March 19, 2005
INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA
THE MODERATOR: Irakli advances to his first career ATP semifinal. He's the first left-hander to reach the semifinals here in Indian Wells since 1998, when Marcelo Rios and Greg Rusedski played in the final here.
Q. Can you believe what's happening to you this week?
IRAKLI LABADZE: No, I don't believe. I'm afraid I'm going to wake up and I'm still playing for my first round.
Q. Why has it suddenly come right this week?
IRAKLI LABADZE: I really have no idea. I really never -- I never thought that I can be semifinalist, you know. That's -- I don't know. I have no words, you know. I just came. I knew that I can play good, you know. Sometimes I'm not really confident. Play good, I can lose maybe ten rounds first time, first ten rounds in a row, then suddenly play like semis or quarters. But then also I can make quarters in tournament like this. So many good players. I don't know.
Q. You knew from previous times that you could beat James Blake. But who is the other top-ranked player you've beaten?
IRAKLI LABADZE: This tournament?
Q. No, ever.
IRAKLI LABADZE: Ever, was Andre Agassi, two years ago in Shanghai.
THE MODERATOR: 2001.
Q. You just won $106,240.
IRAKLI LABADZE: Man, I'm going to go ride in my car (smiling).
Q. What is the previous highest purse you have won?
IRAKLI LABADZE: Me?
IRAKLI LABADZE: I don't know, six and a half dollars (smiling). I don't know. I think my biggest check I got was $24,000 US.
Q. Where was that?
IRAKLI LABADZE: It was in St. Petersburg. I lost first round singles, final doubles.
Q. Where was that again?
IRAKLI LABADZE: St. Petersburg, Russia.
THE MODERATOR: That was a combined singles and doubles paycheck.
Q. We notice that Jeff Tarango was sitting in your supporter's group. Is he playing a role with you this tournament?
IRAKLI LABADZE: No. He's just a good friend, you know. He has been a little bit out here. I have as well my friend here, which is tennis coach. He's helping me out here. Last three weeks also he was helping me out. But Jeff, I saw him here, you know, and we kind of every night we were together. And then he was giving me some tips. I don't know, they both helped me out a lot. So Jeff gave me some help, too, yeah.
Q. Helping you with your mental game probably?
IRAKLI LABADZE: Yeah, my mental and most of my tactical game. So he really gave me some good tips.
Q. You ought to be really good with tactics since you're such a good chess player. Different games?
IRAKLI LABADZE: Yeah. I don't know. Play like all of these matches, I played really -- I was surprised with myself. You know, they told me to play like this and I was playing like this. Usually I'm not handling this, you know. I play one set and then I lose it. Until I go back to the same tactic, I'm in the shower already, lost the match. So now I'm in the shower, but I'm in the shower as a winner.
Q. Did you try to scout Henman in his match in the thought that maybe you might be playing him? Did you watch the Henman match?
IRAKLI LABADZE: A little bit, yeah. But I watch it not because I said I'm going to play against him next match and I have to see in case I win how he's playing. I was just watching because it was in the locker room on and I look up a couple of games.
Q. Have you watched him play much?
IRAKLI LABADZE: No.
Q. Know much about his game?
IRAKLI LABADZE: No, I don't know much about his game, no. I know he's playing serve and volley, that's it. But you all know this, too.
Q. I know you're from Georgia, but the Russian girls are doing fine, and Russian tennis players aren't.
IRAKLI LABADZE: Russian?
Q. Russian girls, they're advancing, at the top. The Russian boys are not right now.
IRAKLI LABADZE: I mean, Russian boys, there are couple good players. Safin, he was No. 1. I don't know. You know, Russian boys have a little bit more crazy, you know. That's why? I don't know. I have no idea. We have opposite, you know. Girls cannot play in Georgia, so I don't know.
Q. Has Metrevili had any involvement with you at any stage?
IRAKLI LABADZE: Yeah, it was two years ago in summer on the clay court, Monte-Carlo and Casablanca, three weeks he helped me out. Otherwise, that's it, because he's working with the Russian television.
Q. How do you sort of come through in tennis in Georgia? Is there much help that you get from the national association or what? Did you do it all yourself?
IRAKLI LABADZE: No, it's really difficult there because Federation, I never got the help from the Federation. They never even paid me one trip even to Russia, you know. Never gave me even free tennis ball before. So I was lucky that my father, you know, had some money, and he risk. He thought that I can be a good player, you know. So he risk the money, and we went to Germany, we practice there. Then I won some tournament, so I got the sponsor after finally. And, yeah, my father had some money. Because if you have no money, your own money to travel, is not possible to make it. Because we have a lot of talented players, and you don't see them because they have no money. And the Federation doesn't give them money. Now maybe it's getting better, they pay one, or two or three tournaments. But it is nothing. We don't even get 1% help of what any other country gets.
Q. I shouldn't need to ask this, but are you in the Davis Cup?
IRAKLI LABADZE: Yes, I think so, yeah. I was yesterday (smiling).
Q. Which division are you in?
IRAKLI LABADZE: We are in the second division. We're playing against Italy right after Miami.
Q. Do you think your performance here will help tennis in Georgia?
IRAKLI LABADZE: Yes.
Q. Bring more interest?
IRAKLI LABADZE: Yes, you know, because I was like long, long time ago, somebody played semifinal Super 9, since Alex Metrevili, I think he played. He was in the final Wimbledon, but I don't know about a Super 9.
THE MODERATOR: He was a little before Super 9, Alex Metrevili.
IRAKLI LABADZE: I'm bad with history, so... It's really, really -- it really helped to other players because now they think even Georgians can play tennis.
Q. What subjects did you like in school?
IRAKLI LABADZE: Oh, I liked mathematic and, how you call it, geography. I hated the rest.
Q. When did you start playing?
IRAKLI LABADZE: I was -- well, first time I went to the tennis club, I was seven years old almost, six and a half. But I was three years old, four years old when my father, he moved the sofas from the living room, and I was playing with a (soccer?) ball in the living room. He has still on the camera when I was playing. "Move your legs. Move your legs." "No, I don't want to move my legs." "No, move, move." Pretty much playing since the day I born.
Q. There was a point in the first set where I thought I saw you climb up the umpire's chair and say something in his microphone.
IRAKLI LABADZE: He turned the microphone off. Can you believe this? It's unbelievable. He gave me a code violation because I kicked the ball out. I don't know what happened. I was complaining because the ball boy, when he took the balls, he was running back to his place. When I toss the ball, the chair umpire usually has to say, "No, wait, stop." It was two times he didn't say nothing. I saw with one eye. Then I stopped. When you do this, your concentration -- you lose concentration a little bit. That's why I throw the ball out when I lost the game. I told chair umpire, "You have to do this." He gave me the code violation. So I took the microphone and I wanted to say, "Code violation to you." The problem between my code violation and his code violation is that we get fined, he don't get fined. That's the difference.
Q. Do you do that often on the court? Are you a bit of character? Do you like to let your personality show?
IRAKLI LABADZE: Yeah, I mean, I like to have fun. I think it's a little boring just to be very serious and play, you know. I think people, they like it. I'm sure they like it. This is who I am. This is my way of having fun, you know. It's not just you go and play three sets like a robot. You want to enjoy and you want to make people enjoy.
Q. Why do you think you always beat Blake?
IRAKLI LABADZE: I don't know. Because he's American (laughter). No, sorry. I don't know. Right after the match in the locker room, my friend ask me. "You play him three times, you won against him three times." I don't know, because he don't like lefties. I don't know. You have to ask him, you know. I always have -- I'm always having a tough match. Is not one of the players that you say, "I want to play." He's definitely one of the players that I say, "I don't like to play him too much," because he's really good player, he's not making too many mistakes. I don't know. In the end, I guess I was strong. Against him, I'm always strong in the head. He has the bad luck.
Q. Can you go on court tomorrow thinking, "I've got nothing to lose"?
IRAKLI LABADZE: Yes, of course. You know, it's my first semifinal and I really have nothing to lose. Tim is a very, very good player, he has great results. He been winning these tournaments already. I just go out and try to do my best. I win, I win. I lose, I lose. I have no pressure. I'm really happy with my result. Of course, I would like to do better, but I'll just go and do my best. I have nothing to lose.
Q. The minute the match was over, what goes through your head?
IRAKLI LABADZE: Through my head?
Q. What are you thinking?
IRAKLI LABADZE: I don't know. I don't know. I -- I don't know. I cannot answer. I was not thinking nothing.
Q. Was it a big sense of relief? Looked like sheer jubilation and celebration.
IRAKLI LABADZE: Yeah, you know, when I won, I was like, "This is not true." Even when I had the match point, I was like, "Is this match point?" I looked at the score board two times. "Is match point?" When I won, I don't know. I was very happy, you know. Usually you scream or you do something. I was so happy, I couldn't do nothing. I was shocked. I couldn't even talk.
Q. Have you ever met Goran Ivanisevic?
IRAKLI LABADZE: Yeah, I met him two years ago in Miami. Yeah, he told me I can play good tennis, good player. So I have to make a lot of physical work, you know. So he's one of my favorite players, you know, because he's also crazy on the court little bit. I really liked to watch him. Agassi, I really like his game. He's my idol. But to see like three-set match for me is impossible. I can see three-set match for example Ivanisevic and McEnroe play. These are one of the guys I like to watch. He's not playing as much now. I'm sure when everybody watching him, they having fun. So that's why -- I don't act because he act like this. I don't know.
Q. Did you play a lot of different sports when you were younger or just tennis?
IRAKLI LABADZE: No, I played soccer, you know. But just with the kids, you know, in the neighborhood. That's it. Nothing else. When I went to States when I was like 16, 17, and I played a lot of basketball there. Because, you know, in States, basketball. So I played a lot of basketball there. But no other sport, except chess, but I don't think chess is sport. I'm sorry about "Americans." Was a joke.
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