August 27, 2000
U.S. OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP, Flushing Meadows, New York, NY
IGGY JOVANOVICH: My name is Iggy Jovanovich, Director of Play and Promotion at the ATP
Tour. I want to first of all thank the USTA and Joe Favorito for setting this up. Thank
you all for coming. I wanted to introduce you to our next generation of stars and
champions - they're that already - but they're here for many years to come. We classify
these guys as the New Guys Please. As you can see by their hats, they're supporting this
initiative that we've got. We have Juan Carlos Ferrero from Spain, Marat Safin from
Russia, Nicolas Lapentti from Ecuador, Roger Federer from Switzerland, Tommy Haas and
Nicolas Kiefer from Germany. By the way, Juan Carlos Ferrero has to leave pretty soon, so
you may want to start with him if you have any Spaniards or South Americans.
Q. I saw you play in the Hamlet Cup on Tuesday. I never heard as much grunting and
groaning. Is that a standard part of your game? You could hear it from the next town over.
JUAN CARLOS FERRERO: It's my game, no? Always I play the same form. I think it's good
Q. Juan, you and Marat know each other from junior tennis. Did you live close to each
MARAT SAFIN: 100 kilometers. We have the same fitness coach. I know him since 12 years
old, I think.
Q. Who used to win when you played?
MARAT SAFIN: This guy (referring to Juan Carlos Ferrero ).
Q. Every time?
MARAT SAFIN: Except for last time (laughter).
Q. When did it change?
MARAT SAFIN: When? Because he was great in Juniors and 14. He won. He was more
experienced. At 14 years he played much better, played more tournaments. Also on the
ratings, he was much better than me. Also he beat me in the Davis Cup against Spain.
Q. Was Marat always this big?
JUAN CARLOS FERRERO: Sure, he's big. He's now 6 in the world. He plays unbelievable.
MARAT SAFIN: But I was smaller.
Q. Marat, who is your coach now actually?
MARAT SAFIN: I have no coach. I'm looking for him. Alex is helping me, giving some
advice to find the right guy. I don't want to rush also with the coach because I'm doing
well without him. I can work alone.
Q. I've seen you practicing with Roger. Do you do that quite often? Was that just a
coincidence? Do you often practice together?
MARAT SAFIN: Yeah. His coach, he came to me to practice. He came to me to ask for
practice. I think is right guy to find good rhythm, to play some good points. Play very
fast, very good serve. It's very good. He's very good for practice. If you want to play
with him, you can come (laughter).
Q. Tommy, welcome back to the tour. What is your fitness level right now?
TOMMY HAAS: Well, it's not at its best, obviously. I was injured for quite awhile, had
a bulging disc, out for three or four weeks. I just started practicing again a week, ten
days ago. Happy to be here, looking forward to play. Certainly try my best, even though
I'm probably not in the best shape right now.
Q. The disc, is it just under control or is that something you're going to have to
watch for a long time?
TOMMY HAAS: I don't know yet. I mean, obviously I haven't played a match since a long
time. Have to see how it goes tomorrow. Obviously I have to watch out, do my flexibility
work and strengthen it. Hopefully it's nothing too serious.
Q. Juan, getting back to the Hamlet Cup, were you satisfied with your workout there?
Will you do that next year as a warm-up for the US Open?
JUAN CARLOS FERRERO: Yes, I'm satisfied. But I lose against Krajicek - no? - 6-3, 6-4.
I didn't play so good because in the first round I fell down and I feel not so good with
my wrist, you know. With Krajicek, I can't serve so good, I can't play so good. But
Krajicek is playing good because he's in the final. Now I feel so good with my wrist. I
think it will be a good US Open for me.
Q. Your wrist is ready for The Open?
JUAN CARLOS FERRERO: Yes, it's ready for The Open.
Q. What about your injury, Nicolas?
NICOLAS KIEFER: I'm feeling good. I was struggling for a couple months, couldn't play
for three or four months. I'm happy to be back. I played good in Washington. I'm looking
forward to play good here.
Q. Do you feel any rust, like your game isn't quite where you want it to be?
NICOLAS KIEFER: No, I mean, I know that I can play tennis very good. I showed it last
year. For sure I try to get back to the Top 10. I do everything for this. I keep on
practicing. I go out and give a hundred percent.
Q. Were any of you guys consulted with the sponsoring slogan?
IGGY JOVANOVICH: How we came up with the concept, Burson-Marsteller and the ATP Tour
just basically thought it was time to kind of raise the bar in terms of getting the next
generation of champions out there. These are the guys selected. One of the guys can answer
what they think of it.
Q. Do you guys feel like there is a void, that there is not enough attention being paid
to the new generation at all? You have Pete and Andre sort of getting older, leaving the
scene. Do you feel like anyone has really noticed you yet?
TOMMY HAAS: Pete and Andre are the ones that have the last ten years maybe in tennis,
Pete won how many Grand Slams, how many did Agassi win? Agassi was, you know, 140 in the
world, came back to No. 1. These are the guys that make the things happen. People are
interested in watching Agassi and Sampras play, no matter where they are in the world. We
are, like they say, the next generation. We're young guys. We still have to learn a lot, I
think. With time, hopefully we're going to be the next people to talk about. Hopefully
we'll have some good success, like Gustavo Kuerten, who has won two French Open titles
already. We'll have to wait and see what happens.
IGGY JOVANOVICH: For those of you not familiar with this lanky bloke that just walked
in, that's Gustavo Kuerten.
Q. Do you think Americans can raise sort of a star, or players who aren't from America,
do you think they're ready to sort of leap onto somebody else they're not as familiar
TOMMY HAAS: What do you mean by that question?
Q. Do you think they're ready to go for somebody new? Usually with Pete and Andre,
they're beloved here because they're Americans, because they have a lot of charisma -
Andre does. Do you think Americans are ready to embrace somebody not from their country?
TOMMY HAAS: That's a question you should ask the public. Obviously in every country
where you're from, people love you the most. Especially when they play in the United
States, they're going to want to see Agassi and Sampras. Unless you're as famous or as
good players as they are, they're welcome anywhere. I think they want to see Agassi in
Germany or France just as much as they want to see them here.
IGGY JOVANOVICH: There's a young American Jan-Michael Gambill, also part of this group.
Being in the final of Long Island, it's hard for him to make it today.
Q. Guga, of all the collection of guys here, you have come the farthest on the hard
courts. A lot of people probably think that Brazil is just nothing but clay court tennis.
Did you play hard court tennis very much as a junior?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Not really. I start to play when I was 14, 15, always when I had the
tournaments here in the States or maybe in Europe I guess sometimes, like Wimbledon
Juniors. I think, like most of the guys here, someone is practicing in the States
sometimes. We have to come out here and practice against the other guys, you know, start
to play tournaments, learn how to play outside. It's tough sometimes, like for me,
traveling all the time, playing out of my country all year long. It's much more different
than the guy that has chance to start here in the States and can play many, many months.
Q. Did you have a difficult time mentally changing from a clay court to hard court?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: For me, the main change is just the mental, the way I prepare for the
match, the way I focus on the match. It's completely different. I still can be much more
relaxed on clay, and on hard I have to be very, very concentrate and don't try to miss any
shots, you know. It's not so easy as I play on clay, and everything, it's natural for me.
Q. How old do you think you were when you began to get pretty comfortable on a hard
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: I'm still not old enough (laughter). Maybe 35 I'm going to be.
Q. You've been to the final of the Ericsson.
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: I think since already last year, I've been much more comfortable. I've
been play the same level as the good guys, you know, top players. Right now, even more I
think my confidence is higher, I'll be able to win matches. This help you in your game
Q. Tommy, I saw you last year at Arthur Ashe Day playing an exhibition. I was curious
if more people recognized you from that appearance than they did from tennis here in the
TOMMY HAAS: From the Kids Day last year?
Q. Yes. People recognize you on that fact alone.
TOMMY HAAS: I don't know if that was the case.
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