March 10, 1999
INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA
MIKI SINGH: Last time Marcelo Rios was here, he just won the Indian Wells tournament last year. This year he comes in under a little bit different circumstances. He's missed just about all the year with a back injury. This is his second match of the year that he just played. His first match was on January 12th against Andre Pavel, when he sustained a back injury in the second set, forced him to retire. Today he's a 6-1 winner over Cedric Pioline, will play the winner of the Clavet/Martin match.
Q. You looked to be moving pretty comfortably. Did you feel in the game about as well as you could have hoped after such a long delay?
MARCELO RIOS: I've been feeling pretty good after four months I haven't play. Maybe my back, to serve, is bothering me a little bit, so I don't have the power. But there's no more pain. That's good news. Just for my serve, I don't have enough power just to push. I try to serve good, but I think I'm moving pretty good and I'm feeling pretty good from baseline.
Q. Is the power thing something which will come naturally or is that something you're going to have to be a little bit careful about?
MARCELO RIOS: I've been playing with a brace right here for three months (indicating). I just took it off three days ago. I don't have, like, a lot of stability right there, so sometimes I'm not very coordinated to hit the ball. I think that's going to come along the more serves and more matches I play, the better it's going to get.
Q. How long did it take the pain to disappear?
MARCELO RIOS: I've been two months doing exercise and try to get the power of the back really strong. Each day been getting better. Right now I have no pain. Maybe get a little bit sore after the match, but it's sort of different pain than I used to have.
Q. Are these exercises something you're going to have to do the rest of your career?
MARCELO RIOS: Yeah, pretty much. I think I've got to take care of that. My lower back, I'll have less chances to start hurting again. I've been doing it every day.
Q. Did you play flat out today or did you take it carefully?
MARCELO RIOS: I've been practicing the last days, try to play as hard as I can. I didn't have any pain. I've been just going for it. Maybe a little bit in my serve, I've been not going that much for it. But from baseline I tried to move. I think I'm really a hundred percent.
Q. Were you a little anxious going into today just in case, because you didn't really know how it would work in an actual match?
MARCELO RIOS: For sure. I've been thinking about coming back. Before play you say, "Yeah, I'm right here right now." Think about I was two months without playing for a match and waiting for it. But it was really like feeling pretty good going to play, really motivated, try to play every ball as hard as I can. I was anxious to go and play on the court.
Q. Did you feel stronger as the match went on? The first set was 7-6, then you just took the second set.
MARCELO RIOS: After not been playing for four months, I didn't have really a plan to go on the court. I just went to see what was going on. But once you're winning, once you win a set, you start having a little more confidence. I started a little bit back in the court trying to see what's going on. But I think that's normal, not playing matches in four months, just going to play Pioline, I think he's a tough player. He's pretty tough.
Q. Do you think you can win this tournament again?
MARCELO RIOS: I think all the players have chances. I think I'm in third round playing good. I think each match I play, I'll start playing better.
Q. Do you have any other major talents other than playing tennis?
MARCELO RIOS: Right now, it's only tennis.
Q. Who was the doctor who devised these exercises for you? Has he just given you the details of what to do? Is he passing them on to the ATP Tour trainers to make sure you're doing the correct ones?
MARCELO RIOS: The ATP have nothing to do with my treatment. I've been with Dr. Altcheck. He's in New York. He works with baseball players. I've been seeing him a lot. He's giving me exercise. I was in New York for two weeks. I think it's been helping me a lot in getting ready for this tournament.
Q. So from time to time you obviously keep in touch with him, presumably?
MARCELO RIOS: Yeah, for sure.
Q. When you had the problem, had to stop playing in November, did you actually take a spell where you did nothing or did you start treatment fairly quickly?
MARCELO RIOS: Well, I can't say nothing. Like I was back home first, then I went to New York. I flew to Australia, try to play. I've been most of the time in Bradenton, then to New York. I went to Bahamas to see the Davis Cup of Chile. That's it. Back and forth from New York to Bradenton.
Q. You get sort of almost bored, playing tennis you're whole life, you weren't able to play.
MARCELO RIOS: For sure. You used to do something all day, play tennis. Once you can't play tennis, you see that you have not that much to do. But I think I took it more like a rest. I've been playing for five years and not taking that much rest. I think three months of rest was enough.
Q. Are these exercises purely physical or is there any water therapy involved?
MARCELO RIOS: In the beginning I was doing some water exercise, swimming and running in water. The more I'm doing some exercise with weights.
Q. Is it only exercise or do you have to take injections?
MARCELO RIOS: I took injections at the beginning, just to take off, like, the pain. I was having a lot of pain, so the injections, pain relief. But now it's more exercise. I still can't run still. I don't make any sprints or start running. I've been only doing exercise, doing some weights.
Q. After such a layoff, how long do you think it will take you to get back to where you want to be?
MARCELO RIOS: I'm not thinking that much of getting my record back or trying to win tournaments. I think once you're injured really bad, the only thing you want is to go into the court and do as much as you can. I think winning a match like this, not playing for four months, give you a lot of confidence. Just looking forward to play good and try to recover my tennis right now.
Q. Are you surprised while you've been away neither Rafter nor Kafelnikov have managed to sneak in above Pete?
MARCELO RIOS: Well, I think tennis is really competitive. Even if they couldn't do it, I think there's a lot of players coming behind them that they're really close. Everybody's playing good right now.
Q. How much of that is mental, just believing you can do it? Is that a big part of it?
MARCELO RIOS: To be No. 1?
MARCELO RIOS: Yeah, for sure. Like playing a match, you know if you win, you're going to be No. 1. I think you got to be pretty tough mentally, play as hard as you can. Sometimes you can't do it. Like I say, everybody play good. Maybe you have one match to go. The guy that's playing against you can be pretty good.
Q. Is this tournament special to you since you won it last year, went up in the rankings afterwards?
MARCELO RIOS: Yeah, for sure. I always like to play here in the States. I think the tournaments are really nice. Palm Springs is a great city, yeah. I think I like it a lot.
Q. Will you be playing Davis Cup for Chile this year?
MARCELO RIOS: Well, I'm going to try. I'm just getting feeling much better; we play Davis Cup in two more weeks. I got to see what I'm going to do. I would love to play. If I play a lot of matches, I can't go that hard at the beginning.
Q. Do you think Chile can get into the World Group?
MARCELO RIOS: Well, I think we have chances. We got two young players that they playing pretty good. But I think maybe not this year; maybe in a couple more years.
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