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March 9, 1999

Yevgeny Kafelnikov


MIKI SINGH: First question for Yevgeny.

Q. You were up I think 3-1 in the third set. What happened after that?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I can't really explain you what happened. Just lost the focus for a little while, that was the reason that I lost five games in a row.

Q. After he broke you back, did you try to get yourself mentally back into the match?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Don't get me wrong, I was trying hard as I could. Not many times you get opportunity like that to win the tournament and become No. 1 in the world, you know. Just, you know, first round, it's always tough. Plus, Gustavo had already one match yesterday. He got used to. You know, I was a little bit off the game in that second and third set.

Q. Was there too much pressure thinking about No. 1?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: No, not at all, not at all, no.

Q. So that didn't enter your mind at any time during the match?


Q. The first set you won pretty easily 6-0. Did he just start playing better in the second set or what do you think happened? It was pretty close.

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: You know, I thought that he was nervous in the beginning. That's why he couldn't, you know, play his normal game. But then he kind of regrouped in the beginning of the second set, although I give him a chance. I got broken first game and that was good enough for him to come back into the match. You don't have to do such a mistake when you playing somebody -- you just don't do those mistakes when you playing some like Gustavo. That was the reason. You give him one chance to come back to the match, that was good enough.

Q. Can you talk a bit more about letting the second opportunity to be No. 1 --?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I don't want to talk about it, honestly. I wish I could, but I don't.

Q. Are you saying that you lost focus just at the wrong time?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: That's exactly what happened.

Q. And by one little mistake, he takes it?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: That's exactly what happened. I was cruising through the first set 6-0. Anytime you win 6-0, you thinking, "Oh, might be danger." When you win 6-0, that means the guy is not in the game yet. And then when you give him a chance, that's basically what happened. Like I said, I got broken first game. It was good enough for him to come back to the match, got into the rhythm and he started to play better.

Q. Are you very, very disappointed or can you just move on to Lipton?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: No, I'm not disappointed at all. I know I will have another opportunity. You know, I have a disappointment because I lost the first round, that's about it. I'm not disappointed because I didn't get to No. 1 this week. But I am disappointed I lost. You know, there is only nine of these events of the year. You want to play them as well as you can. But, you know, unfortunately didn't happen. So I have to, you know, look forward more, move on to the next one, which is going to be Lipton. So hopefully there I can really play my best game and try to win it.

Q. Because Larry coaches out here, were you really looking forward to coming out here and doing pretty well?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: I was, yeah. I was. I was. I was, yeah. Maybe there was another aspect of the pressure that I had going into the match today. I knew a lot of people would come out and watch, his family. Just wanted to win that match so badly that perhaps I put myself so much under pressure that I couldn't handle it. I was not thinking about No. 1 in the world; I was thinking just to win that match.

Q. How long did you spend here in advance? Did you come straight from Battersea?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: No, I got here on Thursday morning, Thursday morning. It was five days to adjust. I thought it was enough time. Like I said, I felt like I was playing well. You know, unfortunately played the wrong shots on the wrong time.

Q. You started the year so well. Now you've come back down a bit. Is this the sort of thing a professional has to expect?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Of course, I'm optimistic. If I lose three, four, five times in a row first round, I'm expecting that because it's the quality of the tennis we have today on the Tour. You know, a lot of guys you see outside of rank of Top 100 can give a big battle to the top guys. That's what happen in these days now. You don't see any easy matches anymore.

Q. Do you think, just speaking collectively now, that's because the competition is so tough from top to bottom? Do you think that's why so many players haven't been able to go forward and knock Pete off at No. 1?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: You know, Pete - don't get me wrong - Pete is the greatest champion of all in this decade. He was able to play the right tennis in the right time, which was the Grand Slam. He was able to focus on the Grand Slams, which was Wimbledon and US Open. When you win those Grand Slam tournaments, no matter how the other guys plays the rest of the year, you're not going to get to No. 1. That's why you saw so big gap between him and the rest of the Tour.

Q. But what about someone like Rios who did get to No. 1?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Yeah, he did got close. He got hot at that time of the year, won back-to-back Indian Wells and Key Biscayne. But the guy never won a Grand Slam. Where is he ranked now? He's No. 6 or 8. If he doesn't do well in those two tournaments, he'll be 28. Nobody even remember who was Marcelo Rios. But everyone will remember who Pete Sampras is.

Q. This year you've won twice as much money as any other guy on the Tour. You won the only Grand Slam tournament. I think your record is probably superior to anybody else. Don't you think that maybe you should have been seeded No. 1 in this tournament?


Q. Why not?

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV: Because No. 1 player in the world hasn't competed in the Australian Open. That's first. Second of all, I haven't faced him this year. That's the second. Why I should be seeded No. 1? Although I did win two tournaments of the year, Pete is only compete in two tournaments of the year. He hasn't really been tested yet. So hopefully he'll get tested in this tournament and Key Biscayne. Then after that, we can make a statement.

End of FastScripts....

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