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May 8, 2003

Yevgeny Kafelnikov


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. First of all, well done. After that, people said it's very dangerous to bet on your matches because you never know what's going on.

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Exactly (laughter).

Q. How do you explain that?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I can't explain to you, you know. Sometimes I even, you know, impressed with myself. I didn't know what to expect, simple as that. I didn't know that I was gonna come out and beat Moya today. That was unexpected.

Q. When did you last feel as happy about the way you were playing as now?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: It's a good question, actually. I don't know. Since it's been a long time - a long time since I felt that excited. But at least, you know, I can again feel that way.

Q. Do you think the fact that you said what you said at the end of last year has almost freed you to play as well as you've been?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Perhaps. I think that I took away some heavy weight off my shoulder because I have accomplished everything, what I've set for myself throughout the career - Grand Slam, No. 1 in the world. That's already in the history. I said to myself, "Why don't you try another year, see if you can enjoy the tennis like you did once?" And so far, you know, I been doing it successfully even though I had some tough and difficult losses. But still, you know, I have played a number of matches where I was happy with the way I played.

Q. You said more than once that once you helped Russia to win the Davis Cup you would retire. How tempted were you to actually do that? What told you not to?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I committed to have a surgery long before, so... But like I told you before, and I repeat it again, I was feeling very terrible physically throughout middle of last season. I was practicing only for half an hour, you know. I had no energy. The leg was bothering me. I got out of the shape, completely. Once I did that in December, you know, I started to feel much more healthy again. And, you know, there was never a question that I could play on the high level again, it's whether I wanted to or not. I committed to myself. I said, "You know, I try slowly to put myself back in shape," and that's what I did. That's what I did. It was difficult January, February, March, but at least now I'm winning matches on clay where in previous years I wasn't able to do that. That just shows again that I, you know, I believe that I could play best tennis again like once I did before.

Q. Today when you went into the tiebreak, you said, "I have to win this one"?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: No, to be honest, not. I did not say to myself, "I have to win it." I was prepared to play the third set, too. I was ready physically, and there's no question that I wasn't gonna try to come back perhaps to win the third set. But it was nice to close it out in two sets. Because once you play like that, you almost don't want to go out because you are enjoying yourself.

Q. When did you start to feel good on clay this year?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I think the main reason was that we were lucky that we played Argentina on clay in April. So I had some time to prepare specifically to play on the clay. I was unfortunate to lose to Srichaphan in Key Biscayne, then I had a lot of time off to prepare myself physically, which I did. Even though we lost Davis Cup to Argentina, but I felt like I was ready to play on clay.

Q. In a way, it's almost as if you're starting a new chapter in your career. You clearly were very excited to be out there.

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Exactly. I'm as happy as I was once in '96 when I won the French Open, to be honest. But, you know, I'm 29 years old. It feels like, you know, one chapter of my career is behind it and perhaps there is a new one near to come. Who knows? But like I said, you know, I don't want to make any goals for myself throughout this year, you know. I'm just happy that I could play again on the level which gives me so much satisfying.

Q. Between the French in '96, Australian '99, which is the best memory?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: It's difficult for me to answer. I think they all pretty much stay on the same level, you know - winning French, Australia, Olympics, Davis Cup. It is hard to pinpoint any of them, you know. They all pretty much the same.

Q. You retired and changed your mind, you are still pretty young at 29. Pete Sampras can't seem to decide whether to retire, because he's afraid he might want to come back. Can you understand his position?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I don't, to be honest. Because it would be very hard for him to come back and play again and to avoid disaster like losing, you know, early rounds in the tournaments. Because he is a great champion, and to finish on such a, you know, exciting note like he did winning his own US Open, it's a great way to finish.

Q. Could you just tell us exactly what the surgery entailed? What had to be done?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I had a varicose vein. It seems to me I had a big problem with the blood circulation and after 20 or 30 minutes of practicing, I felt like, you know, my leg was getting numb. That's the reason. You know, I was used to ride the bike for 40, 45 minutes. But then five minutes for me, I was already tired and didn't felt anything. So that's how bad it was.

Q. Looking back now, if you hadn't had the incentive of Davis Cup still to win, do you think you would have pushed yourself through what you went through last year?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: That's a difficult question. That's a difficult question. To be honest, I don't know the answer. You know, I have to thank my team for helping me accomplish that goal that I set up for myself throughout last season. That was big. Who knows if we would not win that Davis Cup what would have happened, if I would have had the desire to continue or not. Because if we didn't, then, you know, all the pressure would be on me because I said, "I'm gonna help my country to win the Davis Cup." That would have been, I'm sure, different story than there is right now.

Q. You played Verkerk in the final in Milan this year.


Q. What sort of match was that? How do you think it might work out tomorrow?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: It was a difficult match for me because we played on a fast surface and it was basically impossible to touch his serve. Hopefully, I can do a little better than I did in Milan tomorrow. It's a different surface, but, you know, he has been playing also well lately - you know, beat Roddick and Nieminen. I did not expect that, to be honest. I thought Nieminen was going to win. But he just told me that he won it. So it would be a difficult match for me, completely different to what I had today. You know, I'm gonna have to defend myself tomorrow instead of, you know, going at my opponent like I did today.

Q. You have your two best results of the year in Italy. Do you have any explanation?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: No, just coincidence I think. You know, Milan, obviously, was indoor. Indoor is my favorite surface where I had my most success. And here is just, you know, circumstances. You know, on the tenth try I reach the quarterfinal here in Rome. That's amazing. Although, you know, those previous times I was a bit unlucky but, you know, on the tenth try I reach the quarters. It's a step forward.

Q. I would think Australia was your favorite place.

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: There are a lot of favorite places - Moscow, won five times in a row, almost did six. In Italy I had good results, in France. Everywhere except Asia. I used to hate Rome because I was never playing well here.

Q. So you're not going to China?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: No, no (smiling).

End of FastScripts….

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