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THE LIPTON CHAMPIONSHIPS


March 30, 1997


Thomas Muster


Key Biscayne, FL

JOE LYNCH: Thomas Muster becomes the oldest Lipton champion ever.

THOMAS MUSTER: Thank you (laughter).

JOE LYNCH: Is now the second player to win a Mercedes Super 9 title on all three surfaces, matching Pete Sampras, almost eight years to the day after reaching the final. First question.

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Q. Thomas, you better come to Newport and win on the fourth surface.

THOMAS MUSTER: First you have to get a Super 9 there.

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Q. This is Newport, much bigger than a Super 9. Congratulations to you, Thomas. Were you crying out there? We were so far away, but it sounded as if you were choked up.

THOMAS MUSTER: I was a bit emotional. I wasn't really crying. It was an emotional moment. I think after eight years, coming back here and being in the finals. As I said, many times I just felt like it's the biggest justice I could have got, worth more than probably $1 million I could have won at the lawsuit. I think, you know, life is just sometimes a bit scary because everything comes back. It's just a great moment.

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Q. Can you recall that night in Mercy Hospital. I know you were feeling lousy. Did you feel it was the end of tennis?

THOMAS MUSTER: You know, I had no idea what it meant to have torn ligaments. I had no idea what it means, except maybe you can stand up tomorrow and play again. But my coach, he studied medicine, he was like the color of this wall here. He probably knew what it meant. We just talked to the doctor who actually did the first arthroscopy in Mercy Hospital that night. We just said it's amazing what happens in eight years, what happened eight years ago. I mean, as I said, it's just really a great feeling. Maybe after the French Open, the most emotional moment in my career probably.

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Q. Did you leave your room last night?

THOMAS MUSTER: I didn't go to Bayside, I have to tell you. But the chances that the same thing happens again is probably, I don't know, 1 to 10 million, you see. Wasn't really much of a chance that it happens again. I have two knees, maybe (laughter). Right one will still be available.

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Q. What did you do last night?

THOMAS MUSTER: I just went to a French restaurant, Italian place.

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Q. Thomas, after the settlement on that deal, like $2.5 million. Is that how much you ended up getting?

THOMAS MUSTER: I tell you what I ended up after taxes was probably $700,000. The rest I left with lawyers in this country and for taxes. Doesn't matter. I think the most important thing was that I could play again. I'm still No. 2 in the world. I still have the chance to be No. 1 again maybe, you never know. It's not about money; it's just that I had the chance to do it again, and what was taken away probably eight years ago happened today.

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Q. After the match was over, you ran off the court. Where did you go and what did you do?

THOMAS MUSTER: Took a shower and I drank two beers. That's why I'm right now really drunk (laughter). Maybe it doesn't look like it.

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Q. Thomas, first I just want to say congratulations on winning this. Do you feel you can be named No. 1 again?

THOMAS MUSTER: Excuse me?

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Q. Do you feel you could be named No. 1?

THOMAS MUSTER: No, because Pete Sampras is No. 1. That's just the reality. He got five or four thousand something points.

JOE LYNCH: Five thousand.

THOMAS MUSTER: That's why he's No. 1. I don't have that amount of points. He didn't buy it in the supermarket. One year ago, I didn't buy it in the supermarket. We had to play for it. He deserves to be No. 1 because he just won enough Slams and enough tournaments, and I didn't. That's why I'm No. 2. That's a reality. Doesn't matter, you know, which won which event on hardcourt or grass or whatever, whatever surface, it just matters that he's a great player and deserves to be there. That's why I'm not supposed to be named No. 1.

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Q. What did Ronnie say to you after the match?

THOMAS MUSTER: He just said the same thing, "Life is scary." I said, "Why?" "Today I learned a big lesson in life." He was more emotional the French Open than today.

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Q. Can you talk about the heat today?

THOMAS MUSTER: I tell you, it was hot. I think it was about just taking the pain today, who can take it longer. I mean, Sergi had a great week. He had a lot of blisters on his feet, his hands. It was really hot today. I mean, could have played better. I think it was good tennis. You just can't play four hours on a hardcourt with that heat. It's just impossible.

JOE LYNCH: The air temperature at the start of the match was 93 degrees. The on-court radiant temperature was 106 degrees, according to the ATP Tour weather station that's on the court. The thermometer on the clock I don't think was accurate, what showed on the clock.

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Q. Given the weather conditions, Thomas, the first set obviously was critical.

THOMAS MUSTER: It was, yeah. He had two set points. I knew the first set, it's very difficult. It's going to be probably a deciding factor in that match. Still, if you win one set, you just have two to go. The other one feels like he's going down and down and down, has to win another two sets. Then you're down two sets to love. It's a mental factor.

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Q. Do you think that point on the tiebreaker, the fifth point, the very long point, could have been the turning point of the match for Bruguera?

THOMAS MUSTER: Well, he played a good tiebreak. He just let it slip away. Had two set points. I was a little bit lucky that the net caught it, jumped off really high, so I could get to it and play. But from that moment on, I think I was ahead in the game, I was mentally better, and I was moving the ball around better. He just went down and down and down. It's normal because if you're down, you know how far you have to go to win this match. In this heat, it's big.

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Q. What about the point at 6-6, take us through that, if you would?

THOMAS MUSTER: What was it? Tell me.

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Q. The shot in the corner, then the two overhead punches.

THOMAS MUSTER: That was a long time ago. Well, he just couldn't finish the point. I mean, he should have finished it. I just guessed the corner. On that last lob I played, the wind just took it. As I said, the heat is a big factor. If you put your really last power in and then you have to run and run and run, the match is slipping away from you, then you had these chances in the first set, you know.

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Q. Thomas, what actually happened on the change for the tiebreaker, when you threw the ball towards the umpire?

THOMAS MUSTER: Nothing. I just wanted to tell him that I'm going to take a toilet break. I didn't want to hit it in his face, I just wanted to hit it at him to get the attention. He thought I said he did a bad call or something. No, I'm just going to the toilet.

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Q. Thomas, can you tell us how long you've been using the longer frame and what difference it's made?

THOMAS MUSTER: The racquet is about one inch longer. I've just started right at the World Championship, five days before the Championship the racquet was ready. We tested it for one year. It has been a big factor on my serve, the power of my shots. It's really created a good thing for me. I always was open-minded to new inventions. We had a lot of work on this racquet. I'm really happy the way it's working and it's really great.

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Q. Thomas, what we used to think was your big time of the year is coming up now. Can you run us through where you go from here?

THOMAS MUSTER: We have Davis Cup next week, which is against Croatia, in Austria. Then I'm taking a preparation week. I go starting off my season in Barcelona, then Monte-Carlo, Hamburg, Rome, then St. Polten, which is a tournament in Austria, then the French Open. I think it took a lot of pressure off me playing well in the Spring now. I'm looking forward to the French Open as a main goal, whatever happens. If I can, I try to win each tournament, but not necessarily happens every year that you win all the claycourts. I did almost win, except the French Open, all the claycourts of last year.

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Q. Do you think one of those great runs through the clay that you had a couple years ago, do you think that's within you again?

THOMAS MUSTER: I don't care, actually. I care about the Super 9s, play well there, prepare well for the French Open as a main goal. As I said, the bad start last year, I had to play well on clay. I had to give it a hundred percent. But this year I started off really well, so I can concentrate on the major events.

JOE LYNCH: Thomas is 111-5 on clay over the last two years.

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Q. Can you talk about the matches with the heat? The drinking, changing shirts, all the things you do on a day like today?

THOMAS MUSTER: Well, you run through a lot of fluid. Everybody has his own drinks prepared, whatever he thinks does the best for him in the heat. Definitely you have to drink a lot. Changeovers, you have those iced towels. You take every possibility to slow down the game, to avoid the heat, which is almost impossible. Today, there was no shade on the court where you could hide. The only thing is the changeover. You can use ice towels or something, but there's not much you can do.

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Q. Does this compare to the Australian Open heat?

THOMAS MUSTER: Well, Australia can be really tough. I think this rubber surface is even getting hotter than the concrete we're having. It does more damage on your feet because it's more sticky. I think Australia probably is the hottest place. But here with the humidity we're having. Australia has pretty dry heat. Here the humidity does the rest.

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Q. Obviously a sweet win for you. How much of that is because of the surface that this tournament is played on?

THOMAS MUSTER: Well, it's a hardcourt, so it's almost similar to the US Open. It plays well. I have to say really great because the last years I've been here it's been really windy, gusty winds. In this tournament, it was really nice to play. The weather has been beautiful. It's great conditions to play in. It makes a bit of a difference, you know, if it's really windy, gusty winds, to play well here. It's tough.

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Q. But how meaningful is it to you to have another hardcourt title, putting the "claycourt specialist" phrase to rest?

THOMAS MUSTER: I've never said I'm a claycourt specialist.

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Q. I know.

THOMAS MUSTER: I just have that feeling that people try to break my balls with it every time. I never felt like a claycourt specialist. My biggest success is on clay, I've won most of my tournaments on clay, but it doesn't mean that I'm just be able to play on this stuff.

JOE LYNCH: One or two more questions for Thomas.

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Q. Is that something that forces you to really work that much harder on the hardcourts?

THOMAS MUSTER: It's not that work, it's just that I can't play as much. You see, even today I played with a bandage because my groin muscle is tight. I just can't play more than two, three weeks, if I play well. That's the biggest factor. If I could play all year on it, I would play just on hardcourts and maybe I'd be a hardcourt specialist. They'd say, "This guy can't play on clay." Obviously, the only thing left now is, "He can't play on grass." Since I have a grass court in my backyard, I'm going to work on that. I always felt like I play well on this stuff. I couldn't practice as much as I would have liked to the last eight years.

JOE LYNCH: Anything else for Thomas?

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Q. Any lingering effects in your knee actually?

THOMAS MUSTER: Excuse me?

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Q. Any lingering effects from the accident in your knee?

THOMAS MUSTER: No, there's no metal, no screws, it's all real. No problem anymore. As I said, because I can't bend it all the way, it affects different parts of my body. That's the problem. It's not the knee itself. If you look at it, that's it, can't bend anymore (indicating). It's pretty hard when you play. When you play, you have to move down. You can't. I takes a lot of stretching and working. It just doesn't bend more than 110 degrees.

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Q. Winning a hardcourt event here in America, a major hardcourt event against another European player, is it symbolic to you with your involvement now at this time with the European union?

THOMAS MUSTER: The win here?

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Q. Winning here in America against another European at a time when European players, getting so involved, is it anything special to you?

THOMAS MUSTER: I like it, I have to say, that two European players are playing this final here at the American surface, if you want to put it that way. It's great. I think that we've worked for it and we can play on it. I think it was great for Sergi and myself playing today out there, all European final. Might be some people that don't like it, but even people that have been in a lawsuit, having the testimony against me, saying, "He is only a claycourt player." I don't want to mention any names, but I just saw a really long face out there today, really upset. That's the way, it's what I'm saying, the biggest justice. I like it.

JOE LYNCH: Anything else for Thomas before we bring back Sergi who I think is watching ESPN's replay of his win.

THOMAS MUSTER: If you can't have an American in the final, you have to show an American final on ESPN.

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End of FastScripts....

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