October 14, 2001
INDIA at USA, WINSTON-SALEM, NORTH CAROLINA
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. How did you feel going into the match?
LEANDER PAES: I was a bit sore. Put my work the first two days, so I knew I had my work cut out for me. Like I said to you all yesterday, I was going to take the match to Andy. I feel fairly proud that I did. I made him come up with the goods; just goes to show as to what a great talent he is and what a fantastic player he is. He came up with the goods every time I had him down. I felt I started off the match really well, especially in the end of the first set where he broke me to get back to 4-All, I thought that end of the first set I played top class tennis so I was very proud of that. But from there on, every time I put him under pressure he either came up with a huge serve or a great pass. He was a bit too good for me today.
Q. You looked like you were on fire the first set. You were playing incredible tennis. Did you get tired after that?
LEANDER PAES: I guess when you play over three days it does tire you out, but I am happy with the way I put my best foot forward and played really hard. Just give me a little reassurance with my singles, kind of puts a thought in my mind as to the fact that I really want to come back and prove to myself that I can play good singles again considering I played doubles the whole year-round coming back and playing two top-class players, especially today, with the way I played kind of shows me that I still got some good singles left in me. So just plant a little seed in my mind.
Q. Did you think when you won the first set that maybe you could get him on the ropes and he'd tense up a little bit?
LEANDER PAES: Halfway through the second set 2-All, 3-All, I really felt that I had a chance. I felt I had a really good chance. It was all a matter of who would serve better today and that was the only difference today, so halfway through that second set I really felt I had a good chance.
Q. Talk about when he broke you at the end of that second set to take -- what was going through your mind? Did you feel that was one of those turning points in the match or what was going through your ---
LEANDER PAES: Just going to be a set all. That was it. I really felt that I could come back in the third set and play well and what happened in the fourth set went to show that I still had a lot in me to give. I just kept on trying to give and give and give and work hard, but had my chances in the fourth set, especially at 4-All, was it, had a couple of breakpoints and he kept on coming up with some big serves. The only difference in today's match was the serve. I felt that he's just a top-class player that way.
Q. What is it like to try to handle his pace in terms of serve and groundstrokes, what is it like?
LEANDER PAES: I am happy I have got some pretty quick hands.
Q. He's said you have got the fastest hands in the game.
LEANDER PAES: It would have been difficult otherwise. As it is just like that -- it was very difficult, I was just trying to get his first serve back. Every time I felt could I get it back I had a good chance in the point. I thought I was playing very sharp today compared to on Friday, and I felt like I could really take it to him. That's what I did. Just came a step short today.
Q. In that first set when you hit all those good half -- you know you hit those half volleys, you hit stop volleys all over the place, did you think at any point considering that he usually just physically overwhelms people, did you think you were starting to get into his head?
LEANDER PAES: Definitely. That's what Davis Cup is all about, especially when you are playing away from home is to try and get into your opponent's head a bit. My style of playing is a bit like that. I am fairly quick at the net. I volley really decently well, so I felt that if I could chip and charge well today, I would have him up against the ropes. And I was really happy with the way I started, I had him up against the ropes halfway through the second. I played an average game at 3-4, and didn't get as many first serves in and at breakpoint Andy hit a really good pass to break. So I am pretty happy with the way I played and like I said, if I am playing this good tennis playing doubles the whole year-round, I think it will be -- I will be unfair to myself if I really don't give myself a chance to come back and play some good singles again and put the work in.
Q. What did you think it says about him mentally at 19, sort of carrying the US hopes on his shoulders to be able to come against you, a veteran, and pull this match out?
LEANDER PAES: I think Andy has a lot of pressure on him. All of us have pinned him as the next US hope. We have put a lot of pressure on him expecting great things out of him. On saying that, I think that his talent, his demeanor on-court, his -- the power that he plays his tennis with, yes, he is the next American hope. But on saying that, I think that mentally he has -- he played really well today mentally. I feel he has a bit more room to improve and that's probably about the only thing in his game that if he matures, because he's still fairly young, if he matures as he's supposed to, it's going to be very tough to stop him because he's a phenomenal talent.
Q. Can you just talk about the match the way -- the turning point for Andy after you took the first set?
CAPTAIN KRISHNAN: I think once Andy broke in the second set I think then he got the momentum and even prior to that, I felt Leander was struggling in fear of the service games. He was barely holding on as long as he could. I thought Andy played much better today than on Friday. He had to play better. He was able to raise his game. And as the match kept going, even towards the end of the fourth set, he kept a high level of play.
Q. How disappointing is it to go back to qualify again and in that regard, were you all unlucky to have to play a qualifier at the United States?
LEANDER PAES: I am very proud of my captain and the team that we have. We have all worked very, very hard to get to this level and so far this year before this tie I had a pretty clean record in Davis Cup. We knew that coming into this tie whenever you get to play an off tie, you are playing a nation who has a lot of depth in their team, that's one thing we struggle with with our team is that -- so on saying that, I came into this tie knowing fully well what we were up against. It just showed the way the matches went. It showed that the Americans have a lot of depth on their team. So the better team it seems won.
Q. Going into the match trying to keep the points sharp, were you going for the lines early part?
LEANDER PAES: My style of play is chip and charge, so I felt that on Friday I was a bit rusty with it, but today I was fairly sharp. The doubles yesterday helped my singles today as far as my returning goes. I felt I returned really well yesterday and that carried over to today. You don't have much time against an Andy Roddick kind of serve. You have just got to block it and come in and I wasn't going to sit out there and rally with him. I have played the last three days, so the longer the match went I knew that it would wear on me more than him. He's younger and stronger than me and at the same time he had the day off yesterday, Ramesh and myself when we worked out strategy we knew we were going to play short points.
Q. Part of the book on Roddick is to go to his backhand. Were you thinking to go that way or what was your ---
LEANDER PAES: Fourth set I had no idea where to go, forehand, down-the-line, pass backhand -- you know, all over the place. I mean, he's good off both sides, especially when you give him a little time, his forehand is really, really powerful. He can do a lot with it from anywhere on the court, reverse crosscourt - I mean, he's very good off both sides.
Q. Patrick had said the other day that he felt that this was a team that they could win the Davis Cup with next year or in the next few years. What do you think about this team? Is this a team good enough to win the title?
LEANDER PAES: It is a very good team. Playing a few away Ties like Spain in Spain, that's a real true test off a team like this. It's a fairly young team and they have all the criteria to be a champion in Davis Cup -- a championship team in Davis Cup, but I think only time will tell in the next couple of Ties that they play, especially they play away and on clay, that's something that will really test them. So I wish them the best of luck because they are a fantastic team. They are top notch guys on the court and off the court.
Q. Obviously it meant a lot to you to keep your winning streak alive in doubles yesterday. Talk about the positives that you take out of this.
LEANDER PAES: One of the positives was yesterday because Mahesh and myself had a very ordinary US Open, so leading into the winter months, which in fact I start in two days time in Stuttgart, that's a plus point, that's it's good that we are in form in doubles. On saying that, I think the biggest point that I take away from these three days is the fact that my singles is still at a high level. I haven't played much singles this whole year, and in 1999 when I had to make a choice between singles and doubles I went the route of doubles. I think that doubles is my forte don't get me wrong, but I think I have got to give myself a realistic chance again at playing my singles. It's going to help my Davis Cup. It's going to help my doubles. And I just got to take a few weeks to get my body prepared again to put in the workload at this level all three days.
Q. How will you change your schedule to accommodate playing more singles?
LEANDER PAES: If I knew how to do that I'd be magician. It is tough, that is the biggest thing, the Tour is so long you try -- if you are trying to be the top in one event, be it singles or doubles, you have got to play at least 24 weeks, and that's the biggest task that I face is to balance my singles and doubles. I guess-- I mean just thinking of it at the top of my head the Grand Slams and Championship series are important to play in doubles because our ranking where it is, that those tournaments will move us up. But as far as singles goes I am ranked at about 220 now approximately, and I need to drop back a level or two and then work my way up again. So I have got my work cut out for me if I want to do my singles. But I think that it's a realistic challenge and I always love challenges.
Q. Is depth the biggest key to being able to move back into the World Group the last three years? Talk about that.
CAPTAIN KRISHNAN: Yes.
Q. Could you elaborate?
CAPTAIN KRISHNAN: No, because every time in the press conference we kept asking and Leander has to come through the three matches two singles and doubles and I think that's the toughest thing one has to do in tennis is to play all three matches. It's just incredible the number of times he's come through.
Q. Is there any youngsters on the horizon that you see maybe bringing in next year?
CAPTAIN KRISHNAN: We have a few we have been trying them out, but not ready for this level of competition.
Q. Actually it occurred to me that this team is an Indian-American team considering Leander lives in Orlando, I think Mahesh lives in New York and --
CAPTAIN KRISHNAN: Not me.
Q. You are Indian, but the boys, it's Indian-American team.
CAPTAIN KRISHNAN: No, but we have always had a strong American influence even when I played. The same thing happened 20 years ago we played in California. Three of our players were living in California, so, no, Indian players felt very much at home here in the US, and gotten used to be so...
Q. I hate reminding you of this, you are 28, you sound inspired about your singles. How much time do you give yourself?
LEANDER PAES: Will look at it the other way: All the kids coming around, they see a 28 year old chasing down their passing shots and getting their serves back they are like, what is this guy doing. As far as I am concerned I am going to play as long as my legs carry me. I love being out there. It's true passion. My tennis is my learning, so, I am a real student of the game; I enjoy it. As long as my legs carry me, I know that the heart and the will and the mind are there.
Q. Before the matches began, when the National Anthem was sung I saw you looking at the flag and looking very emotional. Do you get very emotional when you look at that Tri-Color?
LEANDER PAES: Yeah.
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