March 28, 2003
KEY BISCAYNE, FLORIDA
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. What do you take from this match?
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: Overall, I think I played well. After two hours, I think I dropped a little bit. I was running a lot. I mean, I'm happy I played a quarterfinal here. Even if I lost, I had a tough match. Last week, I also had a tough match against Lleyton. So it's something new for me. I have to learn some more experience to play more matches against these guys. So far, it has been good. So I keep confident, and every time hoping the best results against top players like this one.
Q. Were you losing your fitness a bit in the third set?
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: Yes, I was running a lot. I think we were both tired. He had the first break. So after that, he played a step higher, he played some good serves. And from the baseline, I thought I had not so many chances. He highers his level. That was the score.
Q. When you spoke with Bill Norris early in the third set...?
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: I was trying to get some...
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: Yeah, because was too cold -- I had some cramps in my stomach, with the water, it was too cold. So we tried to get some natural water.
Q. Some of the points, you applauded his effort.
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: No, I think they were great points. That's the reflex that I have, when the opponent is playing a great shot. I like to congratulate him. So I had a couple of occasion in that match.
Q. Is there consolation for you in the fact that you lost a match of such high quality?
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: Yes, I'm not mad about myself. I think I missed one opportunity maybe in the first set. If I would have been one set in front, it would have changed a little bit. I could have rested maybe in the second set and wait for a third set. But he played very well the set point. The only set point I had, he played a good serve. As I just said, for me, it's every time a great experience to play against Andre or against Lleyton. I'm happy to see that I can give them some trouble.
Q. For you, has there been a residual effect of that Australian Open match? Andy was talking about how a lot more people seem to recognize him in the public now, because so many people saw the results of that match.
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: Yeah, definitely. To me, I think it did a lot. Andy is already a superstar here in the States and everywhere else in the world. But for me, it as almost an unknown player, that match at the Open had a great impact. Unfortunately, not economic impact (laughter). But now peoples know me and they like to congratulate me and go out there and see me practicing, so it's nice.
Q. Is that especially true in France and Morocco, the two countries where you're best known?
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: Yes. In the States, too, I mean since I've been here in Indian Wells, a lot of people have watched the match and I think it's good for me and for the tennis.
Q. This might have been the best match of the tournament so far, the quality of play and the variety of strokes in the match. Did you ever at all feel like a couple of old warriors out on the court, playing tennis, in a sense, for a lot of young players who really haven't learned how to play tennis yet?
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: No. I think we've seen some great match, Costa against Federer was a great one yesterday. It's true that we both over 30 and we still out there, trying to do our best. I think it's great, it shows that a tennis player is not done at 28 or 29, like we saw a lot of players retiring. Maybe that gives some idea to Pete that he can still come out here and compete with the young guys. We are enjoying ourself. There is a couple of over-30 players who are doing well lately, like Wayne Ferreira and some other guys. So it's a good feeling.
Q. You seem to be getting better with age. To what do you attribute that?
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: I think it's -- I've been working the last four or five years more than I did when I start. I've been healthy, too, now for a couple of years, too. So that always make it -- I have a family, and that helps to give me more confidence in myself. So I think a bit of everything makes that today I am here.
Q. Can you expand on the family part? Albert Costa was saying that he feels that his game has gotten better since he had the twins because now he's not as focused on the tennis. Is it similar for you?
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: Yes. Maybe before we got married, the only thing in our life was tennis and sometimes you stress too much about it. That's why players are trying to find attractions outside of tennis. For us, the only attraction we have beside tennis, or sometimes before tennis, is to take care of the kids. I'm going to soon have three kids for myself, so it's plenty of work at home and occupations. But it's also tough to be away from them most of the time, now that school starts for the oldest. They're not with me too much anymore. That's the tough part.
Q. When Andre went up a break in the second, you had to break back, there were spectacular shots. What is your mentality at 4-4?
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: Well, I knew I had a chance in the first set, so I would have been really disappointed losing two straight sets. So I had not many other chances. I thought I had to come in and be aggressive and come into the net, because if I would stay on the baseline, I was running and he was doing his game, so that's what I did. And with a couple of lucky shots, I could manage to broke back and then break him again.
Q. The volley from your knees, how difficult, how close did you come to missing that?
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: Yeah, it got the top of the net a little bit, so I was a little bit lucky. It's true, with my long legs, it's tough to bend them, to bend my knees. But on the important points, I try to do my best and maybe we put too much effort in it that it goes in.
Q. You've played hundreds of matches. In a match like this, you're concentrating so hard, but does it ever strike you, you say, "My God, this is a superb occasion"? Does that strike you?
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: Yes. This is all I've dreamed about since I've been playing tennis, is to play Andre on the center court of the tournament. So when I'm there, sometimes it's a bit confusing in my head. I can be a bit worried to win the match, or even sometimes I can say to myself, "I hope he's not gonna beat me 6-1, 6-1," so it's all that pressure that we are looking for and that feeling that you have a lot of crowd and that's the time to show your best tennis. I usually like to play in front of a big crowd. I'm happy.
Q. Were you surprised to see so many Moroccan flags flying? I think they were on every side of the court.
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: Yes, it's the first day that they have been here (smiling). Before, at the US Open, I get a lot of support for the Moroccan community who lives in New York. But in Florida, I haven't meet so many Moroccans, but today it was nice to see them on the center court and supporting. Even if I lose at the end, they were still supporting me so...
Q. In what area do you feel you have most improved lately? Is it in the head, physically?
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: Yes, it's a bit of everything. You know, I'm more comfort today. I know when I play against these guys, I want to do my best and I know I can beat them. So I think I'm a step ahead; where I was two, three years ago, where I was just hoping to do a good match. Today, I really want to beat these players. Physically, I've also been working hard. So I'm a bit -- I can move a little bit more faster and get ready to hit the balls. So that's mainly the point I improved.
Q. Do you think you're something of a freak coming to the net so often? It's so good to watch, but we don't see much of it (smiling).
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: Yes, I have to work on that part. I think that's where I can really improve my game, is trying to get more to the net. I have long arms, so I can reach the balls and put some muscles on the legs and try to stay down on those low volleys and make maybe a little bit more serve and volley. That's going to be my goal in the next coming months.
Q. In the final set, Andre was serving so well. Did you feel that your reactions to his serve was slower because you were losing...
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: Yeah, against Andre, he's playing so fast, so as soon as you give him a very small opportunity, just one way for him. That's what I did. He had a break up. He was confident. It's enough, two, three good shots and he's above you and he's controlling the game. As fast as he goes, he likes it more and more. So I couldn't stop him in the third set and he went just for two straight breaks.
Q. Although you're both approximately the same age, he's played many more matches because he's gone so deep into so many tournaments. Do you find it remarkable someone of that age can recuperate so quickly and break somebody down?
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: Yeah, I mean, I admire Andre. Not only as a tennis player, of course, or what he did, but as a person, too. How hard he dedicate his life to the sports. So he's working hard every day and I don't think it's very easy for him as a superstar he is, so many occupation he might have, he still goes to the gym every day, goes on the tennis courts in so many years. This is just great.
Q. What was your reaction yesterday when you're waiting to play a match and you heard that the area is under a tornado warning?
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: Yeah, I lost so much energy yesterday. I was so tired. I was getting ready to play the Federer-Costa match, almost warmed up. I was warmed up, I was pumped. I had to go back to my hotel and do all that again today; eat the proper foods, warm up before the practice, warm up again before the match, stretch. So that takes a lot of you to get ready for a tennis match. Yesterday, I lost a lot of energy. Maybe I'm more stressed than Andre was about this match.
End of FastScriptsâ€¦.