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November 3, 2000

Yevgeny Kafelnikov


MODERATOR: Yevgeny goes into the semifinals where he'll play either Greg Rusedski or Lleyton Hewitt. Questions, please.

Q. One match away now from clinching your place in Lisbon.

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Really (laughter)?

Q. That's right.

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: That's really exciting news. But, to be honest, I feel like, you know, it's not an issue where I need to be concerned, qualifying. I believe I can do it with the next following weeks. Making sure I have to win, or lose a Masters Series title, which I don't have in my career.

Q. What was the key in this match? To be patient in all these long rallies?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Absolutely. You know. I felt like I played probably the best match in the tournament. You know, I was quite focused. Patience, I was surprised from myself even. Sometimes, you know, a lot of guys are playing the way that Sjeng did in the beginning, and I'm getting unpatient. But today I kept my momentum going, was waiting for the right moment to attack. I think I successfully did the last two sets. Towards the end of the first set, I got a little bit nervous, uptight, because I knew the match is quite important for me. But then I settled down after I lost the first set. From that point on, things were getting better and better for me.

Q. How do you think you're playing at the moment vis-a-vis your career in general?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: The most important thing, I still enjoying. I still enjoying winning the match, I still enjoying competing. That's the bottom line. Although sometimes my game is up-and-down, it seems to me it's always been toward the end of the season, you know, I'm picking up my game. I don't know, maybe it's just indoor season, where I feel the most comfortable myself. That's probably nicer. And, you know, I really like to play this week, well this week here, and of course upcoming weeks in Paris, and of course in the World Championships in Lisbon.

Q. How pleased are you to keep the momentum going from, obviously, Sydney through Moscow?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: It's a big relief obviously. Winning the Olympic gold was one of the great moments in my career. Like I said before, that gold medal wasn't only necessary for me, but for my country, as well. You know, tennis are now coming up stronger and stronger. To win the gold medal, it's a very important factor. Ever since that, I felt like, you know, I settled down psychologically, because I was so much under pressure until that time because I wasn't winning any titles. But right now everything's going in the right way like I want it to have.

Q. Could there have been a danger that with the level of satisfaction that you obviously felt with the gold medal, you could have taken your foot off the gas?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: No, I'm not that kind of person. Until something I win, and if I accomplish that, of course, I would like to keep going more and more and more. I never have enough. Where, obviously, on the other side, where I'm losing consistently in matches, I have no desire to play because it's very shame for me to see myself losing to the guys which is ranked below. Although, like I said before, I repeat it again: The level on the men's tennis is very high. Even the guys who are ranked outside 100 can give a big battle to the top guys. That's where it stands at the moment.

Q. What about your next opponent, either Greg with his serve, or Hewitt with his all-around game?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I'm sure it's going to be interesting whoever wins between those two guys. They're going to have to go out there the next match and battle for that place. For both guys, the match is important: for Greg, to keep his ranking very high; and for Lleyton, he's also looking for that extra berth in the World Championships. Whoever wins, I'm not going to look for an easy match. I'm going to prepare myself very hard. To be honest, looking forward to that one.

Q. Who would you rather play?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: No exception. To be honest, I don't care whoever I play. It's a big, strong tournament. The guys which is high in that stage in a tournament, they obviously playing well, including myself, of course. It would be nice and interesting on Saturday, I'm sure.

Q. Although you played a lot since Sydney, do you --?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I haven't. I haven't.

Q. You played full weeks, better and better.

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Yeah, absolutely.

Q. Do you feel in a way you're fresher than most of the other players, mentally?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Perhaps. You know, but to see the guys like Pete are pulling out from these two tournaments, Stuttgart and Paris, I don't know what's the circumstances are. You're probably right. I feel like I am more motivated than perhaps any other guys. For example, if you take Marat or Kuerten, whoever, between those two guys, because they played so much throughout the season, maybe they are burned out. That's why they don't feel as good as like I feel at the moment.

Q. On what many people might think is a trivial issue, some of us are a bit surprised and disappointed that the tour is changing its logo. We rather like the stick man. Don't know whether any of the players have any thoughts about it.

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: You know, half of the players disagree, of course. I'd say 50/50. Some players really like the old logo, which we had up until that moment, but some of the guys say, "No, the new one looks really nice and better to identify the tour." I personally really don't pay too much attention to that. If the tour wants to do it, you know, I got to go for it, too.

Q. When you started off breaking through, there wasn't quite the same emphasis that the tour has got now with the "New Balls Please" campaign to sort of highlight the newcomer players. Do you think that's a very good idea to sort of spotlight the players who are coming through? Do you think maybe it puts a lot of pressure on some of them?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: You know, it's a funny thing, because young players, they do need the recognition worldwide. To be honest, tennis is not as popular as it was, for example, ten years ago when Borg, McEnroe, Edberg, Becker. They tried to promote those guys like they are superstar, but unfortunately they are not because they haven't accomplished half what those guys did, winning the Grand Slam consistently, one or two Grand Slam a year. That's a big issue. That's a big, important issue. You know, I personally feel like, you know, we don't have too many stars left anymore who can really take it over, except perhaps Andre Agassi. He's the only marquis player that we have at the moment that has recognition worldwide. You know, hopefully I personally hope he's going to stay a little longer so we can really find the one or two guys who can really step it up and take it over.

Q. Marat is obviously now a Grand Slam champion, No. 2 in the world. Can he be a big, big, worldwide star?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Personally, I want him to be a star. It's a matter of experience. Hopefully in two, three years, he grows up and is going to be much more mature. You know, he can be the one like that.

Q. You obviously know him much better than any of us. We all think he's got a personality - he breaks racquets, smiles.

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: You think that's what peoples wants to see at the moment?

Q. I don't. But people that don't know so much about tennis say that is why tennis isn't popular.

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I think the main thing is that tennis itself are dying at the moment. You see the other sports like, I don't know, basketball, ice hockey in the United States dominating, extreme sports. What the hell is extreme sports came from? I mean, tennis been around for more than a hundred years. It's really a shame to see. I personally think it's our fault that we haven't done enough to promote our game.

Q. Why do you think that you don't get the recognition of, say, an Edberg, Becker, as time has gone by? You've won two Grand Slams.

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I do get in my country. To be honest, that's the only thing I care of. I'm going to live with my people. Just like you said, you know, I've accomplished enough already that I can be recognizable in my country.

Q. You were talking about having a worldwide figure. You could be that person.

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I think many people are recognizing me. But obviously, you know, there is never going to be enough. For the things I've done, I won 22 professional tournament titles, that's a big title. I don't think many guys can even dream about that. I don't know, maybe just because my personality wasn't that exciting enough in the beginning when I was 21, 22, 23 years old. That could be also my fault. But now I'm changing. You know, for me, that's an important step towards the right direction, especially for the people in my country.

Q. Can you identify any particular quality in basketball that makes it so popular with the public, and apparently tennis is not so?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: It's hard for me because I do not know basketball that well to make that identification. But I'm sure the stars like, you know, Michael Jordan, he scores 63 points, media coverage, things like that. Ever since, he's been popular. In our sport, besides Agassi, he won all the four Grand Slams, accomplished basically everything what he had in his mind, winning Olympic gold, winning Davis Cup. There is no goals for him left.

Q. It's not the sport; it's the outstanding image of players?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I would think so, yeah.

Q. You said you feel that the players didn't do very much to promote tennis. Do you personally want to do more to help promote it?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: You cannot really start looking at myself because I'm 26 years old. It has to be other guys who are really young, like Marat. You has to step it up. He's going to be around for ten years. I'm going to retire probably in three, four years, maximum. He has to do it. If you ask for my advice, I will hear him and tell him where I think I've made my mistakes throughout my career, where I didn't do enough, spend enough time with certain people, certain areas. If you does that, I'll be more than pleased to give him such a things.

End of FastScripts….

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