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June 29, 2000

Patrick Rafter


MODERATOR: Ladies and Gentlemen, first question to Pat.

Q. Your serve looked pretty solid today?

PATRICK RAFTER: Have you got the stats?

Q. 65%.

PATRICK RAFTER: Yeah, pretty good. I came in this morning, looked at the stats from the other day. I was also surprised to see how high I did serve. Today I felt a lot better with my serve. I don't know, seemed the conditions were pretty good to return in out there today.

Q. How was it to knock out a countryman as opposed to playing someone else?

PATRICK RAFTER: I found in '97 when we played, I had a strange feeling when I was playing Todd in the fourth round here. I probably wasn't hungry enough, tried to play sort of Mr. Nice Guy. Today was a day where I made my mind up that I wasn't going to -- well, I was going to knuckle down and try to just play a good, aggressive game, not show any sort of loyalty - not loyalty, but too much friendship out there, try to do the job, play like another match. I was out there pretty hungry and pretty determined today.

Q. Is it a bit weird knowing you knocked out a fellow countryman from the competition?

PATRICK RAFTER: Happens all the time. You know, it's just -- you don't even look at it like that, no. You have so many other guys playing in the tournament, you're bound to run into someone from your own country.

Q. Did you find the surface a bit easier to handle today? Courts growing out?

PATRICK RAFTER: Yeah. Still, the conditions were good to return. I remember playing Todd here in '97. We both struggled to return. It was nowhere near as comfortable as it was today. He got onto my serve very well and nearly every game I felt like I was in on his service game, as well. Felt strange out there. It was a little bit slower, I think.

Q. You might have expected it to be a bit closer than that. Do you think that was due to your play or maybe a bit of Todd?

PATRICK RAFTER: I did play very well, but at the same time I think Todd got a little bit upset at the way he was serving. I haven't seen him serve his second serve quite that badly before. I think it sort of upset him a little bit.

Q. You've had an injury; Pete is having problems now; Andre has had problems; Davenport; Williams sisters. Are we thinking now that it might be the season, there's just too much tennis?

PATRICK RAFTER: I don't really know what the right answer is or if it's just coincidences for the amount of injuries we have on the tour right now. I think the US Open last year was a pretty classic example of probably overplay by a lot of players. I was one of them. I think we had seven or eight withdraws from the men's. It's a tough schedule, no doubt about it. We're putting Davis Cup up there, as well. I'm not saying that's a problem. I'm just saying that the tour has to come to some sort of agreement on the schedule that gives us some sort of off-time. It's just not going to happen, I don't think, in the near future.

Q. I suppose the players themselves can't, if not demand; I suppose there's so much money involved, that that doesn't make sense?

PATRICK RAFTER: There comes a time, when I play now, I'm not playing for money, I'm playing for goals and things that I've always wanted to achieve. I'm not out here satisfied with making third round or fourth round. I'm here to try to win the thing. I think a lot of guys would like that, as well. Unfortunately, a lot of our lead-up to the Grand Slams is so many tournaments, that every time a lot of guys come into Grand Slams, we're either tired or maybe a little bit injured. It would be nice to try and get a balance somewhere.

Q. Why don't guys lighten their schedule a little bit? You can, if you want. Is it ranking, seeding, makes your life more difficult? Is that why you don't do it?

PATRICK RAFTER: Yeah, I think that has a bit to do with it, you know. The way the system is set up right now, it does make you play a lot of tournaments. You know, sure, we can choose not to play it, but at the same time you still want to get a half-decent ranking where you're going to be seeded in the tournaments, as well. You don't want to go in there and have a bad seeding or not even be seeded, run up against someone very tough and very strong in the first round. It's sort of a balance you have to try to get. We don't know what it is just yet.

Q. Talking about seeding, I think you were elevated into a seeded position this year because of your record here, your grass court record overall. How much of an asset has that been for you to prepare for this tournament knowing that you've got a little bit of protection early on in the draw?

PATRICK RAFTER: Well, that was a benefit from this tournament. Over the last four years, my record has shown that I've been in the last 16 at least, so they seeded me accordingly. I think Wimbledon is still a tournament that needs to be seeded that way. If they want to do it at the French, I'm all for that, as well.

Q. What about from your own personal perspective?

PATRICK RAFTER: Sort of guys like Ferrero, first round, who was very, very tough. A lot of stray guys, Todd Martin, Karol Kucera. So many good players out there you can run into that can upset your matches, as well.

Q. Todd, semifinal last year, can you talk a bit about --?

PATRICK RAFTER: Did you call me Todd?

Q. Aren't you Todd Martin?

PATRICK RAFTER: I thought you meant Todd Woodbridge.

Q. Semifinal last year, could you talk a bit about where you place Wimbledon in your career ambition and what there is in your game that you feel you most want to improve this year to get to the final and maybe win?

PATRICK RAFTER: What was the first part of that question (laughter)?

Q. Where do you rate Wimbledon and what are your ambitions?

PATRICK RAFTER: Well, I still rate it probably No. 1 as tournaments to win.

Q. How come?

PATRICK RAFTER: I'm still answering his question. I still think it's the one to win. I've always found it very difficult. My sort of game doesn't suit this surface to do well. My kick serve is probably a negative on this surface, the reason I probably haven't done that great. Also the way I move is also tough for me on this court. So if I need to do well, I need to probably flatten out my serve a little bit and hope for a miracle, I guess.

Q. Magnus Norman said that you in '97, when he faced you at the US Open, were the toughest player that he's ever played against. He said you were almost impossible to beat, at least for him. Do you feel like you're getting up to that level again, that '97 level?

PATRICK RAFTER: Well, I've played my best tennis at the US Open. To me that's been my best chance of winning a Grand Slam. For me, I put that alongside Wimbledon as the one for me to win because that's my best chance for me to win there. When I'm playing well on hard courts, and those conditions at New York, it seems to be the best surface for me to play on. I came off a lot of very good matches, a lot of tough matches beforehand. I was just seeing the ball great. Didn't matter who I played against, I felt very, very confident. Right now, playing at Wimbledon, I've never really felt like that. I felt it a couple times at the US Open, but never at Wimbledon. It's hard for me to place it right now.

Q. Where do you feel you are right now?

PATRICK RAFTER: I feel myself very competitive.

Q. But you don't have that special feeling that you can go out there on your best day and beat anybody?

PATRICK RAFTER: Yeah, I still feel I can do that. But at the US Open I felt sort of very, very tough to beat all the time. Even if I felt like maybe I was off a little bit, I still felt like I could win. Where I know if I'm off a little bit here, it's going to be a really tough struggle.

Q. Have you really turned things around after the first part of the year, or is there still a ways to go?

PATRICK RAFTER: Well, it's starting to turn around. I'm hoping that it continues this way because if I can take some confidence into the US summer again, I think it can also be another very good summer for me in America. The signs are looking a lot more positive than what they were a month or two ago.

Q. The Wimbledon mystique, why does it mean so much? On the flipside, now that you've been at this tournament for a while, what do you see as the problems here?

PATRICK RAFTER: "Problems," what do you mean?

Q. I want you to talk about the great things at Wimbledon, the mystique, and also, because nothing is perfect, the flipside of it as well?

PATRICK RAFTER: You're talking about the negatives as in what? Maybe like the food or something like that?

Q. I'm not trying to prompt an answer. I want to know what you think. I'm not digging, I'm just curious.

PATRICK RAFTER: Well, Wimbledon is something -- I don't know. I guess being a young Australian kid, would get up at two o'clock in the morning to watch. I remember doing the US Open. But dad used to sort of let us get up for Wimbledon. We'd get up at two o'clock in the morning for a couple of hours. Have to be in bed by six o'clock.

Q. Sit in your pajamas?

PATRICK RAFTER: Get a rug out. Sort of be cold at home. A lot of the old Aussie guys just told us that this was the one. We were always told this was the tournament. So when you do come here, it's a good feeling to know that you've made it here. Even to just walk around is a good feeling. There are a lot of negatives that go along with the tournament.

Q. Like what?

PATRICK RAFTER: You know, every tournament has problems. I think Wimbledon are definitely making in-roads. Last couple years have been great for me, with looking after me - for instance the seedings, tickets - that sort of thing has been a problem for a lot of people, but for me it's been great. I just find it's a bit of a rat race sometimes, just outside around Wimbledon. US Open is great. You go back and you get away from the tennis altogether into the city, whereas Wimbledon, everyone stays at Wimbledon. Seems to be a lot of people around. You can't seem to get away from the courts at all. It's that sort of feeling. Sometimes it's hard to get away. That's a problem that everyone has anyway.

Q. You were talking about your movement on grass, yet in the game, there was a rally that was almost a clay court rally. You seemed pretty comfortable.

PATRICK RAFTER: A little hacked off actually, because I was playing -- he was standing back. He found that was the best way to beat me. It was starting to work. It was really hacking me off. It's just hard to move back there. I made up my mind that if I'm going to try to win from the baseline, I've got to be very aggressive. Once you feel like you get taken out of court, it's very hard to get back into the point, where I find if I can slip over at any stage while I'm back there. If you're not controlling the point, you're in a lot of trouble. I'm not someone who hits the ball very hard from the baseline, but I made up my mind at a couple of stages just to hit it and see what happens.

Q. You talked up Lleyton here pretty strongly. He went out and lost. You're kind of a mentor to him. What would you say to him now? Is this much of a setback?

PATRICK RAFTER: Well, if he's going to have a result like he did, it's good to have it while he's young. Hopefully he can learn from it; he needs to learn from it. To me, it looked like a whole weight of expectations on me when I watched it on TV. He was dealing with being the second favourite. In a way to me he looked very cool and calm, but I think deep down he was quite nervous and tense about the whole situation. He had a very tough first round match. It's something that he'll learn from. I think if he can get past that, he's just got to learn to deal with expectations and I think he just didn't deal with it great here. It's a total learning thing. He's 19 years old. It's a great time to learn about it right now. He's going to be here for a long time. He is going to be a contender in a few years.

Q. Going back to you say getting up at two o'clock in the morning to watch Wimbledon, do you think of all the little Rafters doing that to watch you?

PATRICK RAFTER: I haven't got any little Rafters running around.

Q. Rafter types. Do you think of the kids getting up and watching you now?

PATRICK RAFTER: I guess they are. I don't often give that a thought at all, no. The positive thing is that it's there. I saw it happen. I used to get up and watch it. It was a great feeling. Right now I guess I take that for granted and I don't really think back to what it was like when I was ten years old getting up and watching it. It's something you should probably reflect on every now and then.

Q. In a couple of months, the Olympics are going to be in Australia. The world is going to be taking a long look at Australia and its athletes. Are there any typical qualities of an Australian athlete as opposed to anybody else?

PATRICK RAFTER: Well, I'd like to think the Australians are very laid-back people, very approachable people. If any of the athletes aren't that way, they're generally regarded a dickheads. That's just the way I -- the way to sum it up.

Q. Who would be the most famous Australian athlete?

PATRICK RAFTER: I think you have to go into Ian Thorpe or Michael Klim right now.

Q. How about historical to you?

PATRICK RAFTER: The first name that popped into my mind was Dawn Fraser. I may have messed that up. I don't know.

Q. Are you playing?

PATRICK RAFTER: I'd like to, mate. We will have the decision at the end of Wimbledon. I really would like to be there.

Q. How significant is what appears to be the growing number of supporters on court, the Patrick Rafter fan club? How significant is that support when you're out there playing?

PATRICK RAFTER: It's always good to hear your name being called out. Always frustrating when someone is yelling in your ear, like today, "Come on, Todd." Sometimes when they yell, "Come on, Pat," he must be feeling the same way. If you can get a few more "Come on Pats" than "Come on Todd," it's always a bit better.

Q. You said before, your game is coming around. How far below your peak would you rate yourself?

PATRICK RAFTER: Today was a different match altogether. I think we returned serve very, very well, both of us. I felt like I served better. There are still parts of my game that I need to probably improve a little bit more. Today was very encouraging. I felt I was going another step forward.

Q. How about what's ahead for you? How about the matches come?

PATRICK RAFTER: I think I play Schuttler right now. He played very well against Lleyton in the Davis Cup in Adelaide, actually. He will stay back. He'll serve and stay back. I've got to learn to try and dominate from the baseline and try to get my way to the net and cover the net as best I can. I'll be doing my serve and volleying, so there will be no secrets out there.

Q. Was there a worrisome time when you came back after this surgery where you felt, "I hope this thing doesn't fall off"?

PATRICK RAFTER: There's always a worry. I remember them saying, "There's only so many serves you have left in your arm. You have to figure out whether you want to use them in your practise or use them in your match." I took that attitude around with me for quite some time. I found when I got into matches, I hadn't had the preparation. I'm someone who needs to do a lot of serving in practise to take on the court to have that confidence on the court. I made the effort, the conscious decision, "I'm going to have to do it in practise and matches. If it doesn't last that long, it doesn't last very long. That's it." For me to perform very well, I need to do the very hard work on the court and in the practise. That's what I do right now. That's a decision I made a couple months ago.

Q. How much money would you put on Patrick Rafter winning Wimbledon?

PATRICK RAFTER: That's a stupid question because we don't gamble.

End of FastScripts....

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