRE AGASSI: It's a very accurate serve, you know. He is close to the lines. He sort of never misses leaving it in your strike zone. He always misses it, you know, away from you. So he's a real good target server. He hits lines.

Q. Could you perhaps talk a little about the quality of this young generation and where you feel perhaps they rank as groups go of the years you've been playing, the strength of players like Roddick, Ferrero, Federer.

ANDRE AGASSI: I don't know what I can really offer there. Really, those are the great discussions in sports, how sports evolve and how players change, what players' strengths are. I can certainly speak to -- I can certainly speak to a guy's strengths comparative to somebody else. You know, I think Pete's serve was better than Roger's, but Roger moves better than Pete. Roger is much better off the ground and also better off the return but doesn't quite volley as well. So how do you rate how all that's gonna play out? So it's not easy, but you got to definitely look at him and say, "Okay, you do these things exceptional and you do these things really good." That's a tough package.

Q. How good are they in terms of promoting the sport, which is what it's all about? They're the new breed. Do you think they do a good job in that respect?

ANDRE AGASSI: I don't know what they do or don't do, you know. For me, it's about certainly being accessible. Unfortunately, you just don't know other people's business out here. While you live together and travel together, it's an individual sport and things are handled different ways with everybody.

Q. Have you seen the promotion of the game improve or decrease during your time?

ANDRE AGASSI: Promotion?

Q. Well, the general conception of the game worldwide and that sort of thing, the significance it seems to have with the public and with the media.

ANDRE AGASSI: Hmm... I have a bit of a skewed perspective, because I'm so sort of in the thick of it. I can really only base my experience on when I'm out there playing. I've played -- I've heard talk through many years about the interest of tennis, where is it, and I've gone to full stadiums. Here's another example of it. You know, all across the world -- in America, I think it's certainly a little different now than it used to be. I can sort of say that. The interest on it and the coverage on it. But internationally, it would be hard to say that. I've played full stadiums a lot of places, and that's ultimately what you hope for. You hope for people to want to show up and watch and people interested in the game.

Q. How do you explain where tennis is in the United States right now in terms of its interest? You can argue that the game is, you know, as deep and as beautifully played as it ever has been. Yet, there seems to be a disconnect with the public in terms of getting it on TV, getting the interest there.

ANDRE AGASSI: Hmm, yeah. Well, America is a tough -- it's definitely a tough market. We have a lot of great sports and a lot of heroes and sports heroes. We're coming off a pretty incredible generation, too, of players. Obviously, Andy's stepping up this year is gonna be great for the interest of tennis in America. It would be nice to see one or two others as well. Then you'll still be one or two shy of the group that sort of I came along with. It's been an amazing time coming off the McEnroe, Connors era, to myself and Pete and Chang and Courier. You know, it always had a real strong base here, and I think that's sort of lost a little bit of its depth in the American market. But Andy's definitely going to help a lot. I really would be interested to see the impact he has.

Q. Can a player like Roger, even though he is not from the US, impact tennis in the US, do you think, the way maybe a Borg did in the '70s?

ANDRE AGASSI: Sure, I think it's possible. I do. What elements are required for that to be accomplished, I think you're really dealing with sort of intangibles and X factors. I mean, Roger is -- while his demeanor is sort of phenomenally consistent out there, it's also one that's easily respected. He plays the game very gracefully. He could bring a style that would capture people's imagination, no question.

Q. You were very gracious with him on court. Do you like to watch him play, Roger?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, sure.

Q. Why?

ANDRE AGASSI: I mean, I like to watch a lot of guys play that I feel can teach me something. I mean, the day you stop learning is, you know, the day you probably shouldn't -- probably not are gonna improve anymore. So I just think he plays a different style than me, and I think he does a lot of things real well. I have a lot of respect for his game. I'm sure I enjoy it as probably most of you do. He's very explosive, has great hands. Great hand speed, great feel. Great movement. All-court game. He can play from the back and beat the best, and he can play up serve-volleying and take certain kinds of players out of the equation by just coming forward. He has a game that can get around a lot of different types of players, and that's what's required in order to win a lot of Slams.

Q. What's your overall impression with how the first Masters Cup in Houston went, considering it's back here next year?

ANDRE AGASSI: I loved it, yeah. I loved it. I think Jim said it well, which is it's how the fans feel. You know, they showed up, and they were enthusiastic. They left with a smile.

Q. I'm going to ask you something that piggybacks on what you were telling Karen. You mentioned your generation. How will it be for you, being in effect the last of your generation out here? You mentioned before there's a certain individualism about the game that has varying effects on things. But you are the last of your generation. What is that going to be like for you?

ANDRE AGASSI: Uhm... I don't know. Never done it before, so (laughter). No easy answer. I mean, I don't know. It's certainly sad in one respect, you know, as you see your peers, especially Pete retiring. Because sort of those rivalries. Like I said before, you just sort of expect to leave the dance with the one you came with, you know. You know, it loses something. But with that being said, Pete or Courier or Chang, they were never my inspiration in the game. It was always pushing myself to get better and they happened to be the ones that were doing it. Now there's others that are doing it. Doesn't have the same sort of personal connection 'cause there's not the same sort of depth and history. But it's definitely there, I mean...

Q. Do you think with every successive five-year period it's getting harder for top players to enjoy the outstanding longevity you've had?

ANDRE AGASSI: Does it get more difficult to have a longer career at the top? It appears that way. Guys are encouraged to play a lot. You look at a guy like Schuettler, who played 103 matches this year. The way he moves on the court. You go, "Man, that's just a lot of pounding." That's abuse on your body, that's trauma. It takes its toll, somewhere along the line. We saw it with Chang, you know, who runs so hard and now with Lleyton, having two years at No. 1 and then this year -- everything has a way of taking its toll. So you have to sort of always be mindful of that. The sport doesn't really lend for that sort of management, because it's year-round and you're always -- if you're not playing, somebody else is playing and somebody else is moving ahead. Then different surfaces, no off-season, so on. I think all those things make it very difficult. And when the depth of the game grows, it sort of only magnifies the wear and tear aspect. Because you not only have to go play, you have to go play and you have to be ready and you have to go hard right from the get. I think as sort of the game has developed, it's gotten deeper. Guys can win on any day. So, you know, there's sort of more importance on every time you're on the court. That's only gonna make it tougher.

Q. Would you surprise yourself if you were sitting here a year from now?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I'm playing next year, so that's the game plan. Sounds like it would surprise you (laughter). I have a good memory. I'll remember you next year when we're here (laughter). You'll be the only one I won't take questions from (laughter).

Q. Can we put you down for a "yes" then?

ANDRE AGASSI: That's my plan, yeah (smiling).

Q. What were the main differences between today's match and Monday's? You were close with two matchpoints.

ANDRE AGASSI: It's been a hard week for me. It's been a lot of tennis, after two months of not playing. So I think that accumulation, there is definitely an edge off my game. I say that sort of reluctantly because I don't want to -- wouldn't want to mislead anybody to read that comment. Roger is by far the best player this week. He's proved that from start to finish. But one thing I know for sure, if there's an edge off my game, if I'm not moving the same way, if I'm not being able to reach for the same balls, there's no chance when you're out there. That's how it felt today. It just did not feel like I had a chance from early in that match all the way to the end.

Q. Will you now be embarking on one of your fabled winter training programs?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, that's the good news. The good news is the way I've gone about it, I'll still be ready to go. I'll be ready to train and get better. I anticipate and plan on being better in Australia than I was here. That's sort of how I'm gonna approach it.

Q. Would you agree with what Mark said out there, that there are players on the circuit afraid to see how much better Roger can get or...?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I don't know how anybody would -- what scares people. For me, it's never been a factor of being afraid. I've always sort of used it as a way of making myself better, you know, regardless. But I would say that if you asked most of the players who's had a great year, can still have a better year, they would point to Roger as being the guy.

Q. You came to Houston a week before the tournament started. How difficult was it to be away from Steffi and the kids, especially the newborn?

ANDRE AGASSI: Difficult. I don't know how to answer that. It's always difficult. There's sacrifices all the time. This is definitely what I consider to be a big sacrifice.

End of FastScripts….

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