August 26, 2002
NEW YORK CITY
MODERATOR: Questions for Andre.
Q. Obviously a long, grueling tournament. Nice to have a relatively easy match, relatively quick match at night, on a cool night, for your first match here?
ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah. It was pretty humid tonight, though. That always has a certain aspect of work to it. You work hard to make a scoreline appear to be easy. But I think ultimately you always feel good with finding a way to get through and finding a way to do what you need to do. It's very rare you can win a match and not feel like there's a lot to feel good about with the way you played. Tonight was one of those cases. While there might have been an area or two I could have done better, I felt like I was, for the most part, right where I wanted to be.
Q. In terms of the things that especially pleased you, what did you like about tonight?
ANDRE AGASSI: I felt like when I got an opportunity to seize the point, I was very quick to recognize it and execute my shot. I stayed strong on all his big shots. If I got my racquet on his big shot, he was playing pretty aggressively and dangerously, I felt like I was staying strong, and if I got my racquet there, I was redirecting it well.
Q. Since you started a little later tonight because of the ceremonies, did you have to do anything to stay loose?
ANDRE AGASSI: Just take a nap in the afternoon, prepare for a long evening. It's not an easy start time, 9:15, 9:30. I'm used to pushing away from the dinner table at that time. All of a sudden it's when you have to be at your best. You plan the couple days leading up to it around that schedule, then you just make sure you don't spend too much time spending energy thinking about the match. You think about it enough to know what you're going to do, then know that when you get out there, you're going to give it your best shot.
Q. When you came back this year from your injury, you started out with a bang, as you said a couple of times, you were playing very well. You didn't maintain quite that level of dominance. As you come into this tournament now, do you think you're at that level where you can go against a Lleyton Hewitt kind of character?
ANDRE AGASSI: The good news is you don't have to play a guy like Lleyton except once and late in the tournament. So there's seven guys to beat, and it's very possible I won't even have to beat him. So you always hold yourself to the standard of your opponent, and, "What do I have to do today?" With that being said, going into the French this year, it was a long time since I played a Grand Slam. I think there's always a different sort of feeling, intensity that goes into it. I gave myself a shot, but I didn't feel great about necessarily being at my best when I needed it the most. That was disappointing - as well as Wimbledon. But you do hope that your best stuff is saved for events like this. And you would want to think that it's as easy as just planning it and then working your plan. But you never know. It's a fine line, when you've played too much, when you haven't played enough. I think I'm in position to raise my game to the necessary levels these two weeks. Now it's a question of doing it, which becomes the most difficult part.
Q. What does your instinct tell you about where you are at right now?
ANDRE AGASSI: It tells me you can't win seven unless you win the first one. Really that's as far as you can go. I did everything I needed to do tonight. You know, I was pretty nervous going out there, excited. I felt like I controlled everything that I wanted to do. That's a good sign. I do know it's only going to get better.
Q. Your second-round match, your opponent is still to be determined, but there's a shot it might be another American, Justin Gimelstob. Can you talk about his game, the times you faced him, what he brings?
ANDRE AGASSI: We've played three times. He's gotten me once. He's a 6'5" imposing figure on the court. He brings his game at you. He makes you hit a target. He certainly has a big serve, takes a big cut at the ball if he's in position. He forces you to hit a good shot. Any time he gets a chance, he's going to get in. It's a game that you don't get to play against a lot, which means there's a place for him because guys aren't quite ready for that sort of style, somebody just getting in. I'll have to step up my game. I feel ready to do that.
Q. Michael Chang was in here earlier today. There's something sort of uplifting about his enthusiasm. He was talking about coming to net, doing things differently. With Courier in the broadcast booth, you and Pete and Michael plodding away, do you think people enjoy seeing you guys trying your hardest at this point?
ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I think sports is all about overcoming odds and obstacles and digging down deep. I think if there's anybody that's in position to have to dig down deep at this stage, it's Michael. He's seen the top of the game for a decade, if not arguably more. Every time he's out there, it's an opportunity for him to kind of rediscover that form. So I think that's a lot to root for there.
Q. The late starting time aside, what about playing opening night, the crowd? Seems like that's been reserved for you.
ANDRE AGASSI: It's a big honor for me. I don't know if it's intended to be that way, but when I get that call to go out there and open up the night session, it sends shivers up my spine. I look forward to it; I enjoy it; there's no other place I'd rather be.
Q. You spoke about being a little nervous. Something to do with that?
ANDRE AGASSI: Oh, yeah. I mean, how do you not? Being in New York, it's pretty overwhelming for I think many people who come here now. I've always appreciated the heart and the spirit of New Yorkers. I think what they've lived through in the last year has been a clear reflection of that heart and of that spirit. To be here is a privilege. To add to it is truly an honor.
Q. Did you have a chance to catch any of the ceremony?
ANDRE AGASSI: I saw it through a very muted TV in the locker room.
Q. What did you think of it?
ANDRE AGASSI: It was touching. How are you not affected? How are you not reminded of all the reasons we fight so hard for freedom? It's pretty emotional every time you give a sort of ceremony that honors everything we stand for.
Q. A few years back you said it was not a good idea to have music during the changeovers. Now that you have it, what do you think of it?
ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I think it's in a slightly different context. I think they're showing tennis up there on the big screen. My concern with it originally was I didn't like giving the impression to the world that tennis needs to do something else besides tennis in order to be interesting. But in this context, I don't feel like that's the message that's being sent.
Q. With September 11th coming up, this being your National Championship, is that an added incentive for you to try to win this?
ANDRE AGASSI: Well, sure it is. I think it's an added motivation being here. There's a lot of inspiration in the hearts and minds of everybody that's in this city. After seeing what happened here a year ago, it makes it quite easy to go out there and lay your heart on the line.
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