April 17, 2001
THE MODERATOR: First question.
Q. Nicolas, in spite of this loss, do you have the impression that you played an encouraging match for the rest of the clay court season?
NICOLAS ESCUDE: Well, this makes me want to stop the clay court season immediately! No, it's encouraging. I will need time and patience.
Q. We'll see what happens, but it was not that bad.
NICOLAS ESCUDE: I think I made more than 20 unforced errors, and I have the impression that there are many attacking points that I was not able to put in and that I was not able to stand up. Every time he was touching the ball, I had the impression that he had a quarter of an hour to get himself in position and to hit wherever he wanted. Whereas, as far as I was concerned, I had the impression that it was too fast, and that sometimes on the contrary it was very slow. He was hitting the ball hard. I was at the right place on the court. And when the ball just bounced on the ground, I should have had time to do 50 little footsteps. My footwork has to be improved on clay.
Q. Did you spend time on clay since the Davis Cup?
NICOLAS ESCUDE: I played one hour in Paris on Thursday. That was just making contact with this surface. I played an hour and fifteen minutes Friday arriving here. I played twice from one o'clock to four p.m. on Saturday. And once Sunday, and another time yesterday. So all in all, it has to be about seven hours.
Q. That's all. What was in your mind when you stepped on to the court? Did you feel well enough?
NICOLAS ESCUDE: I was hoping to be more aggressive. I expected a lot of my serve - to bring me free points or to give me opportunities to attack just afterwards. This was the case at certain moments, but at other moments it wasn't the case and I lost games because he broke my serve. It was not easy.
Q. What happened the following days after Neuchatel? Because the level was so high there.
NICOLAS ESCUDE: I went back home, I slept three days in a row without going out. I had an afternoon nap, and eleven hours of sleep in the nights.
Q. You were completely empty?
NICOLAS ESCUDE: Yes.
Q. Today you had a difficult opponent across the net.
NICOLAS ESCUDE: That's for sure. I could have had a better draw, but this season I will meet many good players on clay. Maybe it's a pity to play against him first round in the first clay court tournament, but so what? It's his favorite surface, his game is at its best on this surface. However, at the level of preparation, he was at the same stage as I was, but he seemed to adapt to the surface faster than I did. It's strange to think that you have to hit the ball 40 times for one point. You have to visit the court all around, especially against that style of player. When he tries to put you down, you find yourself two meters behind the baseline. Of course it's very different from indoors or outside hardcourts where you can suddenly break into a point. Here, on clay, when you start stepping back, you lost the point.
Q. Is it discouraging for the rest of the season?
NICOLAS ESCUDE: No, but I'll have to adapt to a new style of play.
Q. You have to do it?
NICOLAS ESCUDE: Yes. It's like those who start playing after the grass season; they would like to have more grass. For me, it's clay, or else it should be very warm and the courts should be very dry and I should have two months of preparation before that.
Q. But these are the official competitions for the ATP.
NICOLAS ESCUDE: Official, I don't know. I will not enter into this kind of discussion. Yesterday evening I watched television and they said that the first thing that Clement said was, "Clay court bores me." I thought about the same thing earlier on today. I don't want to think too much about it and start a crisis like I had last year during the whole period of clay court season. I was totally lost. I tried to play a certain way and another way, and finally I was not playing at all. This time I want to try to do good things as far as I can. I will never have a special clay court game, and I will never be very aggressive on this kind of court. I will have to find a medium term between the two, hoping that the season will go past very quickly.
Q. What is your program?
NICOLAS ESCUDE: I will stay here because there are many players, then I'm going to Barcelona next week and then I have two Masters, Hamburg and the French Open.
Q. This means five tournaments -- no, four?
NICOLAS ESCUDE: And some of them are on my program because I have to go there. It's funny, but the first thing we thought with Arnaud when we arrived together on Friday is exactly that, we hit a few balls together and practically at the same time, after five minutes, I said, "Oh, I can't wait to have grass." And Arnaud said, "I can't wait before playing on cement."
Q. You will have to wait a bit longer.
NICOLAS ESCUDE: That's for sure. At least two and a half months.
Q. But you're okay?
NICOLAS ESCUDE: Yes.
Q. Do you have a heavy program on grass?
NICOLAS ESCUDE: I play every week.
Q. Four weeks?
NICOLAS ESCUDE: I hope the four weeks. The first three are certain. The fourth, I hope so. And generally speaking, I'm happy to go there.
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