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September 12, 1999

Brad Gilbert

Flushing Meadows, New York City

USTA: Questions for Brad.

Q. What does this mean to you? What has the last 12 months been like in reaching the situation where Andre has won two Slams this year?

BRAD GILBERT: Well, it's just been a culmination of pretty much since Las Vegas Challenger of '97. It was almost like we started over. We were almost at the same point we were at '94. It was all about just rededicating and working hard. Just felt like it was going to be a six-month step, you know. It really was like a six-month step. Unfortunately, last year, he just didn't peak for any of the Slams. He played really well in tournaments, but didn't really peak for any Slams. Then I think that was our big emphasis for this year, was peaking for Slams.

Q. What was the catalyst, what was the spark?

BRAD GILBERT: I think at 27 years old, a lot of people were writing him off for the wrong reasons. I mean, a lot of times when guys start going down, you know, they think, you know, whether or not it's his legs or his game. Pretty much Andre got to the point where he was at because it was kind of self-inflicted. I told him there was still a lot left in him. If he rededicated himself and gave everything he had, he was going to get everything back. There's no guarantees, but one thing, obviously he worked his ass off with Gil. I feel like one of the greatest regrets can be if you can look back at things and think you could have done things differently. You know what, "I'm just going to work hard and see what happens." If it didn't go as good, he gave it everything he had.

Q. Was the fitness the key?

BRAD GILBERT: I think fitness, his mind, his determination to be out there, his drive, his desire, his goals. He didn't really have any goals. He didn't really have any purpose. I think everything in his game, it's not like he lost his backhand, lost his forehand, his serve. He just wasn't playing much and just didn't really care that much.

Q. Was it difficult for you to get him back on track?

BRAD GILBERT: I mean, it was difficult to watch, you know, what was happening towards, you know, the middle and end of '97. I just felt like once, you know, he had made up his mind, you know, to play Burbank and Las Vegas, those two Challengers, I knew right then and there that he wasn't above anything else. He never was above any moment that he was at those two Challengers. I knew right then and there that everything was going to come back, you know, just as long as he was willing to pay the price, and he certainly was.

Q. As good as he feels, and should feel about coming back, do you have any laments if he'd been more consistent, five Slams is good, but how much more he could have won, a bigger piece of tennis history?

BRAD GILBERT: One thing's for sure: doesn't matter what sport, what you do, you can never get back what's already happened. I mean, I could sit here and rack my brain and say he could have won in '95, '96. It doesn't do any good. I feel like now there's a solid two- or three-year window, because I felt there were a few guys that were going to step up and replace Pete, other guys, that haven't. I really believe there's a two -, three-year window solidly for Andre and Pete and a few of these other guys that, you know, maybe all of a sudden, because a few of these other guys didn't step up, I think it's only going to elevate them more.

Q. Who were they?

BRAD GILBERT: I think you can probably think about them yourself, who you are probably thinking yourself who was going to step up. There's a few young guys who are great players that didn't step up. They haven't yet. It's not to say this they won't, but there's a few guys who I thought already were going to step up that haven't.

Q. Is Henman one of those?

BRAD GILBERT: I'm not going to name any names. It's not fair to me to name anybody's names. I'm sure you can think in your own mind, there's three guys that I was thinking about that were going to step up and haven't.

Q. John McEnroe said today he'd like Andre to be more in touch with the public, to get them pumped up, that he looked like business. Is that something you want him to do?

BRAD GILBERT: I mean, it wasn't like in Paris where the crowd was totally decisively for him. He was playing another American. I think, regardless of his personality, whatever it is, Andre measures himself about his game. He was all businesslike out there. Andre in no way, shape or form is a Jimmy Connors. His game and his emotions and the way he speaks for himself out there, you know, he loses with dignity, he wins with dignity.

Q. You said in '97 he had lost his goals and focus. Are you afraid that now that he's on the top of the world of tennis, he could lose it, and how could you help him not to lose it?

BRAD GILBERT: Obviously, that's a big thing. I mean, I don't think he will. I think -- it's not like he's got ten years left, you know. I mean, it's pretty doubtful that you'll see somebody like a Connors at 39 years old getting to the semis of a Slam again. I think he knows that he's got a great opportunity and he's got good goals. He wants to win all of these again. He won them all once; he'd like to win them all twice. You're measured by your greatness in these events. Thinking back what he couldn't have got or what he could have got is not going to help him now. He's only thinking in the next two years now, three years, what he can make upcoming. That's what's going to change how everybody views his true greatness.

Q. You were saying the focus is now on the Slams. Does that mean that he might play slightly less Tour events than he has been doing?

BRAD GILBERT: I mean, he's got 15 tournaments less in the computer than Kafelnikov.

Q. Most people have.

BRAD GILBERT: He plays a pretty good schedule. He's trying to peak for these tournaments. He needed to play a little more last year because his base was low. Sometimes where you're at is what you need to do. His base is pretty good now. Even though he'll be playing the rest of the year, his main focus now, as soon as we get to Australia, he'll become a new person.

Q. The fact that opportunities did slip by when he wasn't playing, wasn't concentrating, is that an extra inspiration to him now?

BRAD GILBERT: You know, I don't think so. I think -- it's not that it's personal or whatever, it's just that he knows he has a great opportunity to keep going well. Like I said, I thought there were a couple other young guys that were going to step up. I think in two or three years, there's a couple of 17-year-olds now that will be the ones that will step up. That's usually where great champions are born. They usually step in at younger ages. I see a couple. There's about three or four good younger guys now that may be the next wave.

Q. Can you tell us who they are?

BRAD GILBERT: You know, I mean, I think it's unfair for me. That's part of what I do, but it's unfair for me to name somebody and not name somebody. Everybody will be, "Why that? Why this?" But there's a few young guys, maybe there's somebody we don't even know who is 15 that is going to be the next great guy to step up, and I don't know him. I just feel like now, from what I've seen, there's still a great opportunity for Andre and Pete.

Q. You said it all goes back to those two Challengers. Can you cast your mind back to a day or two before the French. Andre said that's when it really clicked in, went on. Is there anything that really happened around then?

BRAD GILBERT: To me, the two biggest matches of '99 were the first and second round of the French. He got hurt in Dusseldorf, he had been struggling a month and a half with his shoulder, missed five tournaments. We come back Saturday, two days before the event, he's playing Squillari, a helluva clay court player. It was a rough start. My thinking was, "Shoot, this could easily be 88 and out the gate, this could be won and done." He pulled through that match, got a little confidence. He was two points from losing to Arnaud Clement. That match reminded me so much of the David Wheaton match that he won in '94 at Toronto when he was really struggling. When he won a match against Wheaton, when he saved four match points, it was like everything clicked in. He went on to win Toronto and The Open. So much to me in my mind was thinking the same thing. He just got over this tough match. All of a sudden it's coming right back. It's not coming back like at Washington or LA, it's coming back here at a Slam.

Q. Do you feel he still can improve something physically?

BRAD GILBERT: Oh, definitely.

Q. What?

BRAD GILBERT: Everything. I mean, he's serving better now than ever. That was a big emphasis for this year, improving his serve. I don't think you measure yourself, "Okay, I want to do this, I want to do that." You measure yourself by trying to improve.

Q. You said some problems were self-inflicted. Can you expand on that?

BRAD GILBERT: He just kind of lost his drive a little bit. He just wasn't playing that much. He had things going on away from tennis. He had a good personal life. He just had not like a sabbatical, just wasn't give a hundred percent to tennis. You could give a hundred percent to tennis and have a shitty outside life. Andre has a great balance in his life. It's real important to him to have a good balance in his life. For whatever reason, it didn't mean as much to him as it did in '94.

Q. Did you at any point in time tell him what to do, what to stop doing, whether to have you as his coach at his side?

BRAD GILBERT: You know, I do a really good job, the court is 72-by-28. I stick to the tennis really well. I don't say, "You should do this, that," about his personal life. We never had an argument. If he told me in '97, "Listen, I'm not committed to getting back to where I was, I'm just committed to trying to play decent." That would have maybe been, "This is too difficult for me because you have too much God-given talent." That would have been something that would have got in on me. He told me, "You know what, I'm ready to dedicate myself to the tennis." That was all I needed. I knew he still had all of his skills left. But one thing, the court is 72-by-28. If he wanted to ask me about something personal, okay, I comment on it. I'm not going to begin to tell him how to live his life off the court.

Q. Is he asking you something personal?

BRAD GILBERT: If he is, I wouldn't tell you. Like I tell you, you know what I do real well? Stick to what I know best.

Q. How do you think tennis will remember Andre?

BRAD GILBERT: I'd just like to think that there's still a lot left. The book's not closed. Maybe two, three years from now or something when it's getting closer, then I'll think about it more. As soon as the French was over, everybody said, "Where does this put him?" I was immediately thinking about England. I promise you, as soon as England was over, I was immediately thinking about the summer. I'll enjoy this one more because to me this is the biggest tournament in the world, bar none, for me. Wimbledon is great. But as an American, everything is second to none for me here. As soon as this is over, I promise you, I'll be thinking about what he can do to keep going.

Q. Do you think Davis Cup next year can be a new goal for him?

BRAD GILBERT: I hope so. I think it was a great, great step in the right next for the USTA hiring John. He gave his heart and soul to Davis Cup. I watched this morning on CNN. The first story they did on the front page was John McEnroe. I think not only will he help the American team, I think he'll help the entire Davis Cup. I think he will be the best thing that's going to happen to Davis Cup for every nation because all of a sudden he's going to make it more front and center. When he speaks, people listen.

End of FastScripts....

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