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August 29, 1996

Alex O'Brien


Q. Alex, can you just talk about the match like that, emotional swings, serving for the third set, he comes back, go into the fifth, how do you keep your composure, keep yourself pumped up for that last set after everything that happened?

ALEX O'BRIEN: Well, I didn't keep my composure very well in the third set. I definitely got tight and my nerves showed. I started missing first serves, pressing a little bit. He's also a great champion, fights hard. He never gave up. I just kept saying to myself, "Keep giving yourself the best chance to win, keep battling, maybe something will happen." I wasn't real optimistic, but I just tried to remember to give myself the best chance. I was really on him in the first couple games in the third, didn't break him. I finally got the break and went after it. I kept my composure and I was proud of myself that -- usually I would have folded up the tent and gone home.

Q. How do you explain everything that's happened in the past month? You've really risen and it's been a great late summertime for you. How have you done it?

ALEX O'BRIEN: Little bit of luck, just kind of things happening my way. Also a little bit of just winning a few matches, closing out a few big matches. That really makes you believe that you can finish these guys off. I didn't do it today, but I just kept thinking, "I can do this, I can do this." Before I would have said, "I didn't do it, it's over." I've kind of roll with that a little bit.

Q. Seemed in the last set you were the more aggressive player, took more risks, tried to win the point. Is that something you consciously thought about?

ALEX O'BRIEN: Yeah. In the middle two sets, I really started playing passively. He was attacking. He was putting the pressure on me. The crowd was getting really into it. They were loving the show that he was putting on. I just kind of fell into a little la-la land. I just said to myself in the third set, "I'm not going to lose the match playing like that. I'm going to go for it. If I lose going for it, I'm not going --

Q. You said that in the third or fifth?

ALEX O'BRIEN: In the fifth. Obviously not in the third.

Q. What were you saying to yourself in the third set?

ALEX O'BRIEN: "You're a wuss." Even the game at 5-6 I should have won, had him at 40-15, pushed the forehand into the net. You can't do that in matches, especially against a guy of his caliber. I just tried to reach deep down inside and say, "Guts it out, keep going for your shots." I didn't. It didn't work for me. But I hung in there, so.

Q. What is the actual schedule been like that you've been keeping the -- since the challenger event in California? Are you tired?

ALEX O'BRIEN: I'm a little tired, yeah. I was a little tired today in my match. I ate an Energy bar out there and it gave me a little energy in the fifth set.

Q. Before the fifth set?

ALEX O'BRIEN: Yes. I got a little kickback, got a little fired up. I'm feeling really good. I'm stiff right now. I can barely sit in this chair. I think I'll be fine.

Q. What was it like just starting the match, knowing that you're on stadium court, and for the first time in your career you've brought a lot of the fans there?

ALEX O'BRIEN: I don't know about that. I don't know if I brought a lot of the fans in. He's quite a fan pleaser.

Q. Sure. But certainly given your recent success, a lot of people knew who you are now.

ALEX O'BRIEN: I don't buy that yet really. I think most people really came out to see him play. They knew maybe the guy he was playing was a pretty good player. I definitely don't think I brought out too many fans in that stadium. I think if I were playing some foreigner out there, I don't think it would have been nearly as packed.

Q. How does a win like this boost your confidence psychologically?

ALEX O'BRIEN: It's really big for me. It doesn't do anything for my next round, but I still have to go out there. I'm not a great player, I'm not some sort of genius on the court. It just makes me realize that mentally I can hang in a five-set match. I haven't played too many five-set matches. I haven't played too many matches in Grand Slams. It was a great feeling. I mean, how can you make a better picture? My whole family is over there, friends are over there, they're so happy for me, I'm happy for myself, the fans seem like they're happy for me. Maybe a few of them aren't (laughter).

Q. Is that the first five-setter you ever won?

ALEX O'BRIEN: No. I actually beat Rosset at the French first round in five sets.

Q. In your opinion, was there any key factor in this match?

ALEX O'BRIEN: Probably aggressive play. I think when I took it to him and I attacked his forehand, just came to the net, really put the pressure on him, served in the corners, tried to play smart tennis, then I was winning. When I stayed back five feet behind the baseline and pushed it, wasn't doing too much damage.

Q. Very early on in the match, it seemed like you wanted to come out aggressive, he was dumping some balls at your ankles, yet you kept coming in, didn't back off.

ALEX O'BRIEN: I feel like that's been my style and I've been winning doing it. It makes for not too exciting tennis. I'm out there to try to win my matches, just to put pressure. I know -- the way I think when someone is doing that to me, "Gosh, you're going to have to hit a good second serve here because this guy is coming after you." He was thinking that because he threw in a few doubles on key points. I almost won it at 5-2 on his serve. I had a few chances there. I think he was thinking about it. "He's coming. He's coming." That wears on you after a while mentally.

Q. When you look back in retrospect at what's happened to get to this point, are you surprised how your career has gone? You were 260s in July, now you're the hottest player on the Tour.

ALEX O'BRIEN: A month and a half ago, I don't think I would have told anybody I would have won New Haven and beaten several top players. I still did believe in myself. Also my family believed in me. They've been, you know, my biggest supporters. They've really helped me realize that life is about ups and downs, getting beaten down, beaten down, beaten down until finally you say, "I'm sick of this." I don't know if I've turned it around to where it's totally positive and everything is going to go my way, but I'm trying to make a better effort at that anyway right now.

Q. You sort of put yourself in this role of being a new star here at the Open. Does that make you feel any differently or do you like that role?

ALEX O'BRIEN: I don't feel like a star at all. I tell you, I feel like the same scrub from Amarillo, Texas I was. I feel like I have a little more confidence as far as winning matches, but I definitely don't -- I don't think too many people would mob me if I walked around the grounds or anything.

Q. Do you know much about Wheaton, have you played him before?

ALEX O'BRIEN: Yes. He's gotten the better of me a couple of times. I know he's an aggressive player and he plays attacking style. We both play pretty similarly. I don't think there are going to be a lot of long points out there.

Q. Since your confidence is growing, is it the same thing with your ambitions?

ALEX O'BRIEN: Yes. I feel like I have more of a shot to do more damage in tournaments now. I still am just trying to concentrate on this tournament, just playing one match at a time. I feel like I can do some more damage now. I can be a factor and a major player. Doesn't mean a lot, but.

Q. Alex, any intimidation when you play the top players at this point?

ALEX O'BRIEN: You still know that they're top players, you still say, "This guy's obviously a top player because he's a great talent and he has a lot of shots." I think now I'm kind of coming over the hump a little bit, feeling like I'm starting to play some good tennis and I can do some damage as well.

Q. Alex, the time frame is so short from when you were having to qualify for events, now going deep into a Slam. Other than having confidence built on build on itself, can you put anything on game-wise? A massive improvement to make in such a short period of time.

ALEX O'BRIEN: My serve is coming in a lot heavier. I'm bringing the heat, hitting the kicker, mixing up well, volleying quite well. My backhand down the line has improved tremendously. All those shots have been coming and going in the past year, year and a half. I've done well in doubles and made it to the Top 10 in the world in doubles. That's made me also believe that I do have talent and that I am a good player. I felt like the shots were there, but mentally I wasn't as strong. My serve has improved a lot. I feel like it's really a weapon now. I'm winning a lot of free points on my serve. I return so well, that's a mean combination. You look at a guy like Todd Martin, he does the same thing. He puts so much pressure on a guy.

Q. What do you think some of the top players are saying about you?

ALEX O'BRIEN: Guy's on fire maybe, I don't know. I don't think they're giving me that much consideration right now.

Q. I think they are.

ALEX O'BRIEN: I don't know. I wouldn't be surprised if -- maybe after tonight, the players might say, "This guy is maybe for real." I've only proven myself in a few tournaments. I don't think that means anything. I have to prove myself throughout a year and be in there, compete, play with the guys on every surface. I'm playing on hardcourt. This is my surface that I grew up on. Who knows what those guys think. They probably are having a beer and not even watching tennis as far as I know.

Q. You're very self-deprecating. Before you played Kafelnikov in New Haven, you said you were just a chump playing a Grand Slam champion. Have you graduated from chump?

ALEX O'BRIEN: Yeah. I think I graduated.

Q. When you missed the easy smash at the beginning of the fifth, it looked in your reaction as though there was some second factor.

ALEX O'BRIEN: There was some guy over there driving me bananas. My brother gets by me for getting mad at people in the crowd, because I'm pretty intense. This guy, he was going nuts. Every single time I had an easy ball, he was like, "No." I'm serious. On that shot, he said, "He's going to miss." Twice on my overheads, he said that, yelled it out. Maybe he was sauced up or something. I tell you, it can drive you crazy. Obviously maybe I'm being a baby tennis player, the fans should get into it. It's a little distracting when you're going up for an overhead on a big point and you've already kind of ducked one, then the guy is like, "No, miss it." I just got a little irritated. I wanted to jump in the crowd and grab the guy actually. Fortunately I stayed calm.

Q. Do you remember the guy?

ALEX O'BRIEN: I'm getting excited right now actually (laughter).

Q. Do you remember the guy?

ALEX O'BRIEN: No, no. I couldn't pick the guy out. I can remember his voice, though. Are you going to find him for me? (laughter). Was it you?

Q. Absolutely not. Can I just ask you, you still seem a little reserved, given that you just knocked a top seed out. Has this hit you out? Are you a little relieved maybe?

ALEX O'BRIEN: I'm tired right now. I just kind of want to go get a little massage. I'm still amped up a little bit. Probably not going to sleep too well tonight. I'm trying to calm down because I have more business. I have to play doubles tomorrow. My partner is not going to be happy if I give it the half effort. When I go out to play, I want to play well. I want to do well in my doubles. It is exciting. I'll probably go home and talk to my brother and my friend over there about it a little bit. I'm just going to try to keep going. I don't want to stop now. I want to keep it going a little bit.

End of FastScripts...

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