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September 6, 2001

Yevgeny Kafelnikov


MODERATOR: Questions for Yevgeny.

Q. You've lost some big, important matches to him. Today you come in there, just mentally really never faltered the whole time. How did you manage to maintain your concentration and not get too nervous?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Well, I mean, obviously the key was winning the first set. Once I did that, I knew at least I was going to be, you know, for a little bit longer time than in the previous matches. He wasn't going to dominate me like he did in the French Open. So that was quite important.

Q. Not to diminish anything you did out there today, but he didn't serve particularly well. Might have been his worst service performance of the tournament.

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: It's because I returned well.

Q. Like I said, "not to diminish." Do you think he was perhaps inhibited in his serving today?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: You know, I showed him from the first point on that I wasn't going to, you know, give up the match like easily, like perhaps he would have thought. From the first point on, he start smoking backhand, forehands, like he always does. But to my credit, I was able to keep up with him on the baseline. Once I did that, you know, I started to believe in myself a lot more. Hell, I can play with him on the baseline. I can play my own game. That's what I did successfully.

Q. You made it look so easy. Was it easy?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Not really. Not really. You know, even though the score was 6-4, 6-0, 6-3, you know, I was a little nervous inside. I knew how important the match is for me. You know, I just didn't want to have previous experience happen to that match like it did, you know, three times in the French Open where, you know, I'm having the match in my hand and just not able to close out. Today was different story.

Q. You won like 11 games in a row. Can you talk about that stretch of tennis, how well you were playing?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I mean, I just cannot describe why it happened. Like I said, I was been able to keep my concentration on a very high level. It work out. For every question he made to me, I had an answer. That's something that I'm proud of.

Q. There are more and more players specialized these days. Your game really travels easily from hard to clay. In your own words, what is it that enables you to do this when so many other guys are one-surface-type players?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I don't know. I guess because I play a big number of matches on any surface, and it comes with experience. You know, to be able to play on many different surfaces on many, many occasions. You're starting to realize, you know, the small specific of the game very intelligently. That's something what I have. It's something what I have, you know, being able to read the players well, obviously being able to adapt to each surface very quickly.

Q. Can you talk a little about the two Russians getting into the semifinals for the first time?


Q. How important is it for your country to have something like this happen?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I mean, I cannot even describe it to you. It's never happened before. Would have been even better if we both are in the final. It's still a long way to go, you know. We both got to win one match each. Probably it's going to be the most toughest one to be able to get through that, for both of us.

Q. Last night there was a lot of excitement for two Americans being in a match (Sampras and Agassi). Do you think there will be that kind of excitement on Sunday for two Russians?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: For the fans back in our country, yes (smiling).

Q. How about from Brighton Beach? Do you think people will come and buy tickets?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I have no doubt about it. I'm sure we have also a lot of support, not only back home but in this country, too.

Q. What channel in Moscow do you tune into?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: It's NTV plus. It's unfortunately pay channel. You got to pay to watch it.

Q. You have to pay to watch you play?


Q. Are you worth it?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: If it's worth it? You got to ask fellow countrymen back home. I'm sure it's worth it.

Q. Do you know what it costs to watch Kafelnikov in Russia?


Q. How different of a player is Guga on a hard court versus a clay court?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: You know, clay definitely makes him unbeatable because, you know, his groundstrokes are very -- you know, when he has a time, he's preparing groundstrokes better than anybody. You know, ball travel off his racquets very, very fast. Basically, you know, if you're not on the top of your form, you've got no chance beating him because, you know, he just dominate you, he can do everything. But seems to me on the fast surface, he doesn't have that, you know, few seconds which is necessary for him to create his own game like he does on the clay. In other words, if you are playing fast enough, Guga doesn't have much time to react, like Agassi does, Sampras does. Sometimes even I do that also.

Q. How important then was serve and volley today for you?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: It was important to mix it up because, like I said, you know, I've been in these kind of stages when I play Guga many, many times where instead of playing aggressively, I'm so tentative, kind of waiting for mistakes. But, you know, those three times that I played him on a clay court, Guga was unable to do those mistakes, and I paid the price. Today I didn't want the same thing happen to me. I kind of told myself, "You got to create something." Seems to me serve and volley game was working well in the crucial points.

Q. Did you get a suggestion on that one beforehand, about changing a serve and volley?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: You know, I talked to Mac a few times in the booth. He was actually giving me a hard time. "How come such accomplished player like you are doesn't serve and volley as much as any other guys?" I said, "You know, John, my game working the point on the baseline and finish at the net. I'm not natural serve and volley. I don't feel comfortable when I'm serving and volley." Like I said, today was different story. I knew I had to put pressure on Guga when he was returning.

Q. You've known since 1997 how much heart this player has.


Q. You've seen him play long matches.


Q. When you come out for the third set today, are you telling yourself, "I have to get on top of this third set"?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Absolutely. You know, I knew, you know, on our level match can turn so quickly. When you're two sets to Love up, on the other side standing No. 1 player in the world, if you lose that edge for a few minutes, the match can turn around so quickly. That's what I didn't want to happen today. That's why, you know, I was able to maintain my focus throughout that third set, even though I had some tightness, especially when I was serving for the match.

Q. Do you find it ironic that you could have two Russians in the final of this tournament being played in an area that is such a citadel of consumerism, where though many people are wealthy, tickets cost so much?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Why you think that would be ironic?

Q. We just don't associate those qualities.

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Russians with Americans (laughter)? No, I think that would be great. You know, if it happens like that, that means for both of us, you know, it's -- you know, I cannot even describe what we're going to feel like when we step out on the court on Sunday playing basically for one of the most prestigious trophy in the men's professional tennis. I mean, I don't want to even look that far ahead at the moment. You know, I'm just happy to be part of the Super Saturday, that's all.

Q. You get to New York quite a bit. Do you have much time to visit the Russian neighborhood?


Q. Have you been there at all?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I've never been to Brooklyn at all.

Q. Talking about the pay TV topic once more, do you feel pity for all the people in Russia?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: A little bit. A little bit. I guess that's where we're heading. Unfortunately, you know, in Europe you have to pay to watch that sport. You know, it's never been like this before. I know in Germany and England, everything on the cable. You got to pay to watch it.

Q. Does it take away attention?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I don't think so. They're really enthusiastic people, they will always watch, no matter how much it cost, what channel is on. They don't really care.

Q. Guga is considered to be the best clay court player in the world.


Q. And he won in Lisbon. What do you think he has to do to be considered a truly elite player of this age?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: You know, I cannot answer the question. He's got Larri Passos, who is his coach. I'm sure he's going to talk about it. I really don't know what he has to do to be able to be part of that elite.

Q. Does he have to win a Grand Slam on a hard surface?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Absolutely. He's going to have to if he wants to, you know, prove to the rest of the people that, you know, he's best player of all time. You know, we've got only one guy like that who is undoubtedly the best player in the world.

Q. Besides serving and volleying more today, what else did you feel you had to do in the match against him? What did you do successfully, did you feel?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Like I said, I had to bring also best of me. I think the important part was to be able to keep up with him on the baseline, to be able to reply, you know, aggressively on his groundstrokes. That's what I did. You know, I was quite happy with my backhand, forehand, with my particular movement on the court. I thought I was covering the court as well as I ever did. That was important. Just to be able to bring as many balls back as I can.

Q. Can you talk about playing Hewitt or Roddick?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Yeah, it's going to be very interesting for me to play either of those guys on that particular stage on Saturday.

Q. Why?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Just because, you know, one is 18 years old kid, the other one is 19 years old kid. Both 19, exactly. That's going to be quite interesting (smiling).

Q. Can you talk about how good it feels to be here again?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I could not even realize that I was going to be here again in the semifinal before the tournament. You know, here I am again with the opportunity. It's still long way to win the title. But, you know, to get through the five steps and to have two steps left to winning another major, I think this is great. You know, all I can say, I'm going to approach the next match like I always did the other matches - one match at a time. Nothing much I can say.

Q. Marat did his early training in Spain, you in Russia. Did you know him when you were younger?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Basically first time I've heard about him when I was probably 22 or 23 years old. There is one guy who is very, very talented, has a big game. I didn't know at the time that he went to Spain for training. I thought he was still in Moscow practicing.

Q. When did you first meet him?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I met Marat actually at the French Open I think 1997.

Q. Was he then as crazy and fun as he is today?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: He was at the time. He was young. He was big sense of humor. You know, he was also as tall at that time as he is right now. So he was quite a big guy. That's when I met him first time.

Q. Marat said yesterday he felt the lack of Russian media was a reflection of the fact that the Russian media doesn't care about tennis.

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: That is absolutely not true. I disagree. Every morning I go to the Internet, read some wonderful articles about both of us back home. This is wonderful, the writing, how we playing. They give all the statistics. They give basically all the information which is unnecessary for regular person back home to be able to get know what's actually been happening during the match. You know, I don't know where Marat was coming from giving you that kind of answer.

Q. Do they call you at the hotel?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: They're here asking me questions. I give them the answer and they write basically in all major sports newspapers back home.

End of FastScripts….

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