home jobs contact us
Our Clients:
Browse by Sport
Find us on ASAP sports on Facebook ASAP sports on Twitter
ASAP Sports RSS Subscribe to RSS
Click to go to
ASAP Sports e-Brochure View our


August 18, 1996

Alex O'Brien


ALEX O'BRIEN: I'm really happy. I just stayed in there and stuck with my plan the whole week. I don't think I've realized what I've done yet, but it's a great feeling and I think it makes me a legitimate player. I'm just really pleased.

Q. You say you stuck with your plan all week. What was that?

ALEX O'BRIEN: Just to kind of take each match and play each match the best I could. It was strange because a lot of matches, like the match today, it just seemed like things just kind of went my way. Even this week, things -- I just hung in there and tried to do the best I could on every point. I guess that pays off because eventually something weird happened or I got a break. I started down 3-0 in the first set tiebreaker. I just hung in there and played some good points, stayed solid. He broke down a little bit and I think that's been a good lesson for me this week.

Q. Alex, when you were -- when you broke to go up 5-4 in the second and you heard the public announcer staying stick around, what's going through your mind then?

ALEX O'BRIEN: "Why did that punk have to say that?"

Q. You heard it?

ALEX O'BRIEN: I heard it for sure, yeah. The first thing that went through my head, I've been a doubles player and it really annoys me that they say -- they don't say there's a doubles final after the match, you know. That's probably the first thing that went through my mind because there's a great doubles match going on right now and a lot of people end up leaving after the singles match. It did, I thought about it. I didn't play a very solid game. I played a decent game at the end, but he kind of gave me one point. I actually wasn't that nervous. I was so tired, I just wanted to do what I had been doing and stick with my game plan, close it out.

Q. Alex, when the cutoff for the US Open was made six weeks ago, you were a long way away. What were you thinking? Did you play the quallies at Wimbledon?

ALEX O'BRIEN: I did play the quallies and I qualified, then I hurt my shoulder after I qualified, so I had to withdraw.

Q. Who were you playing?

ALEX O'BRIEN: I was supposed to play Enqvist who has never won a match at Wimbledon, so (laughter).

Q. Who did you beat in the quallies?

ALEX O'BRIEN: I beat some good players. I beat a British guy who is a good grass courter, some other guy that you guys wouldn't know who he is On grass, I mean, I think anyone can. I was really starting to feel confident. I had this freak shoulder injury. I'm the type of guy that will play with any type injury. You know, I'm not like a fragile personality. I just couldn't hit a ball. I had to withdraw.

Q. At that point, you obviously were nowhere getting direct entry to the Open.

ALEX O'BRIEN: I'm not even in the qualifying of the Open right now.

Q. Because of your ranking?

ALEX O'BRIEN: Yes. I think it's 280 something. And I think the cutoff is higher than that. That's what this guy who is coaching me has been saying. Theoretically I'm not even qualified for the qualifying of the US Open.

Q. We'll get back to that in a minute. What do you think you'd be doing in the US Open?

ALEX O'BRIEN: Well, I had been playing some good tennis up to this event. You mean at the beginning of the summer?

Q. Yes, six weeks ago.

ALEX O'BRIEN: Just stay positive, people were telling me that things would happen for me. I've had so many people and friends, coaches, say, "You're ranked 280, why are you ranked 280?" This Italian guy's coach was smiling at me, saying, "You're finally starting to play." He was like, "I told you all along that you could play." I think there are a lot of people that have believed in me. I've tried to be my own best fan because a lot of the players will tell you that you're not very good (laughter). That's true, I mean. I beat Enqvist in LA. Someone came up to me after I beat him the next week and said, "Yeah, he's been playing really badly. He lost to someone at the Olympics and he was match point down at the Olympics." I'll tell you, you have to be your own best friend out here because nobody is going to give you credit. You just have to keep believing in yourself. Even with the press, some people might say, "He's not very talented, he doesn't have a great forehand, he doesn't do this well." You just have to kind of hang in there and believe in yourself and believe what you're doing. I think I did that this week. It's such a great feeling for me right now. I'm very happy.

Q. Alex, never having won a title on the ATP Tour, is it especially difficult to close out the match? Serving at 5-4, were you thinking how close you were to winning it?

ALEX O'BRIEN: In doubles matches, I've had two chances to win two Grand Slam titles. Both times I've been very nervous. I haven't played up to my ability. I let that hamper my play. I tell you, this week, I've just been so confident and I'm seeing the ball so well, hitting the ball so strongly. I didn't doubt myself today and I haven't the whole week. I really served some matches out with strong serves and aggressive play. Even today I faltered a little bit, but I turned around, came back, I hung in there. I kept hitting the ball. I didn't really think, "I'm serving for a title, I'm serving for six zillion points, six zillion dollars, whatever." I just thought, "Keep doing what you've been doing, things will work out for you."

Q. Jan he said he couldn't move, he was tired.

ALEX O'BRIEN: He was tired. He played two matches yesterday. You could tell on his serve. I was also putting a lot of pressure on his serve, so I think he was going for a little bigger first serve. He seemed like he was just kind of walking up there, especially towards the end. He has a slingshot serve anyway, but he was just kind of quick serving and trying to get in early and win the point fast. I felt like he was a little tired as well.

Q. How hot was it on the court?

ALEX O'BRIEN: It was pretty hot. It wasn't like a New York day when it can be really, really hot or humid, or even here it can be that way. I thought it was a pretty warm day today. I was sweating. I went through about six shirts, but that's not a big deal, I sweat a lot.

Q. Alex, you said coming into this match, tournament, you were confident with your game. When you got the wildcard, looked at the field, did you think you had a shot?

ALEX O'BRIEN: No. But I don't think like that. I don't say, "I'm going to win this tournament." With Kafelnikov and Krajicek and whoever else is in the tournament, "I'm going to win this tournament." I just was thinking, "What a great opportunity because I have a wildcard, didn't have to play more qualifying matches." I just really wanted to take advantage of it. I never thought I'd be sitting here telling you guys today, you know, that I won the tournament.

Q. (Inaudible)?

ALEX O'BRIEN: I think it was Friday in Cincinnati. I think it was such a nice gesture by Mr. Westhall to give me that wildcard. I hadn't even asked for wildcards this whole summer because I didn't really feel like I deserved any. I started to play well and picked up my game a little bit, so I asked. He gave me one. I really appreciate that. Really, really appreciate it (laughter).

Q. Two pretty big comebacks in this match today, first out of the tiebreak, second time in the second set. Can you tell us what happened in those games?

ALEX O'BRIEN: Well, in the tiebreaker, he just started off well. He hit a good return, played an aggressive point. All I was thinking is, "Do what you've been doing the whole match, make him hit some volleys, win your service points." I think he missed an easy volley on one, kind of gave me one to get back in, then I stuck in there. At the Love-30 game, I thought I got robbed on that lob call actually to go down Love-30. But I'd been serving pretty effectively, a kick serve into his body, coming into the net. He didn't seem to have a shot to counter that. I thought I was going to do that, attack, play positive and aggressive tennis. That's what I did to get out of it.

Q. (Inaudible) in the zone? Is that the way you feel?

ALEX O'BRIEN: I definitely feel I'm in the zone right now. The ball, I don't think it's watermelon size right now, but it's big. I'm seeing it well and taking the ball early. I'm not doubting myself. I can step up there and I can hit a shot and I believe that's the right shot to hit, whereas most of the times you don't know if you're hitting the right shot, don't know if you should play this shot. You maybe hit a shot and don't come in when you should. I feel like right now I'm just playing positive, aggressive tennis. It's working for me.

Q. (Inaudible) a coach or friend would say, "Just a couple breaks to go your way." Is it a lot easier to believe that now that you've been on the other side?

ALEX O'BRIEN: Yeah, it's amazing. I guess I should never complain again because the breaks have been going my way lately. I think if you just stick with it and persevere and believe in yourself, they're not always going to go your way, but you give yourself a lot better chance to have them go your way. I think that's the whole lesson and the story, give yourself the best chance, and most of the times the breaks will go all your way. Not all the time, but there's great players out there, it's a tennis, match, there will be another one next week.

Q. Where are you play for the next two weeks?

ALEX O'BRIEN: I'm playing in Toronto. I play Tuesday. Hopefully I'll get a Tuesday start.

Q. As a wildcard?

ALEX O'BRIEN: No. Special exempt because I made it to the semifinals here. I made it to the finals here (laughter). I'll play in Toronto. I'm going to play singles and doubles there, then I'll go to the Open and hopefully I'll get a wildcard in the Open. If I don't, I'll just go play doubles in the Open.

Q. Talking to you after the doubles match against the Jensens earlier in the week, you were pretty ticked off that night. Did that anger end up helping you as you look back on the week?

ALEX O'BRIEN: How did the Jensen brothers sneak back into the story (laughter)?

Q. I was walking down the hallway, Luke and Murphy were laughing because they were having a nice joke. I don't know what was going on.

ALEX O'BRIEN: Luke has been my best supporter and my best fan on the TV. I don't have a problem, didn't have anything to do with the Jensen brother's match. That didn't have anything to do with it. I wasn't that ticked off. I was maybe a little irritated, but the story was told the complete wrong way. It said at the end that I was unavailable for comment. That irritated me a little bit. That's just the way things go. Luke has been, gosh, supporting me. After every match he's come up to me and told me, "Great job, I'm really happy for you." I have no problem at all really.

Q. (Inaudible) called yourself a chump I guess jokingly. Is that feeling when you're 280th in the world, walking into the locker room, does that go away now? Do you still kind of feel like you're not the man yet?

ALEX O'BRIEN: I would like to remain the chump because then people don't go after you (laughter). I think that people, when you win a title in a tournament like this, I think you'll gain a lot of respect as a player. It's kind of a nice sneak attack anyway. People don't want to beat a chump so badly.

Q. Is it kind of especially meaningful for you to win here, since you also won here five years ago, and also to win in a Pilot Pen event?

ALEX O'BRIEN: Yeah, it's great. I tell you, I've had the best time coming here. The family that I stay with, they're so happy. I mean, they've been out here every day. It's kind of funny watching them. When I played Kafelnikov, they were like, "We'll help you with your plans after the match and everything (laughter)." Then when I beat Kafelnikov, I could hear him, his name is Deforess Smith, I could hear him cheering for me. He's like, "Common, get a few points." You could tell by the way he was cheering. Then he was like, "Win the first set." Then it was like, "Win the match." I knew after that match he was going to thinking, "So, you could probably win this tournament now (laughter)." It's been fun going through that. They've been taking great care of me. I've been staying at their house. I get my laundry done every day, they cook me meals. It's like being at home, having your parents there to take care of you. It is special for me to win here. I feel it, you know. Maybe I should look into some real estate here or something (laughter).

Q. Have you made reservations at their house for next year?

ALEX O'BRIEN: Yeah, definitely. I think they'll be happy. Hopefully they'll be able to come down and watch me play in the Open.

Q. (Inaudible)?

ALEX O'BRIEN: No, I played the next year. I actually had to retire with heat exhaustion in the first round.

Q. (Inaudible)?

ALEX O'BRIEN: Yes, Stefan.

Q. Was that your first Challenger title, Alex?

ALEX O'BRIEN: No. Well, I think maybe it was my first because I was in college still. It was my first.

Q. (Inaudible). At one time you were top 100 or 90?

ALEX O'BRIEN: 82 I think was my highest ranking. I mean, it's pretty tough. It's emotionally draining, I think. I guess if you have more times like this, it's definitely worth it. I have been at the depths of the barrel and I haven't won any. Just take a look at my record this year and the last year. You can tell that I've been going through some pretty shaky times. Fortunately I've had doubles to keep me going and I've been playing some very solid doubles. That's been a huge bonus for me. It's been tough, but I love this job. I mean, it's the greatest job. I'm my own boss, make my own hours. I'm having fun and I love what I do. Hopefully I can keep doing it and keep having fun at it.

Q. Got a spot picked out for that trophy there?

ALEX O'BRIEN: Wow (laughter).

Q. Seem a little nervous holding it up. Did you ever dream that one day you'd be holding up something like that?

ALEX O'BRIEN: No (laughter). That thing is heavy. I'm tired.

MODERATOR: Pepe Herman spent 75 hours of crystal carving to do this.

ALEX O'BRIEN: I was going to say, I think he was more nervous than I was. He was kind of following me around. He took it away from me. This thing is neat.

Q. All those weeks you said you were in the bottom of the barrel, did you ever imagine, did you ever think, "I could hold up that trophy"? Did you ever think you would be holding this?

ALEX O'BRIEN: I think I did or I would have gone ahead and thrown in the towel. I didn't know it would come like this. I didn't know I would be getting my first title in New Haven.

Q. Was there ever a point, Alex, where you considered bagging the singles Tour and just becoming a doubles player?

ALEX O'BRIEN: Not a chance. It's actually kind of sad. Doubles is a great game and people that play doubles, I think the normal fan watches a lot of doubles, it's kind of gotten to be a second-ranked sport. I always said if I did well in singles that I would promote the doubles. I tell you, it's an amazing sport, and you can see some of the best matches. Sometimes it gets old watching guys playing singles, singles. It's a great mix up, change up. I know Mr. Westhall is doing a doubles World Championships and hopefully will be back here in Hartford. I think I'm eighth. I'm playing with a French Canadian guy. It's a great sport. I think it's just kind of sad that it's become such a second rate sport. Even after the singles, they should have said, "We have a great doubles match coming up." There are two excellent teams up there. I think it is important to kind of promote the whole game. It is a game, supposed to be fun, the fans are supposed to enjoy it. That's my piece about doubles.

Q. The other day you were talking about signing autographs. I don't know if you alluded to something about the fact that something had happened once and that's why you liked to sign autographs. Was there something specific?

ALEX O'BRIEN: Well, it was actually at this tournament in New Haven, I just lost a match and I was really down. A couple of kids, maybe one or two, were asking me for my autograph. I just kind of said, "No." I just walked by them. I wasn't very -- I was just rude basically. I was feeling sorry for myself, thinking about my loss. The kids had watched me all through college and they had been big supporters of me. They told their parents that I kind of brushed them off. Their parents ended up telling the guy who I was staying with. It's a good lesson, because this game is about everyone, especially the kids, because they're the future, not only in tennis, but also want to be a good role model and show them you're happy they came out there. It's important to do that.

Q. (Inaudible)?

ALEX O'BRIEN: Yeah, I try to talk to them. The two kids, no. I'm sorry to the two kids (laughter).

Q. Was there a specific point in the match today where you said, "I've got this one"?

ALEX O'BRIEN: Yeah. I think when I hit that backhand cross court passing shot to go up 5-4. His return, sometimes he can really get on it. I felt like if I just served a solid game the next game, I felt like I had the match under control.

Q. How does this week compare to the week you won the NCAA? Any parallel at all?

ALEX O'BRIEN: Yeah, I think there's a parallel. I don't think I felt when I won the NCAA that I was hitting the ball as well as I am right now, that I was playing as strongly as I am. It was an unbelievable feeling. I had to go back to college and just have fun, relax. Now I have a new week and now I have to kind of get back to work. Can't go drink a few beers and hang out and talk about the good times.

Q. What do you think your chances are of getting a wildcard at the US Open?

ALEX O'BRIEN: I'm not going to play the quallies because I'm going to Toronto to play in that tournament. I'm just banking on the fact they'll give me one. I think they're pretty good. I have a lot of support in the USTA, Tom Gullikson has been helping me a lot. I think they'll see that I'm playing good tennis and they'll say, "We want him to represent the US in the US Open." They've given me a wildcard before. Hopefully I'll have a good chance. You never know. It's pretty political institution. Just hoping for the best right now.

Q. (Inaudible)?

ALEX O'BRIEN: Right, right.

Q. If you get a wildcard here (inaudible)?

ALEX O'BRIEN: I might have tried here come here and tried to play qualifying. I'm not sure exactly what I would have done. My doubles partner went to Indianapolis, I was thinking about maybe going there. I doubt I would have gone there. I enjoy this tournament so much, I'm sure I would have just played qualifying here.

Q. (Inaudible)?

ALEX O'BRIEN: Well, probably just the fact that I stay with the family here, that it's very relaxing, it's a nice event, run well. The people at the players desk there are really nice, the girls that help out in there are very helpful. It has kind of a small tournament atmosphere. However, you know, it's a big tournament. It just makes it very easy. The locker rooms are awesome, the stadium here is one of the greatest stadiums I've played in for sure. They have a really nice setup here. I just think they put on a quality event.

Q. Sometimes a player like yourself comes out of nowhere to win a tournament, you never hear of them again. Sometimes it's like a springboard, can really get their career going. Do you think this is a way to get your career going?

ALEX O'BRIEN: I think you'll never hear of me again (laughter).

I mean, I hope that it is a springboard. I feel like -- I don't know if you watched the match, but I feel like I'm playing the type of tennis where I can maintain this, I can stay out there and play with the best players. This has given me a huge amount of confidence. It's made me realize that I'm one of the best players in the world and that I can compete with these guys. It doesn't mean I'm going to win every tournament, win the US Open, take the world by storm, but it's a building block and it's a step for me. I think it's a great step in the right direction. I hope I'm not one of those people you never hear of again.

Q. (Inaudible)?

ALEX O'BRIEN: I'm sure they were jumping up and down watching the TV. I spoke with them last night. My father and my mother and my sister were in Seattle. They had watched the match. I couldn't sleep last night, didn't sleep very well at all. I called them pretty late out there and just talked to them a little bit. Of course, my mom told me to go to bed (laughter). It's been great. They've been my best supporters. They really have. They've stood beside me in the terrible times. I really remember the people. There's certain friends of mine who have called me up when I've won a match or done well and the bad times. That will really stick with me because I'm sure a lot of people will be calling up now.

End of FastScripts…

About ASAP SportsFastScripts ArchiveRecent InterviewsCaptioningUpcoming EventsContact Us
FastScripts | Events Covered | Our Clients | Other Services | ASAP in the News | Site Map | Job Opportunities | Links
ASAP Sports, Inc. | T: 1.212 385 0297