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May 9, 2003

Yevgeny Kafelnikov


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Does this feel like the tennis you used to play a lot?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Yeah, it feels like this.

Q. The good old days?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: It feels like this - at least for one week. Hopefully, it's not the last. That's what I'm really hoping for.

Q. Yesterday you talked about all the accomplishments you achieved in the game - Grand Slams, Olympics, No. 1. Would it be nice to add a Masters Series title to that list?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Absolutely, 0-5 in the finals, it would have been nice to have at least one Masters Series event. But it's still long way to go, two matches. But I'll definitely try.

Q. As you said yesterday, this was going to be a different type of match.


Q. Were you pleased particularly with the way you were able to sort of defend when you had to, then turn it around and apply pressure back on him?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Yes, I was quite happy, you know, to have a good start, especially in the beginning of the match to be able to break him right away to let him know that, you know, he's gonna struggle on his own serve. For example, as the score was showing, 6-0, 6-3, he beat Nieminen. He didn't have much trouble in his service department. But today I was able to read his serve perfectly, maybe just because it was a clay court, different game than I had couple months ago in indoor when I played him in Milan. But, you know, he came out firing and, you know, I was surprised how well he played from the baseline, too. So overall, I think generally I was able to keep him on the baseline and defend myself as well as I could, play a defense game.

Q. Because you broke him so quickly, do you think that forced him to go for a bit more?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I think yes. Especially one game, sure, when I broke him, he made three straight double-faults. He knew he had to do something special on his serve to be able to win points quickly. And instead, like I said, I was reading his serve perfectly. I think that was the key, you know. Who knows if he would have been serving aces like he did in Milan - I don't know how many he had, 36, 37 - you know, would have been different story. But like I said, today I played very good defensive tennis and was happy with all the aspects of my game.

Q. Life seems good in retirement. I'm sorry, I haven't been around. What made you change your mind?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I started to feel much more healthier than I was. That's the main reason why I'm still here.

Q. It looks like your forehand is working very well. Is it just a question of confidence, or did you change something technically?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I think it's a combination of everything. I'm physically much more stronger, that's one thing. The other thing is I have been winning consistently few matches in a row; that's second. Third, you know, it's belief. You know, I have won, you know, the toughest probably Grand Slam of all four - French Open. Belief is still in me. I can do it again, sure.

Q. In the sixth game when you had the warning, was it the noise that was irritating you, that seemed to be annoying you?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: No, it had nothing to do with the noise. I was just so into the match, I felt like at that stage it was a crucial moment in the match and I made unforced errors and kind of let my emotions go out. And then, you know, I did not thought that he was gonna give me a warning right away. I got upset with the umpire that time. That's why I fire him back again. So he give me another warning.

Q. Do they have that word in Russia?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Of course they do, of course. But at least from his side, he should have, you know, tell me something instead of give me a warning right away. Because, like I said, I was so into the match and just kind of let my emotions go.

Q. Verkerk is entering Wimbledon for the first time this year. He's never played on grass. He's going to play Rosmalen and Wimbledon. With his game, do you think he could do well at Wimbledon?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Absolutely, absolutely. If he's confident in his service department, he can be as good as Henman, Rusedski, Roddick, Ivanisevic. You know, honestly, I have played many guys who had tremendous serve, and he probably stands with many other guys at least in the Top 10. And on the grass, it would be basically impossible to touch him if he's confident.

Q. You talked yesterday about possibly a new chapter in your tennis life. When you look at what Andre has achieved at 33, does that encourage you to think there's a good three, four years left in your tennis life?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Absolutely. I think it's a question of always keeping yourself in shape. And, of course, for us, we are not 20 or 21 years old players, we are in the 30s. It's always difficult to maintain yourself in the best possible shape. Once you're out of shape, you have to work three or four times harder at that age than when you are 20. So, like I said, I had a very difficult period of time throughout middle of last season. For me, was very, very difficult to come back at least to the shape where I am right now, and I'm probably only halfway where I once was.

Q. When you said you would retire, you were discouraged physically?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Yes, yes, there was a reason why I said that, because I didn't know if I was gonna recover well and feeling that well.

Q. What brought you back, a trainer?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: What brought me back is just, again, that I started to feel much more healthier, you know. I was saying yesterday, you were not here, that throughout halfway of the last season I wasn't able to practice at all because I was getting very tired physically throughout each practice. But right now, at least I can go longer. That's the reason why I'm winning the matches.

Q. Do you think the way you're playing now, how would you rate your chances for the French tournament?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: You know, I don't want to put myself in a position where I even can think that I can go and win it or even be perhaps one of the guys who are favorite, you know. It's not in my mind at the moment. You know, I'm gonna slowly go there as I used to go when I was, you know, 19 and 20 years old and nobody knew who I was. And to be honest, it's the best position for me because I can come out and win one or two matches, get my confidence back and who knows...

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