September 11, 1999
UNITED STATES TENNIS ASSOCIATION, Flushing Meadows, New York City
USTA: Questions for Yevgeny.
Q. You got a couple bad breaks today from the judges. Do you think that affected the match at all, the outcome?
YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I guess when you have such a breaks in almost end of the match, it doesn't really matter. You know, when you two-sets-to-one down, the guy serve for the match, you know, obviously you looking for something to be happen. But, unfortunately, you know, everything trying, it seems to goes against you. That's basically what happened. I don't know if I would have win that game, that things would have changed. But, you know, you got to give credit to Andre, you know, he played very intelligent match. You know, he had a perfect game plan, and he succeeded.
Q. You cruised in the first set. What turned it around?
YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: To be honest, I started missing a lot of first serves. That give Andre a chance to dictate the play when I was serving the second set. I think the serve let me down a bit. You know, I give him an early break in the second set. He kind of regroup, started believing himself that he can get back into the match. I should not have done that if I wanted to win the match. But, like I said, you know, he played very intelligent game and deserved to win.
Q. Did the wind down there bother you?
YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Oh, yeah, big time. Especially on the left side of the chair, I really struggled with my serve, with my groundstrokes.
Q. Do you think the crowd had an effect on pumping up Andre?
YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Maybe a little bit. But, you know, in those situation, it doesn't really matter. If the crowd gets behind you, you still got to beat the opponent. You know, we had some great, great points in the match. I don't think that the crowd really help him out to really be as positive as he was. You know, his main thing was that he wanted to beat me in the US Open semifinal. That was the bottom line. He didn't even want to pay too much attention what was crowd doing in that point.
Q. In a historical sense, when you look back at what he's done from the French Open on to here and see how committed he is at such a late stage in his career, does it make you wonder how great he could have been if he had played with this kind of commitment from the age of 20, 21?
YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: You know, I already told many, many times that professional career goes up and down. You know, it's so hard to maintain that level. You play one great year, the disappointment will come sooner or later because you cannot win many matches as you want to. You got the opponent on the other side of the net. Those guys also improving. You know, it's not like Andre is improving, practicing; the other guys stays on the same level. The other guys also want to improve. That's what happened to him in 1997. You know, he got to the point where basically something that he was creating, the other guys had an answer for it. That's what basically disappointed him. He didn't know what to do. You got to give him credit for coming back to the level where he is right now.
Q. Do you think it's safe to say, computer points aside, that Agassi with the French win and now at least two Grand Slam finals can be said to be the best player out on the court?
YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Yeah, definitely. 1999, this year belongs to him. There's no questions about that. It's too sad that I was unable to do that. It's time for me to move on a little bit further than that. You know, the season isn't over yet. I have still six, seven tournaments to play. Maybe I'll take my chances there.
Q. And you predicted that either you, Richard or Andre would win. I presume you'll stick by your prediction, is that correct?
YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: You know, I feel like Andre physically in a good shape. That's what going to makes a difference tomorrow. You know, I felt like I could have run down the ball, as many balls as I could, but I was unable. Believe me, Andre took a hard pace. I was struggling with the pace that he offer me. In the first set, he was quite a bit nervous, he was missing a lot of easy shots, give myself a chance to dictate the point. Once he started to play very intelligent, not going for too many shots like he did in the first set, I was always half a step behind in the point every time. That was the difference, I think.
Q. Do you think that Todd could be in a little over his head?
YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: If the final would be in best-of-three sets, maybe he would have a chance, but not best-of-five. He needs to serve as well as he can. I don't think he would be able to do that consistently, you know, three sets in a row if he wanted to win.
Q. Given the way Andre is playing, do you leave here feeling you've done the absolute best you can?
YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: You know, a little bit disappointed with the results today. You know, looking back, the match I had against Krajicek, basically coming back from the death, winning that match, you know, those five weeks that I've played in the months of August and beginning of September have been wonderful. You know, can't complain about it. I think I've played probably as well as I could, and definitely tried as hard as I could. That's what I'm satisfied with, although the results is a little bit disappointing. You know, getting that far in the tournament, having yourself in a position to win basically the third Grand Slam that I never won, that's a little bit disappointing, yeah.
Q. Would you care to rethink your statement that this could be the last shot you ever have of winning this tournament?
YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: You know, time's running so quickly. I'm 25; next year I'm 26. I remember myself when I was 19-year-old, coming out as a newcomer, everything was new for me. I was physically fresh. I'm definitely getting older. It's so hard to compete now with the young guys. You know, they just breathing on your back. I would like to reconsider the statement, and I definitely will try to do as best I can next year that I will come here.
Q. It's just hard to fathom because of the four finalists here, you were the youngest.
YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Exactly.
Q. And Pete wasn't even here.
YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: If you look at Cedric and Todd, those guys, Cedric is 30 years old. Perhaps I will have my shot later in my career, who knows.
Q. Do you think the match against Krajicek took a toll on you?
YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Not at all. You know, I had two days to recover, two days to rethink what I had to do to beat Andre today. Maybe a little bit psychologically, yeah. I give everything what I had mentally, all my toughness that I had at that point on. I give maybe everything away. Today I wasn't thinking about it much, about staying positive. I was thinking to win the match, I was thinking to win the match. In the back of my mind, I was thinking a little bit of that Washington final that we played a couple of weeks ago, that Andre beat me pretty comfortably. Once I lost that second set, you know, I felt like he was going to start going for too many shots. That's what he did, you know, he start to play extremely well.
Q. I'm working for the tournament in Switzerland where you're playing next. Can you tell me something about the tournament in Basel?
YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: You know, I'm really tired to say anything about the tournament at the moment. If you guys have questions about the match, I would like to answer.
Q. Do you think that was the best of Andre's performance against you, or that Washington was better?
YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: If you look at the occasion that we were playing, you know, the semifinal of the US Open, he definitely played better than he did in Washington; no questions about it. More intelligent, I would say. We both understood how important that match for both of us would be. Believe me, I tried as hard as I could. I came a couple of steps short.
Q. Did the way he was serving and pounding the ball deep keep you from going to the net at all?
YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Yeah. Like I said, I felt like I was half a step behind every time. You know, he put me so much under pressure that I was struggling to recover the ball, not as well as I did, for example, in Montreal. I had tons of time to go for my shots, to prepare for the right shots. Today, I never had the time, never had the time.
Q. You sometimes talk about what goes through your mind with other opponents, "Is he going to come, get more confidence now?" Would it be better for you if you let your game flow and not worry about what your opponent was going to do in the next set?
YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: No. You have to have sort of game plan before you go in any match. If you approach every match with the game plan, just like you said, just go on the court and let the flow go, you never going to succeed. You got to have a game plan that you always stick to; you have to know what you're doing; you have know to what exactly you doing.
Q. What was your game plan today?
YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Today? Well, I definitely wanted to make the points as short as I could. I was quite successful in the first set. But then Andre started to move better, to place the ball better in the court. He just started to play way better than I did in the first set.
Q. Andre has had a couple of incredible years now.
YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Couple years? He only had a good year this one. I don't think you can say he had a good year in 1998.
Q. I was saying to come back from where he was.
YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Yeah, uh-huh.
Q. What quality of his do you admire the most?
YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: If you can look at both of us as players, our game is pretty similar to each other, you know, with the incredible power of groundstrokes from the baseline, presenting the pace to the other players. That's where we quite similar to each other. You know, definitely I admire when he's really on top of his game, you know, the power that he performs, that he present to the other player, especially from the baseline. The quality of the groundstrokes. The game plan, sometimes it's incredible what he's trying to do on the court. That's what make him so special.
Q. The other semifinalists here all had at least one very tough match leading up here. Andre's best-ranked opponent was No. 52. Do you think he was just not quite ready for that first set, not ready for an elite player?
YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: That's probably the issue. I got him by surprise. He maybe didn't expect me to, I would say, play my groundstrokes as well as I could. He a little bit underestimate me inn the beginning of the match. But then he realized that he's playing me, not the guy, Axel Pretzsch, that he played the second round, for example. The thing was he understood perfectly that he has to regroup, he has to present a different game plan if he wanted to succeed, and he did that. That's why he's in the final.
Q. Would you say it's Andre's mental toughness this year that put him up there?
YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: He's very physically strong; that make him tough at the moment. He can run down a lot of balls. He quick around the court. That's why he's winning many matches. You got to give him credit for all the fitness work that he have done, I don't know, the last couple months, maybe six, seven month.
Q. You play mostly backhand. Do you consider it the weaker side of his?
YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I play to his backhand because, like I told you, I was half a step behind always, behind the ball. He was dictating the play. I was playing quite a bit defensive. That's why I was almost forced to play that backhand cross-court. I never had time to prepare for my shots to go up the line. That's why, you know, every time I was trying to create something, my footwork wasn't as good as I would have liked to had. That's why I was missing so many balls up the line, because I had to create something, but it wasn't there.
Q. This year certainly is much better than last year, almost like a little bit of a comeback. What do you need to do, like Andre, to go up another step?
YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: To be honest, I'm quite happy what I'm doing at the moment. I'm winning the matches. The most thing that I was told everybody, I'm missing the motivation. If I'm motivated, if I'm ready to play, I can play a hundred percent. That means everybody's enjoying: I'm enjoying, the fans enjoying.
Q. Are you motivated at this point for Davis Cup?
YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Oh, yeah, definitely, definitely. This is the other thing probably I'm missing, is Davis Cup title. I definitely will try to recharge my battery and get ready for Brisbane.
Q. When do you go down?
YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I think probably I'll get there Sunday before the tournament.
Q. Do you feel like Andre's serve has improved, too?
YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: That's what I'm saying. He physically seems to me a lot stronger than he was. When you physically strong, all the aspects of your game are working. You have time to recover; your body is feeling as fresh as probably in beginning of the match. That's why he was making some bombs towards the end of the fourth set. I never would have even think that he was able to do that before that. Seems to me now, he's physically ready. That's what make him so good at the moment.
Q. Do you expect another game against Andre if you play indoors?
YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Oh, yeah, definitely. He will play in some big tournaments. So do I. The season isn't over yet. Unfortunately, we don't have any more Grand Slams left in this year. But, you know, definitely will try to win a couple more tournaments indoor.
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