March 22, 2003
KEY BISCAYNE, FLORIDA
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. What is the first shoulder reaction to competition?
ANDRE AGASSI: No, yeah, it's good. There's sort of two sides of the hump. One is if you're sort of over the hump, as you play, you make it worse. The other side is if you actually play, actually feel better towards the end. It loosens up. I think I'm sort of over that hump.
Q. You have to have the hump to get over the hump?
ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, it's just precautionary. It's a bit neurotic that way. I'll be doing this for a long time, just in case.
Q. Thoughts on Michael? You're doing a farewell tour with him, I'm sure people are asking about him everywhere you stop. What's your outstanding memory of him? What would be a legacy?
ANDRE AGASSI: Well, wow, I think really not just in tennis, but in all of sports, he's as great a competitor as you'll ever see. So I think ultimately that's his -- that's what stands out mostly to me when I look at him across the net. He's never once not shown up with everything he's had. Needless to say, from an accomplishment standpoint, being the first person in a number of years, not to mention one of the youngest, to ever win a Grand Slam is something pretty special.
Q. Do you think a player like him can win the French again, or a player like he was at that time, or has the game changed over the years?
ANDRE AGASSI: Well, it is kind of hard for me to make the assessment, how much of right now his game is based on where he's not anymore versus where I've come. So you never quite know. So little separates so many guys that it's hard to say, you know. But, yeah, with his competitiveness and with his body being healthy and his movement at his best, he made you beat him. There's no question if the right -- throughout most of his career, if the right guys lost, he was always in position to win the big ones.
Q. The atmosphere out there seemed really electric when you guys both walked out and they gave you a standing ovation and afterward. Can you talk a little bit about that? Did it seem like people really were giving you both a tribute?
ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I've been blessed to receive a lot of support, especially down here over the years. Today felt a little something extra, I think, playing Michael. We've just been on the court so many times in big situations that even though it's second round, it still always certainly holds something special. There's a lot of support for him - rightly so. It was great to play him. I enjoy that.
Q. But can you get wrapped up in it, say, "Oh, this is a wonderful occasion. Here we are..."
ANDRE AGASSI: I suppose if I could sit on the side and have some nachos and watch the match. But unfortunately, I've got to go out there and work. So you quickly forget about everything except what it is you have to do.
Q. Two breakpoints there. It could get away, couldn't it?
ANDRE AGASSI: Oh, yeah. I think many matches are decided by a few points. Today there was a few close games there that would have certainly made the match highly competitive. Who's to say what would have happened if it had gone closer? Maybe I would have stepped up at that point or maybe it would have gotten a lot tougher for me. But the idea is to win those big points and to find a way to get through.
Q. Fifteen years is a very long time for a sporting rivalry. 1988, Forest Hills, on clay. Do you have any memory of that, going back?
ANDRE AGASSI: Sure, I remember that match well. We had a rain delay and had to finish at the Port Washington Tennis Academy indoors, the second set. We went from playing heavy clay outside with a lot of rain to a late night match indoors on lightning fast clay. I thought I was going to have a big advantage moving indoors to the lightning fast, but somehow Michael still ran down a lot of balls and made it tough. That was the start of it professionally. But we go back a lot farther.
Q. Maybe it was the bad lighting?
ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, wasn't the best.
Q. What do you remember about the first time you played as Juniors?
ANDRE AGASSI: You know, when you're a junior, it's a big advantage to be a year older if you're one of the best Juniors. He was one of the best, certainly, for his age, but always playing up. I was the best for my age. So I was always sort of a head taller than him. Some things never change, I guess (smiling). But you get stronger. He's certainly learned how to maximize everything in his game based on his heart and his mind and his speed. But it was never really a match -- you remember the ones that feel the most competitive when you're young, and I had more competitive matches actually with his brother, Carl, than I did with him.
Q. You look at him, he's clearly -- one of the things you think when you watch him play is he's got an awful lot of miles on the clock. God bless him. You're not all that different as a player, relying on your legs, hitting a lot of balls. Can you comment on why we sort of get that impression from him, like here's a guy who's sort of out of gas at various levels, yet you're in the middle of this?
ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I think I actually probably disagree with that. I think we are considerably separate in how we approach the game. He's always relied on hustling and making a guy feel his -- making a guy feel the need to panic and to press. So he's always taken the brunt of somebody's game. He's put a lot more miles on the court, I think, than I have as far as wear and tear on the legs. We're both baseliners, but I try to control the points. I think Michael looks to counterpunch and hit one good shot. You know, I think there's a lot to be said for making certain matches easier on yourself over the course of time. You can't have it all. If you give him, you know, some of the weapons other players have, now we're dealing with some real tennis out there because you can't have it all.
Q. Were you surprised, like a lot of us, about Lleyton's result yesterday? Second part, it opens the door just that bit more for you to climb back to that
No. 1 spot. Can you make any comment on that?
ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I think if you go to the betting window you certainly wouldn't have bet against him last night. Even with strong odds, you would expect him to find a way to get through it. But, you know, that's why you got to go out there and play. That's why it's sports. That's why you can't phone in the results. All these guys are out here to win, it just shows you what can happen if you're the slightest bit off. You're going to have that throughout the year. For me to sneak to No. 1 for a week or a short period of time isn't what my goal is. My goal is to keep improving as a player and put myself in position to win the big ones and to have No. 1 sort of be the result of playing the best tennis over the course of the year. So if that happens this week or it happens next week or last week, I don't think it would have really changed my approach to anything.
Q. Do you see a time in the near future where some of the young Americans are going to have the kind of rivalries you and Mike and Pete had and Jim when he was playing?
ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, it's a lot easier to talk about it than for it to happen. A lot has to go right. You have to have a couple of guys who get the job done consistently week after week. I think we have the talent to see some great rivalries. You've seen Blake and Roddick and Mardy Fish now is winning some real good wins and starting to put his game together. Taylor is starting to come around with his first tournament win this week - a few weeks ago. So, certainly there's the type of games that can match up for that contrast and competitiveness, but you got to beat a lot of guys to get to each other a few times a year in big situations.
Q. After this, you go off, you look at a clay court portion, you're in the hunt at the top of the game. Can you look back to, say, eight or ten years ago, when you were going to Europe this time of year, how differently do you see it? Do you think you have better chances on clay now than you did ten years ago?
ANDRE AGASSI: No, I mean, ten years ago, I think I was probably the most productive on clay. I mean, I really -- I just didn't play it a lot. But ten years ago, guys had a hard time generating a lot of power consistently, and I was still able to control the point. The movement never became an issue on the clay for me. Now a lot of guys hit the ball big. So you not only have to hit the ball big yourself, but you have to make sure you're moving well and feeling comfortable with the ground under your feet. So I think sort of percentage-wise speaking, I was more prepared to win the big tournaments on clay ten years ago. But with that being said, I have something now that I don't think I had then, which is the determination and the focus and the ability to still do it. So it's been a bit of a give and a take, but there's a lot of great baseliners out there now. You'll see them sort of reveal themselves mostly on clay.
Q. Is it more or less work now? Strictly from the work portion of winning matches?
ANDRE AGASSI: It's more work. More work. I used to watch my opponent do a lot of work. Now I got to participate (smiling).
Q. Would you agree that Michael's victory at the French Open was one of the most astonishing results in tennis really, in a Grand Slam, the way it happened with the Lendl win?
ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, no question about it. I was surprised then, not even looking back. It was quite an accomplishment. When he beat Lendl in a five-set scramp and then he had to beat I think -- I believe it was Ronald Agenor maybe in the quarters, then Chesnokov in the semis, Edberg down two-sets-to-one, maybe even close to double break in the fourth, it was just one of the greatest performances to -- for him to win there. He paved the way for Jim to come through and win in Paris. An American hadn't won in Roland Garros for a long time before Michael pulled it off.
Q. With everything that is going on in the world, are you apprehensive of traveling now?
ANDRE AGASSI: I think we all sort of look at each other a bit more -- with a bit more caution, yeah.
Q. If things don't calm down or anything, do you see yourself possibly not wanting to travel like to Europe or something?
ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I've never wanted to travel, to be quite honest.
Q. Bring the circuit to you, right?
ANDRE AGASSI: (Smiling.) It's been sort of one of the price tags that goes along with doing what it is you love. You know, if you want the world to be a certain way, then you have to keep pushing for that. So I'll do my part and keep playing the game of tennis as long and hard as I can.
Q. What do you think about when you see more and more of your long-time rivals leaving the tour? What goes through your mind?
ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, I don't really allow myself to think about it too much because I think it's easy to sort of understand that. I find that if I have time to reflect, I have time to sort of focus more on what I'm doing or tomorrow. So I don't know if I really allow myself the luxury of appreciating what probably I'm ultimately most proud of in my career, which is sort of how long I've been able to do this because it's something I would have never expected from myself. Also, too, so much of what you need to stay there is about every day and about every player, not just about those guys you've played the most or that you are most familiar with, you know. It's sad in many respects, when you don't get to play them anymore, but there's new ones and everybody's pushing each other to get better. You sort of keep focusing on every player from the standpoint of what their game's like, not their age, not sort of their status or where they are in the game.
Q. What is it like seeing a lot of other Americans in the draw that aren't named Martin or Sampras or Chang?
ANDRE AGASSI: Well, it's great. I mean, I enjoy seeing young guys come up from everywhere, but especially the United States. I'd be lying if said I didn't pull for the American players in a special way. There's a lot to live up to with the last generation of guys that have come through. To sort of put aside that pressure and focus on getting better, it's a pleasure to watch.
Q. How close did you come to having to withdraw from this tournament?
ANDRE AGASSI: In hindsight now, it's probably about three days. I think that, yeah, had it been three days earlier, I wouldn't have been able to play. It was getting close. I mean, I was making good progress with it, with my shoulder over the last week to ten days. And I wasn't too hopeful coming here on Monday hitting balls for the first time. It's been a number of weeks now where I haven't quite hit the ball. So to play here, I wasn't too hopeful about. But once I had my practice and I got over the initial soreness of using my shoulder again, it's really made some great strides. To get through the first match only gives me a chance to let my game come out a little bit more now.
Q. 22-minute rain delay. Were you concerned a little bit?
ANDRE AGASSI: Not with this heat and humidity. I think if things really cooled down, that would have possibly been more of a concern. But not with the conditions out there.
Q. Is this the best -- all of us are complaining about the heat and humidity. Is this possibly the best thing that could happen to you coming back in, it will loosen the effect?
ANDRE AGASSI: In 1999, I was affected dramatically by the weather with my shoulder. I was playing in Hong Kong when it happened, and I pulled out of Tokyo, went to Monte-Carlo thinking I might be ready, pulled out of there. Got some great weather in Rome, played a few matches, went to Dusseldorf where it was cold and sort of gloomy, heavy, and reaggravated it again and went home, thinking there was no chance of playing Paris. Came back to Paris with some great weather for about ten days. History sort of says that the weather is key during this stage of the injury. So it does help a lot to have the heat and humidity.
End of FastScriptsâ€¦.