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August 16, 1996

Alex O'Brien


JOE LYNCH: Alex O'Brien into the semifinals. Reached the quarterfinals in the Challenger, qualified and got to the quarterfinals in LA, took the OJ red-eye, has reached the semifinals here. Beat Richard Krajicek in Adelaide in '93. First question for Alex.

Q. Alex, were you surprised that you were able to do as well as you did against him?

ALEX O'BRIEN: No. I just felt like if I could really, you know, take advantage of his second serve, because he really started missing a lot of first serves, I'd try to take advantage of his second serve, come in and put pressure on him. I've seen him play enough times that I pretty much know what he's going to do. I know how he reacts to those balls. I just felt like I would take my chances, you know, I had nothing to lose. Like I told you yesterday, take my chances. Paid off today.

Q. Yesterday you also said about your confidence starting to come back a little bit. Obviously today it was there.

ALEX O'BRIEN: Yeah, today, I didn't falter. I can't think of a time that I thought to myself, you know, I shouldn't be here, I'm nervous. Actually one serve I think hit the baseline, the first set, I was up 40-Love at 5-4. I hope I was nervous on that, otherwise I'm a little off target. Yeah, I was really pleased. Hopefully I can kind of keep this on an even keel and keep it going.

Q. You were very subdued after winning. Did you know you had this all along coming here today? Are you just in a frame of mind where you can win this whole thing?

ALEX O'BRIEN: Yeah. I've tried to -- I've realized in the past if you get too fired up or if you get too hyped up after beating a guy, the next day you're done. There's still another day and another day. I'd like to win this tournament. I mean, I've got the next round. I really have to kind of focus in on the next round. I'm not some supernatural talent like this guy I played today. I have to go out there and get the job done, concentrate on what I'm doing out there.

Q. Do you remember the Challenger that you won in '91? (Inaudible).

ALEX O'BRIEN: Well, I remember winning the tournament here in '91. I don't remember what I did afterwards. I don't remember. I don't know.

Q. Was there anything about your game that appeared to frustrate him? He seemed (inaudible) throughout the match.

ALEX O'BRIEN: I don't think he has a lot of fight in him. If you get on top of him and put pressure on him, he doesn't handle it well, or he didn't today. He did seem a little on edge. I just never gave him any rhythm. I think he likes to dictate the points. I took that away from him today by going for the big shot earlier than he did. I think that was frustrating to him.

Q. When he hits a big shot, (inaudible)?

ALEX O'BRIEN: Usually when he hit the big shot first, it's easy to win the point. I counter punched. Almost got a match point on 5-3. I played a good defensive point. Ended up screwing me on some cross court shot. I played a few good defensive points. When you play those kind of points, it takes a lot out of you. I'm not playing too many of those.

Q. Alex, what's an American studies major?

ALEX O'BRIEN: (Inaudible). No, it was my three favorite subjects. I say that just because everyone says, "What can you do with an American studies major?" "Play tennis." It's a combination of English, history and political science. Those are my three favorite subjects in school. I enjoy to read, and that's why I chose that major.

Q. Does that mean you're up on the political campaign?

ALEX O'BRIEN: No, not too much. I've been going to bed early.

Q. Fifth game, Love-40, eventually fought back. Did you ever doubt yourself at that point?

ALEX O'BRIEN: A little bit. I was a little unsure. I think at the start of these matches it's important, as far as the way the match goes, the first game I was down breakpoint and the second game I served I was also down breakpoint. I fought out of them. It's so important to get out of games like that. A lot of these guys are front runners. This guy is a perfect example of a great front runner. I was a little kind of just uneasy feeling about the way the match was going. After that game, then I got -- the next time he served, I think I got it right back to breakpoint. I realized I was something to hurt this guy.

Q. You said he's a great front runner and he doesn't have much fight in him. Is that the popular opinion in the locker room, if you get that first set, you can pretty much --

ALEX O'BRIEN: I don't think if you get the first set.

Q. Well, if you get him down and frustrate him?

ALEX O'BRIEN: Yeah, I think Vince Spadea, last year at the Open, Vince just took it to him and kept hammering, kept hammering, kept putting pressure on him. You could tell, it's almost like he wasn't trying. He doesn't really change that much, he doesn't seem like. Keeps playing the same game. If that game is good enough to win, he wins. You know, I played a great match today and I served, you know, one of the best serving matches I think I served, just mixing it up, changing the pace, putting it in the corners. I think that really frustrated him. He's a great returner. To not be able to get my serve back frustrated the guy.

Q. Are you pitching yourself right now? Are you telling yourself, "It's about time this has all come to fruition and I'm finally where I'm supposed to be"?

ALEX O'BRIEN: I kind of felt like that. I'm also trying not to think like that because I realize I have a match to play tomorrow. I'm just trying -- I'm so happy right now. I'm really pleased with the way my game has turned around. This was a big step for me. But I also want to keep it going. It's hard to balance those two. Right now I'm trying to just keep -- stay normal, even, try to do it the best I can to get ready for my match tomorrow.

Q. And that will be a big server?

ALEX O'BRIEN: Yeah. You just have to really, really focus in on the chances you get. When you have them, take advantage of them.

Q. What has turned your game around the last couple months?

ALEX O'BRIEN: Winning some matches, just going out there and closing out that last point, just confidence. I'm a lot more confident right now. I also feel like I'm serving a little better, hitting my backhand down the line a lot more effectively. I have a lot of different ways to attack people. I think that helps me a lot. I can play from the baseline, I can serve and volley. I'd like to say I'm an all-court player. I used to be just a baseliner. I feel now I can take advantage of all aspects of the court.

Q. Did you see Yevgeny in the locker room before the match? What was that like and later on play somebody?

ALEX O'BRIEN: Kind of like one of those Rocky fights. You sit there and stare at each other. (Laughter). He winks at me every now and then. I haven't had too many conversations with him, but every now and then he'll give me a wink when he walks by. I'm just a scrub, so I don't really count yet. Hopefully if I can keep doing this, maybe he'll acknowledge me.

Q. On paper it looks odd that you come into New Haven with three wins and you win four in four days. It's hard for lay people to understand how that happens.

ALEX O'BRIEN: Well, I mean, I don't know if you watched the match today, but I played -- I felt like I played a really solid match. I really attacked well, I volleyed well, I moved well. I think in tennis today, more and more people are saying this, it's amazing how many good players there are. Three years ago when I started, you could win the first round of a challenger, easy matches at these bigger tournaments. But now I think it's been shown time and time again, even big tournaments, anyone can beat anyone. In the Top 200, I think any player can beat the Top 10 player. It really is amazing how many good players there are today. It makes it a game where it becomes so much more mental because there's so many people with ability now.

Q. Can you talk a little bit around sticking around in Stanford and graduating? So many turning pro before, during and after.

ALEX O'BRIEN: When I went to Stanford, I definitely wasn't ready to turn pro out of high school. It wasn't my dream to be a professional tennis player. I wanted to go to a good school and play tennis and get a good education. After my junior year in college, I played on the Tour one summer, and I got my ranking up to like 180 or something. I had a good summer. I struggled a little bit about whether I should go back or not. John Stark and Jared Palmer had come and gone. I thought about it. I'm happy. First of all, college is a great part of your life, it's a fun time. Secondly, I graduated, so that's always nice to have.

Q. What made your decision?

ALEX O'BRIEN: I think it was talking to my parents, my friends, just kind of getting a look on it, just how I felt about it.

Q. Was there ever a time in the last four years that you said to yourself, "If I junk this, I might be doing better"?

ALEX O'BRIEN: No, not at all. I think age-wise I'm old, but I feel like I'm kind of just starting.

Q. Is this where you expected to be in your career? Coming out of college, winning there. Did you think you could come out and take the Tour by storm?

ALEX O'BRIEN: It's weird. I've never really put expectations on myself. I've always just thought I could be the best. Never said, I want to be No. 1, No. Two, Top 10. I just always thought I could go into something and play with the best, beat the best. I don't know how I envisioned it happening. Hopefully this will start a trend where I hang in there and play with some better players.

Q. Did you have to do anything to reshape your expectations of your own performance or are you actually not reshaping your expectations, you always believed you could be the best?

ALEX O'BRIEN: Obviously about a year ago or even like five months ago, I was having some doubts whether I could be the best. This last month has been great for me and made me believe that I can be the best. I guess it's a good lesson for people who are going through bad times, just to persevere. And I think that's what it's all about on the Tour, is believing in yourself and persevering.

Q. If you didn't have pro expectations or aspirations, what did you want to do? What did you figure your career was going to be?

ALEX O'BRIEN: I didn't really think about it. After my junior year, I kind of decided that I did want to play pro tennis. So I didn't think, What would my career be if I didn't play pro tennis? I just kind of started playing.

Q. Was there a moment were you said to yourself, Maybe this isn't going to be? What made you stick it out?

ALEX O'BRIEN: I think I was too stubborn to say that. I just really wanted to do well in this sport. I just tried to hang in there. I didn't really say, "No, I'm not going to do it." I was 12 in the world. I got to 10 in the world in doubles. I felt like I had the talent, knew how to win matches. I just felt like it was a matter of time. But, I don't know, it's hard to believe it sometimes.

Q. Were there others around you? You say you talked to your families and friend. Were there others around you that started doubting you?

ALEX O'BRIEN: No. That's one of the great things about my family. They've been behind me 100 percent. My dad would always tell me, "The worst thing that could happen is you could go get a job." I was like, "Yeah, you're right. I'll start playing harder."

Q. Is this your biggest win?

ALEX O'BRIEN: Yeah, it is for sure my biggest win.

Q. Did you sign more autographs than you have out there?

ALEX O'BRIEN: I've been in some big matches and stuff where I've signed some. I just feel like it's important, especially for the little kids, to stay there even if you win or lose. I've done it before where I've lost a match and pushed a few people out of my way. I had parents tell someone that their little kid watched me or liked me. I just try to do that as much as possible. They go out there and it makes their day. They're supporting us. You should give back to them as well.

JOE LYNCH: Anything else for Alex?

Q. Do you have a coach?

ALEX O'BRIEN: I've been working with a couple people. This guy Keith Dipraam, not with me at the moment, but he might come to the Open. He's a South African. He helped Wayne Ferreira a little bit. I've also been working with Tom Gullikson and Jose Higueras. I've had a bunch of different people. I've been in the USTA program. People have been very influential and helpful, stuck by me.

JOE LYNCH: Anything else for Alex?

Q. (Inaudible)?

ALEX O'BRIEN: Well, I grew up in Texas. I always liked Richey a lot. I just like the way he plays. He goes out there and takes care of business. I also liked Borg when I was growing up. You can't tell it by my disposition on the court.

JOE LYNCH: Last question.

Q. Is there a lot of camaraderie in the Tour? (Inaudible)?

ALEX O'BRIEN: You mean after we play someone?

Q. Yes.

ALEX O'BRIEN: Not necessarily. No, not usually. We do hang out with each other quite a bit. We'll go out to dinner together. There's certain groups of friends that you'll have on the Tour. Obviously it changes every week because different guys go to different tournaments. The top guys stay a little more to themselves. They still go out and hang out with the guys a little bit.

JOE LYNCH: Thank you.

End of FastScripts…

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