March 20, 2004
INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA
THE MODERATOR: This marks the third straight year the No. 1 player in the world has reached the finals here at Indian Wells. Roger is appearing in his fourth ATP Masters Series final tomorrow. Questions for Roger.
Q. I'll ask you the same question I asked Andre, did you steal the match by making that wonderful run for that seemingly winning volley of his?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, now looking back, you know, it was an important point. But I'm not sure if it would have changed anything because 40-15, normally you win those games. But I had my chances, he had his before. It was a very even match. I really just hung in there, then he got a little, you know, maybe overaggressive and missed a few, which was good for me.
Q. The feeling was when you watch it from the side that if the point went longer and longer, you felt like you could control the point. Is that accurate or inaccurate?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I think in the end more so. The beginning, I was struggling with my timing, especially on the backhand side. So for me it was important to get into those long rallies as well, just for myself to get the rhythm, but at the same time also to win them and to show that I can go against those long rallies. I think that was the turnaround in the middle of the second.
Q. In the first game of the third set, it was an epic battle, deuce eight times, you had advantage three times. When you wind up losing something like that, the crowd is behind Andre, how did you keep your focus after that?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, in the beginning of the third, I knew I will get my chances if I keep hanging in there. Obviously, it was a big disappointment because I missed a very easy forehand. That was for me the big disappointment. But, you know, I think I'm used to not get too down on myself after such moments because I thought, "I just won the second, no worry to panic in this situation."
Q. Talk about the game before the volley when you had two breakpoints against you, forehand cross-court winner, forehand down-the-line winner, how important was it to hold there mentally?
ROGER FEDERER: I mean very, because he had his chances, which I missed, and then he had his chances (sic). You have to keep yourself alive. I was playing pretty good, but I knew I needed just a little bit something extra from him, a few easy errors from my side, I knew I will have to face breakpoints. The beginnings of the games on my service games, also on his, are always very important against each other. To get out of that game, obviously now looking back, was crucial.
Q. He won 13 of 14 service points in one stretch there near the end of the second set. How important was it for you to finally start getting some points off his serve?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I think for me it was just important to be more aggressive on the return, you know, take some chances, not allow him just to hit the kick serve, then start rallying with me from the baseline. Obviously, it's a little bit of a different situation we were in because I was leading a break. I could, you know, relax even more. For me it wasn't the most important in the world to break him a second time, even though against him I still believe it's very important. But, you know, he plays well, makes you run a lot. At 30-Love or 40-Love, it's tough to come back against him.
Q. Was the heat a factor out there at all?
ROGER FEDERER: No, no, didn't. Obviously, I sweat more against Andre than against other players this week because of the result. But, you know, again, I didn't have to change shirt. That for me shows that I'm okay in the heat this week.
Q. How much more do you enjoy fighting in a match now than you did a couple years ago?
ROGER FEDERER: You know, I come off the match, I called my condition trainer and told him, "That's the way to go." This was a tough match. I thought about him a few times during the match. We worked hard during wintertime in Switzerland. He came with me to Dubai, tried to get me back in shape after I was so tired in Rotterdam. I'm thankful for what we're doing together. I feel stronger mentally and physically. That's thanks to him.
Q. Is there extra self-satisfaction in beating Andre Agassi, the American icon?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, always very special moment to beat such players, either with Pete or Andre or Rafter or Goran. These guys for me have lived through so much and brought so much joy for the tennis fans. Then to beat those guys in a nice crowd today, that's really one of those nice moments during the season.
Q. Can you talk about tomorrow? Looks like Tim won the first set. Pretty impressive record against you, 6-1 at this point.
ROGER FEDERER: He's been playing well since sometime now, not only since a few weeks, since he beat me in Rotterdam. I thought Canas played an unbelievable match to beat him in Australia. We all know the score there. I don't know when he really start to pick up his level. In Paris and everything... He's very dangerous. I think he figured out his own game now. He doesn't just run to the net, stay at the baseline. He knows what to do now, and the results show. So it's going to be a tough one.
Q. If I can remember back to your age, I would have thought somebody almost 34 years of age seemed ancient to me in those days.
ROGER FEDERER: Seemed?
Q. Seemed ancient. Do you feel that way or are you amazed by what he's doing?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I see it this way. Didn't he miss a few years during his career also when his ranking dropped?
ROGER FEDERER: He didn't play as much also. So I think those are the years he saved for now. That's how I look at it. You know, I am not surprised at all because what he's doing now, he's so dedicated, so professional. He's only playing 10 to 15 tournaments a year. Then obviously you can play longer. The same what Pete did, as well. So I think that is the secret when you want to play a few more years and stick around. Just play less tournaments, but the ones you really enjoy playing. For that reason, I'm not surprised he's still around.
Q. Is the court too slow to allow you to serve and volley or is it just that Andre is such a great returner?
ROGER FEDERER: I think it's a combination of everything. I've also decided a little bit in the past I'd rather win the points a little more from the baseline on surfaces like this because otherwise I just run to the net and feel like, you know, we need somebody else just serve-volleying on the tour. I think, this is not what I like doing, serve-volleying on second serve, breakpoint, risking everything. I'd rather play more consistent. This is why against players like Andre especially I'm not going to start serve-volleying. From the baseline I would have no rhythm any more. He would feel stronger from there. There's plenty of reasons to stay back.
Q. You missed a lot of backhands today. I don't think you played your best. Of course, Andre was on the other side. Does this show you can win when you're not playing your best?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, it's obviously a big satisfaction for me -- it's actually a little bit similar to the match I had with Lleyton in Australia, I thought. Quick first set. Never really found my rhythm. He played too good. Then in the middle of second, you know, I started to feel the way into the match and turn it around, which makes me feel really stronger and stronger now these days, similar to what happened in the finals of Dubai. I was down a set against Lopez. He played incredible tennis, I thought. Still I was able to turn these matches around. That's what I wasn't able to a few years ago, because I would panic, start serving and volleying.
Q. It seems like when Henman is winning here and other places, he's playing a lot on his own terms, dictating the pace of the match, getting into the net when he wants to get into net. What kind of strategy are you going to counter with?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I'm not going to start changing too much about my game. I think if he wants to win the tournament, he's got to beat me playing my game. If he wants to win, he has to change something in his game. I think that is something we'll see tomorrow. But, you know, the surfaces in Rotterdam and Paris suit him better than me. In Rotterdam, I never found a rhythm. There were a lot of bad bounces. Also he played incredible tennis. Obviously, this surface is a little slower, which allows him to have a better look at the return, but also for me it's easier maybe to return his serve. For me, it's just important to stay aggressive against him, obviously, because otherwise he keeps on. To pass him over a long period of time is very difficult. For me, the best volleyer in the game.
Q. Is it just confidence or something else that keeps you from panicking when you're not playing your best now and seeing matches through like this?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I just tell myself I know that if I find my rhythm, then it's good enough to beat anybody right now. So for me, there's just a hope there that I will pick up that rhythm and then the chances are good that I'm going to win. That's the situation.
Q. Where did you find that rhythm in this match?
ROGER FEDERER: At what time in the match?
ROGER FEDERER: Middle of the second, I thought.
Q. I asked Andre if he still enjoys the challenge of playing a No. 1 player after all these years. He says he still has those butterflies, but he also wants to make the No. 1 players play a higher level of tennis. Did you feel like you had to do that for the first time this year? Did you have to raise it up a notch today?
ROGER FEDERER: Oh, yeah, definitely had to show my best this week. Because, I mean, the other matches, I played well, but they were too easy. What can I say? Nothing to do with cockiness or anything. This was the first really challenge I had. This is why I think, you know, I had to play my best. I thought, you know, I served better overall, even though I had one letdown in the first set. But in general I had to really, really push myself. This is when you also tend to overhit because you know how strong your opponent is. I mean, we saw how much separates us two. I was fortunate today.
Q. When you're up 40-Love in that final game, what was that little voice in the back of your head telling you?
ROGER FEDERER: "It's looking good." Hopefully I make that ace out wide, like I did, which is my favorite serve. The first point of the game was very important because I thought the serve hit the net. It was a net cord. It came back strong. Half volleyed up the line. That made me be in a more comfortable situation. But a great way to serve it out, definitely.
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