March 11, 1999
INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA
. GREG SHARKO: Chris advances to his first Mercedes Super 9 quarterfinal since '97 Montreal when he went on to win the title. He's qualified into the main draw here this week. He moves into the quarterfinals and will play Tim Henman for the first time. First question for Chris.
Q. Could you just talk a little about the year and what you went through, the whole procedure?
CHRIS WOODRUFF: Last year?
CHRIS WOODRUFF: It was about a year ago out here when I reaggravated it. A lot of hard times. At first, I actually enjoyed my time off. I was able to hang out with a lot of my friends at home. But then it got a little tough. I tell you what it did, it made me appreciate how much I love to play this game. I actually did enroll in school, back at the University of Tennessee, last year. At the last second, I withdrew my application and thought I was getting a little side tracked. It was really hard to take. I'm obviously happy to be playing again.
Q. Was it all totally rehab? You never had a recut again after the first time?
CHRIS WOODRUFF: Right. What happened was I got a bruised femur. I had the original operation, took care of problem A. Then somehow maybe I came back too early, I developed a bruised femur. From March 6th, when I hurt it here, I didn't hit a ball until almost middle of September. No running, no nothing.
Q. Must have had serious doubts whether you'd be able to play again?
CHRIS WOODRUFF: You know, I did. It's funny, two months ago for whatever reason, my knee just came around the corner. I don't really know or have any explanation as to why. You're right, I was starting to wonder if I would ever play again without pain. I knew I could play, but just stringing matches together, particularly this high a level of competition, I started to question that.
Q. What was the key to you winning today?
CHRIS WOODRUFF: He actually on this particular surface -- nice medium-paced hard court like the one out there, it's a good match-up for me. I can stand on the baseline and take his heavy topspin and almost hit through him or rush him, whereas on a clay court, that's not going to happen. I needed -- luckily, I won this match here, because I don't know if I could do it on a clay court (laughter).
Q. At 3-4, he hit a backhand that looked clearly long. There's no call. Did you get pretty fired up after that?
CHRIS WOODRUFF: I did. I did. I used that as motivation. Pretty intense competitor out there as it is. Stuff like that, I've been out here too long to let it bother me. I almost use it as a catalyst to pump me up.
Q. How beneficial was it to play qualifying?
CHRIS WOODRUFF: It was beneficial early in the tournament. I played two matches on Saturday and Sunday, two really good players. I think a guy was 63 in the world, then another guy was 54. Those are two really good wins. I think it was beneficial for Monday. I came out, I knew what type of tension to string my racquets at, I knew the way the balls were, I knew the court surface. But later in the tournament, it could be maybe a little detrimental.
Q. Before you got injured, you finished a year ranked 30. Now you're having to qualify. How is that been, from getting direct acceptances, having to fight your way into a tournament like this?
CHRIS WOODRUFF: I relish that idea, to be honest with you. I don't want anything given to me. It's nice to have wildcards into main draws, don't get me wrong. But I really like the idea of qualifying. The whole thing makes you feel good about yourself. You go into the tournament ready to play. You take a lot of hard knocks out here. I think it's really good.
Q. In those two qualifying matches you played, were there any points where you were in peril of losing?
CHRIS WOODRUFF: No. The first one, I was always on top. And the second one, I lost the first set. I played Fernando Meligeni, who lost to Jan Siemerink, second round. That was a little dangerous there. I was happy to get through that one.
Q. I know you're close to Courier and Martin and a few other guys. I've heard athletes, in team sports, say when they get hurt and can't play, they just don't feel a part of things anymore. Was that the way it was for you? Were you down in Knoxville on your own, little world of your own?
CHRIS WOODRUFF: Yeah, but for me that's not bad. It was hard not to play tennis, but at the same time I understand that this is a privilege to be playing out here. I have a lot of good friends back at home. I think at least to me there's a lot more. I wasn't one of these people who went to academies at 14 or 15, pushed into the tennis world. To me there's a lot more to live than just playing tennis. My life will go on after I'm done playing tennis. My family is very supportive. Like I say, I have a great supporting cast all around me.
Q. Was there any particular moment when you decided to come back? You mentioned you went back to school. I assume that wasn't to get football tickets. Were you watching something on TV or anything?
CHRIS WOODRUFF: Not really. I always knew that I would come back, but I just didn't know when. That was the hardest thing to decide. I started out, you always wonder, "Am I a step slower? Can I hit the shots under pressure?" It just took time. It's just taken time. I'm slowly but surely starting to regain and play some pretty good tennis.
Q. How much did the legendary work ethic help you?
CHRIS WOODRUFF: It helped me a lot. By no means can I say it was easy and I persevered right on through it. As a matter of fact, this game is so cyclical. Last week, I was ready to give up the game again. I had four match points. I lost 7-6 in the third last week to Andrew, who is ranked 40 in the world. I lost doubles last week 7-6 in the third, the very next day. Courier and I played, lost 7-6 in the third Monday night here. Last week, I was ready to put my sticks in the bag, "It's not worth it." I know that the old Chris Woodruff probably wouldn't have let four match points get away. I'm trying to look at it as I'm building a house, trying to lay the foundation right now.
Q. Is this win a particular milestone; it's just another brick?
CHRIS WOODRUFF: Exactly. This ain't my first rodeo.
Q. Did you scout his match last night?
CHRIS WOODRUFF: I did not. I practiced with Pete a lot. I figure I know his game pretty well. Mantilla, I've seen him play on TV. Doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what you need to do against him.
Q. What did you think after he beat Pete? Did you think, "This guy is on a great run"?
CHRIS WOODRUFF: It really didn't surprise me, to be honest with you. I know obviously Pete is a tremendous player. Having hit with him out here, listening to what he says, he has trouble playing out here, even though he was back-to-back champion. I know the time I've hit with him out here, the ball flies on him, he has problems popping strings. Mantilla is tough. He can hit the ball deep into Pete's backhand, make Pete work. Those guys I think are tougher for Pete to play.
Q. What's it going to take for you to beat Henman?
CHRIS WOODRUFF: There's no magic formula, I don't think. It's just going to take me going out there and playing Chris Woodruff tennis. I know I have the shots and I know I have the ability to win. There's no special formula tomorrow. If I had to say one thing, I'd say I have to return well.
Q. How do you suffer a bruised femur?
CHRIS WOODRUFF: That's the million dollar question. I don't really know. Nobody knows. I've seen several doctors, good ones, and nobody really knows. What's amazing is that the first MRI I had on my knee, it didn't show up. Then when I a second MRI, that's when it appeared out of the blue.
Q. Is it safe to say you won't be kicking any more footballs?
CHRIS WOODRUFF: Yeah. I was telling somebody a second ago, there's no recreational sports, period, other than playing golf. Courier's coach walked into the training room the other day with a sprained ankle playing golf. Obviously, wasn't in the fairway.
Q. Is your schedule, now, one week at a time? Are you taking time off to assess things?
CHRIS WOODRUFF: Yeah. Originally I thought maybe I'd play Lipton qualifying next week. A lot of it is going to depend on how I do here. I have to listen to my body. I'm a little surprised that I could do so well here at this big event so early. I really don't want to jeopardize my knee where I have to start stringing together three, four weeks of back-to-back play, especially when you're getting out in the draw like I am.
Q. It's your left knee, right?
CHRIS WOODRUFF: Right, I'm left-footed.
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