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November 27, 2000

Yevgeny Kafelnikov


MODERATOR: Questions for Yevgeny.

Q. You've obviously played in the Masters Cup. Are you looking forward to it?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Absolutely. I think it's a big honor to participate in the ending tournament of the season where the best guys throughout the year play each other. You know, I've been fortunate enough to play the last five years, and this is my sixth straight year. I think it's a big accomplishment. I'm really looking forward to it.

Q. What is your impression of the comparison between the old guard and the new guard? Do you feel they're threatening you?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I think old guys still have some energy left. I'm sure for the young guys, it will be very difficult to step it up and play really well this week. I'm sure the favorites would be, you know, Pete, Andre, including myself. I don't know how the young guys going to handle that, all the circumstances.

Q. How excited are you to actually play?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Very much, very much. Unfortunately, this is the last tournament. I feel like I'm eager, I want to play. Actually, you know, I wouldn't mind going to start the season now because I'm fresh, physically fit. Unfortunately, have to go away for three weeks. When this tournament is over, I'm going to look forward to the new year.

Q. What do you think your chances are of actually winning?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I think it's pretty good. Like I said, I'm playing well. I'm confident. Whoever is going to be in my group on the early stages, that doesn't really matter, because I do win -- I can win a few matches and get enough wins to get to the semifinals.

Q. Getting to the final in Stockholm was a good preparation for you?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: It didn't affect me at all. To be honest, I'm ready to go tomorrow to play my first match. I am playing well. I'm physically strong at the moment.

Q. You've been in Portugal a lot of times. Which great memories do you have?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Unfortunately, there are not many memories. Like I was saying to the tournament director, "I promise you, I will win at least one or two matches in the Masters Cup in Lisbon." That's what I'm looking forward to.

Q. What are your expectations?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: To play as well as I can. I have no other expectation. At least if I don't reach the semifinal, I'll be very disappointed. That's the minimum I want to do. If I do that, perhaps to win. I realistically feel like I have a good chance.

Q. Which player is the most difficult for you to play indoor?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I don't think it's anybody besides Pete Sampras. He's the one who can really create big problem. Pete hasn't been playing in two months. I don't know what kind of form he's in. All I can say, no matter who I play, when I play, I'll be feeling good.

Q. When you were a kid, you played in Porto?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Yeah, I played one time, '93.

Q. What is the difference between there and now? You've earned a lot of tournaments. Are you still the same guy?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Absolutely, absolutely the same, with the same view on life. All that success that I had in the past didn't change me at all.

Q. What is your goal here? You want to win. What do you think are your chances?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I'll be very disappointed if I don't reach at least semifinal. That's the minimum I'm hoping that I want.

Q. What do you think about the courts?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Haven't played. I play at 5:00.

Q. With Marat?


Q. What do you think about Marat?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: In which perspective?

Q. Tennis perspective.

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Well, tennis, he is very young, very talented, young tennis star. Nobody can take away from him with the big potential.

Q. Do you think Marat is too young to say some things?


Q. No, Marat. Do you think he thinks he's won a lot of things and can now speak like a real champion?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Obviously, he's done a lot already, this year, as a tennis player. You know, he cannot exactly I'm sure say for himself what he accomplished and what he is doing. People must say what are the results for his big dedication to the sport. I'm sure at this moment it's very early to answer the question because he is 20 years old. Of course, he won one Grand Slam. It's not good yet enough.

Q. Do you think you're still the most known in Russia?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I will be forever, believe me.

Q. The year is almost over. What do you think about this year?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: It's been up-and-down. It's been up-and-down. Beginning of the year, of course, was big, big highlight by making the final of the Australian Open, almost winning the title there, then kind of disappointed throughout the middle of the year. Again, you know, winning the gold medal in Sydney was a big confidence boost. I started to playing as well as I could after that moment on.

Q. Are you going to change something in the schedule next year?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Well, obviously the schedule planning is not a factor. The big factor I think is motivation. If I am motivated, everything is going well for me, I am playing well, it's showing. Lack of motivation is missing, of course, it's disappointing for me to see myself going on the court, losing matches.

Q. What's important?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: It's obviously important to play well because when I am playing well, it's better. After winning each match, I'm hungry to get back on the court, get another match. It comes together more and more. Of course, when I'm feeling that I'm not playing well, I'm so much down on myself. That could be a factor, that's why I have been playing that badly.

Q. Last tournament of the year. It's the time you can have some holidays. What are you going to do?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Absolutely. As soon as the tournament is over, I go on a ski holiday.

Q. The first year of the new system, Champions Race, what do you think?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I don't think it was a big factor to the players because we all knew the best guy will always be on top. That's what basically will happen. The guys who played the best during the year play Masters Cup. I think the fans, it was a big advantage because they could follow every single week who was on top of the race. They could really, you know, develop for themself who are the stars. Marat is a star at the moment. He is No. 1 at the moment. For the fans to recognize, that is very important.

Q. Are you enjoying the pressure on you in Russia with Marat?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I don't think there's too much pressure on me. I think I've accomplished a lot more than Marat, but I wish for him to do a lot more than I ever done. We never know what happen. Like I said, this doesn't bother me at all. We are six years apart. Marat is young, eager. I am perhaps almost on my end of the career. Hopefully it won't happen very soon.

Q. Who has the best serve on the tour?


Q. Why?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Just because he is the best server. That's the answer.

Q. The best forehand?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Few guys who has really. I really like Agassi's forehand. I really like Sampras' forehand. Probably those two guys.

Q. There are some people who say that your forehand is not bad.

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Not as good as backhand. If you going to say to me about backhand, I would say --.

Q. Backhand?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Myself, Agassi, Safin. Backhand is really a strong, strong aspect in the game of everybody.

Q. The mental side?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I think Lleyton Hewitt is the toughest. He's also young, very eager. I like really his enthusiasm in the game.

Q. Do you think the race was a good idea?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: All I can tell you, the best guy always going to be there. I think race was not a factor. Again, the guys who play best throughout the year, they always going to be in the Masters Cup, no matter if you have a race, 52-week ranking, doesn't really matter.

Q. What about the players?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I'm sure all the guys have the same opinion. They also know who play the best because, you know, unfortunately there were some doubts about giving a wildcard to the Grand Slam winner if he was not in the top eight. Fortunately Andre finished the year in the top eight and he qualified automatic.

Q. There's always talk about trying to change the schedule. Are you comfortable with the schedule?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Obviously, of course, this year was quite difficult because of Olympics. The schedule was a little bit messed up. But next year I think the schedule is absolutely perfect. We going to finish the year in the middle of November, and the guys will have more time to recover, to get themselves ready for the new seasons.

Q. Are you happy with the way that the Champions Race has been presented? Do you think the public understands it?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I'm sure they do, yes. Like I said, the new guys like, for example, Marat, not many people knew who he was until he started really playing well in the middle of the season, winning tournaments. By doing this his ranking got up in the end and the tournament would really identify his position, his name.

Q. (Inaudible)?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I think Spain, just because they're playing at home.

Q. (Inaudible)?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: We have many guys at the moment who are taking some spotlights in the press, on the TV. It's Marat, Guga, Hewitt, a lot of guys. You got to give credit to the results that they making throughout the year.

Q. Do you think the race helps these guys?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Yeah, definitely. With that system, with the race, people really could follow the one on the top, who is that. They could really develop some more information about particular player. Safin got much more well-known worldwide just because the result he made. Guga has always been well-known, just for his look. Hewitt, of course, a lot of guys are developing into the stars by Champions Race.

Q. They've always been there?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: But I think it helps them.

Q. Did you prepare specially for this tournament?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: No. As you probably know, I played the final in the Stockholm Open, unfortunately I lost. It's not going to affect my confidence for tomorrow. I'm sure I'm going to be playing as good as I can, as hard as I can.

Q. (Inaudible)?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I don't afraid. Like I said, I'm confident, I'm playing well. For me, it would be no difference who I'm playing because I am playing well.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about winning the Olympics?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: It was very exciting. It was very exciting. It was very, very special.

Q. Would you consider that your best, what it represents for your country, for the fans?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Without the title, my season would be very disappointing. Winning the gold medal in the Olympic tournament, you know, was the right moment in my career.

Q. What are your plans after the Masters Cup? Are you going back to Russia?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I'm going to have some well-deserved holiday, get ready for the new season.

Q. Are you starting on January 1st?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: January 1st in Doha.

Q. Are you skiing?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I'm going to go skiing after I finish here in Austria.

Q. Going with family?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Going with the family, friends, you know, just to have a good time.

Q. You always seem to be in contention for this one.

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I feel this way, too. The performance I had the last couple weeks has been quite sensational. I do strongly believe that, you know, my confidence is right on the place. You know, I'm playing as well probably as I play this year right now.

Q. What is it like seeing somebody like Sampras back here?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I'm thrilled. I'm thrilled. Haven't seen him for two months. Of course, with the marriage. Asked him about the honeymoon. Big mystery how is he going to play tomorrow. We all know what he's capable of. To be honest, I am not going to expect anything but him performing well because we all know how he can regroup after such a long period of time.

Q. You are somebody that has to play not every week, but most weeks. Can you believe somebody can just not play competitively in two and a half months and come back?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Pete is a champion. He has big number of matches to his career. He's been in every situation what you can possibly imagine. For him, I'm sure, coming out tomorrow and play high level is going to be no big deal. Obviously, of course, if he practice enough, if he practice enough hours the last couple weeks.

Q. But does practice count when it comes to playing the top seven players in the world?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: At this stage, yes, I'm sure. I'm sure he respect himself as a tennis player, and I'm sure he was practicing. Like I said, you know, I'm not going to expect anything from him but to play well this week.

Q. Did you think maybe you'd seen the last of him after Marat beat him so big-time in the US Open?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I think it was just accidental what happened in the US Open final. Probably underestimated his capability, I'm talking about Marat capability. Obviously, before the match, Pete thought (inaudible). Of course, with that attitude, you cannot come out of a best-of-five. I thought he would never beat Hewitt. Coming against Safin in the final of the US Open, for me was quite unusual to see.

Q. You said throughout your career, you hold the guy up high.

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Obviously, he's No. 1. No question about it.

Q. Still?


Q. How do you sum up your year? Are you satisfied? Happy? Miserable?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: It was miserable before the Olympics, yes. But winning that title, of course, you know, it was a big relief for me because I think up until this moment it is one of the biggest tournament I ever won in my career. Like I said, last -- I'm not talking about Vienna against Rusedski, but since then I've played up to my full potential.

Q. What sort of reaction is there as far as the people you know when you went home after the Olympics?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: It was big thing, you know. All I can say, my image went up twice higher.

Q. Tennis must be enormous in Russia now?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: It's definitely stepping up. People have -- we trying to do our best in that respect. We are going to do our best, I have no doubt about it. Like I said before, you know, I'm a little bit disappointed (inaudible) would be ideal thing. We all know we would have a sold-out crowd, and fans would be loving it. Hopefully we'll have same scenario here in Lisbon.

Q. (Inaudible)?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I'm sure they are. I'm sure they are. People are buying it. They want to really read what's been happening throughout my career.

Q. (Inaudible)?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: No. It was quite late notice.

Q. Do you think they might put in for it in 2002?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Let's just hope we both going to make it at that time. Like I said, this year would have been ideal. It would have been ideal with Marat being No. 1 in the world, me Olympic gold medallist. In that city, it would be enormous.

Q. (Inaudible)?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: The surface we played at the Estoril Open, clay, first week of the year. All people know my confidence not very high at this particular time. You know, right now it's different scenario. We're playing in the Masters Cup, last tournament of the year, indoor tournament. All the circumstances are in my favor.

Q. Some players are in favor of reducing the tournaments.

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I'm not. It's just because that's the way I am. My confidence come with the matches that I play. The more matches I play, the better I am.

End of FastScripts....

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