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THE LIPTON CHAMPIONSHIPS


March 24, 1997


Thomas Muster


Key Biscayne, FL

JOE LYNCH: Thomas Muster moves into the fourth round, improves his record for the year to 17 and 3, all three losses coming to the eventual tournament champions. First question.

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Q. Thomas, when that kid asked you what your favorite surface was, did you say the ocean?

THOMAS MUSTER: I said my favorite surface is the sand, a beach, sand, because it's close to the ocean.

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Q. Seems like you've really been playing, specifically on hardcourt this year, more than you ever have in your career, correct me if I'm wrong, leading into Lipton. Is there a reason behind that?

THOMAS MUSTER: I've played less weeks than ever in my life, and I have just won more than ever probably on hardcourt up till Lipton from my record. I've played way more in the last years.

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Q. On hardcourt only?

THOMAS MUSTER: Going indoors, after the Australian Open, playing Dubai, going indoors, playing here. I've played way more tournaments.

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Q. Thomas, what do you think of Haas?

THOMAS MUSTER: Definitely a very talented player. He's very young. I think he has the ability to be a good player. He has a lot of things to improve, which is good. If you're at that age and there's nothing you can improve anymore, then you've got to worry. But he's has big potential.

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Q. What do you think he might need to improve on? I know it was just one match, but what do you think he might need to improve on?

THOMAS MUSTER: Obviously he can improve on every shot. His biggest shot is his forehand. Definitely he has to come in after his shots, has to place the balls better. He needs experience. I mean, it's just match situations. You don't quite know what your game is yet. He's young. But he has a good coach, very experienced. He will tell him what to do.

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Q. Thomas, how disappointed were you last year, came in here ranked No. 1, seeded No. 1, lost your first round match? Seems like sometimes you want to prove to Americans that you are a complete player. You lost that first round match. Was that a very disappointing loss to you?

THOMAS MUSTER: Well, every loss is disappointing. I try to play as good as I can every match. Definitely last year I didn't start up that well. I had a great claycourt season and played well. This year started off well. I've never really had much luck at this tournament. I went to the finals. That was an unlucky experience there. I have never really had success the way I wanted it here. I'm feeling good this year, playing well, confident. Nothing to worry.

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Q. Last year in Rome you say that it is not good for tennis that the American player don't play in the European tournament on clay. What do you think about the European association, the project?

THOMAS MUSTER: Well, that's not the players' fault, it's the fault of the system. You have a system where everybody has to play in the big tournaments. It's like Formula One, you cannot have Schumacher not going to Australia because he doesn't like it, because it's too far, you see. If you have a circuit and you have the top tournaments, you've got to have the top guys. I mean, you cannot force anybody to play because if you're injured, you're injured. I have the experience that some of the American players don't play as much in Europe because they don't like the clay too much and they have enough tournaments indoors and on hardcourts. But it's up to their decision. I'm not blaming the players; I blame the system for it.

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Q. Do you think Europe needs the association or not?

THOMAS MUSTER: Well, they definitely need somebody to take care of them. They definitely need some support on the council and the Tour board. That's the only way to make decisions, is to vote there. I think the European players have enough votes to be strong. That has nothing to do with forcing players to play in Europe.

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Q. There's been some conversation in the last couple of weeks between the ATP Tour and the WTA Tour about combining at more tournaments. What's your opinion on that concept?

THOMAS MUSTER: Well, I have an opinion, but I'm not supposed to say that because I'm on the council and I'm supposed to say my opinion there. I'm not supposed to say officially here now what I think about it. That's my vote going to be on the council. There's definitely some discussion going on about it. I think many players haven't made up their mind yet. We are making a decision which is for the year 2000 basically. That's how the new Tour should look like, that's going to be decided or has to be decided this year.

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Q. Well, if you won't give us your view on that, perhaps you'll discuss the pluses and minuses, the negatives and the positives of those two things.

THOMAS MUSTER: I think if we have -- that's what's the discussion about, ten-day events. I think we losing quite a few weeks for that. In general, we don't know yet, you know, how the system should work and what's the ranking system that's going to be in this, what other tournaments are involved in it, what's the commitment situation. I mean, there's so many things involved in it. It's not only putting men and women together, you see. Maybe there's pluses that the world of tennis sees women and men tennis together. But I think that would support more the women's Tour than our Tour.

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Q. Do you have questions in your mind about prize money and practice court availability?

THOMAS MUSTER: Well, then there must be a decision anyway on which tournaments are going to be the top tournaments then, the ten-day events, where you're going to play them. There's still a lot of discussion going on, so many issues there. We're really at the beginning of it.

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Q. Are you going to play Wimbledon this year?

THOMAS MUSTER: I'm supposed to, yes.

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Q. Do you think you can succeed on grass?

THOMAS MUSTER: Why not? I fought pretty well last year, semifinals at Queen's. I've never really, except last year, dedicated my time to grass. But if I'm willing to play well there, I will.

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Q. Do you have a goal of winning Wimbledon?

THOMAS MUSTER: Well, I don't know. You can say this is a goal. Realistically to do it is like Schumacher winning the Formula One race in a go cart.

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Q. Thomas, would winning the Lipton mean something special to you because of the fact that you got injured here, came back from that injury? Will it be a sense of closure to win this tournament for you?

THOMAS MUSTER: Well, I'd like to win any tournament I'm playing in, but unfortunately there's some other guys playing in the event which I have to beat. As I said, I'm feeling good, I feel confident, and I've played well last week. Take it round by round. I mean, everybody reaching the Round of 16 or quarterfinals is in good shape and is playing well. Since it's a long event, a lot of things can happen.

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Q. At 5-1 you're serving, you heard the thunder. I don't know what you said. Then you served two aces. What were you saying?

THOMAS MUSTER: Nothing. Just said like, "Hold on for a while." Change over, ankle tape, injury time, which was basically I think coaching.

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Q. That drives you crazy, doesn't it, just standing around like that?

THOMAS MUSTER: No, not really. It's just funny. I know Nick for a long time, and I knew it was all about taping the ankle, at that stage of the match it's just waiting for a rain delay. I was waving to Nick, "You tried it."

JOE LYNCH: Talk to you on the walkie-talkie?

THOMAS MUSTER: Didn't get anyone. Tried to call home.

JOE LYNCH: Anything else for Thomas?

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Q. Do you feel even on a hardcourt with Sampras, would you go into a match with him feeling even on a hardcourt?

THOMAS MUSTER: Why not? I've beaten him indoors. There's definitely an advantage on his side, his serve. Serve is the only shot that cannot be influenced from your opponent. Any other shot is an influence on whatever happens from your opponent. There's definitely an advantage, but on any surface we're playing on. But he's probably the most complete player for the moment.

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Q. Who did you look up to when you were growing up, which players?

THOMAS MUSTER: To everybody, because I was so little. Vilas was somebody that I admired, also Henri Leconte when I was a kid because they were both lefties, and Vilas was playing a heavy topspin game. There was a finesse of Henri Leconte, aggressive coming in, serving well and power. Sort of combination.

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Q. How did you view McEnroe?

THOMAS MUSTER: Well, he's a lefty, too, but he never was really my style and the way I played. I wasn't really looking too much at him when I was young. It was great the way he played, how he performed, but still wasn't my style. I like the claycourt style better.

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Q. Did you identify with Borg at all?

THOMAS MUSTER: More than with McEnroe probably, but he had a two-handed backhand, it wasn't really something I was looking for either. Similar style I had was the two guys.

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Q. Thomas, do you feel like you don't get enough respect in the United States?

THOMAS MUSTER: I don't care. I don't care. I think that I've played well enough, people realize I can play on hardcourt. I don't think I have to prove anything to anybody at all.

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Q. Do you like to play other sports besides tennis?

THOMAS MUSTER: Quite a few. I like to play golf when I have time, surfing or whatever. There's so many things.

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Q. Do you play soccer?

THOMAS MUSTER: I used to play.

JOE LYNCH: Anything else?

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Q. Are you going to keep playing Davis Cup?

THOMAS MUSTER: Do you want a one-on-one?

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Q. It's the only way I'll get it. Are you going to keep playing Davis Cup?

THOMAS MUSTER: I'm playing next week, yes.

JOE LYNCH: Thank you.

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End of FastScripts....

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