June 14, 2005
KAT ANDERSON: Welcome, everyone. Today on the conference call we have Pete Holtermann from the ATP. He also will be the communications liaison here at Newport coming up on July 4th through the 10th for the Campbell's Hall of Fame Tennis Championship. Also on the phone, I'm going to turn things over to Mark Stenning, the CEO of the International Tennis Hall of Fame and also the tournament director for the Campbell's Hall of Fame Tennis Championship.
MARK STENNING: Thanks a lot. Good morning/good afternoon to everyone. We're very pleased to have Taylor with us this morning. As everyone knows, Taylor was our 2002 Hall of Fame champion here at Newport. He's currently No. 30 on the ATP entry rankings. He breezed through his first-round match yesterday at Nottingham. I guess Newport is one of your four career singles titles, Taylor, with Newport being the first. Very pleased to have you back here in Newport in about three weeks. It will be Taylor's third appearance here at Newport. Again, thanks, everyone, for being on the phone.
KAT ANDERSON: Let's go ahead and open things up for questions.
Q. Your title here when you won, you beat James Blake, the No. 1 seed at that time. You probably remember the curse of the casino. Nobody has won the tournament as a top seed.
TAYLOR DENT: Are you trying to jinx me? Is that what you're trying to do (laughter)? No, hopefully I can go there and play some good tennis. If I'm playing solid there, then I think I've got a very good shot at winning the tournament. We'll just see what happens.
Q. What are your recollections of the three-set match you had with James?
TAYLOR DENT: Oh, man, actually the biggest recollection I have was the match point because I hit a first serve, and I swear - I will swear to my grave - that it hit the line for an ace, so I jumped up in the air, and it got called out. I couldn't believe it. So now I've got to go back, match point, James has been all over my serve all day, and I've got to hit a second serve. So then I hit a second serve. He crunches a return back to my backhand, and I hit the luckiest half-volley pickup for a dropshot winner. That was the most memorable part of that match.
Q. When you look at the players you beat, Jeff Morrison was No. 4, Robby Ginepri, who went on the next year to win, it's become in a way a bit of a showcase for American players in recent years.
TAYLOR DENT: Yeah, no, I mean, it's I think on top of the list for a lot of the American players to go and play. It's back in the States. It's on grass. We like faster courts. It's an awesome place. I don't think you can find too many places around the world that are nicer than Newport, Rhode Island. So we all look forward to going there.
Q. Anything different about your game from two years ago?
TAYLOR DENT: Well, hopefully - I'm saying hopefully - but hopefully you'll notice I'm a little bit more solid on my serve. I'm not giving it away. And just making guys play a lot more on my return games. So just a little bit more solid player all around, hopefully.
Q. I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit what goes into a player's thought process when he has to withdraw from a tournament. You came back to Newport in '03 as the defending champion but had that nerve problem in your hand and had to withdraw I think the morning you were scheduled to play. I'm asking the question in the context of withdrawals from Wimbledon are starting now. Mardy Fish and several others have withdrawn for various ailments. What goes into your thinking when you have to make such a big decision?
TAYLOR DENT: Well, I honestly can't answer for the other guys. But for me it's just whether I can do myself justice stepping out on the court. If I don't feel like that I'm going to come out of it with a positive experience one way or the other, whether I learn from a loss or, you know, learn from a win or have a win or something like that, you know, chances are I'm probably not going to play, and that's because of injury. If I'm not feeling like playing that day, I'm going to try and kick myself in the butt and tell myself to get out there and, you know, do my job. But, you know, it's happened to me, because I was injured for two months after I played Agassi in Miami with my ankle. You know, I was trying to postpone every tournament as long as I could to pull out. But then the day would come where I'd have to make the decision. I'd step on my ankle and say there's just no chance. Even if I go there and the ankle feels good, I've hit zero balls before the match, and that's not going to do myself justice. So that's what goes through my thought process. Again, for the other guys, I'm sorry, I can't answer.
Q. A Wimbledon question for you. Is there a mystique or an aura about Wimbledon that makes it a greater challenge to play there or is it just another great place to play in your estimation?
TAYLOR DENT: Well, again, for me there's something else going on there. It's tough to really explain. For some reason I'm always more nervous playing matches there than anywhere else. I step out on the court, and there's just a buzz with the crowd. Even wants, you know, a ticket in. People can't get in. They're waiting outside. There's something -- there's something unbelievably energetic about the place. I've played on Centre Court now I think three times, and every time it's given me goosebumps. So I can't explain what it is, but for me there just definitely is something there.
Q. How do you shake that?
TAYLOR DENT: Well, you know, we've all dealt with -- everybody out on the tour has dealt with a lot of pressure situations and we all have our own ways of dealing with it. For me I really just try to get tunnel-visioned and focus on what I have to do out there. Hopefully after the warm-up, I'm ready to go.
Q. Do you think you're in a good place now gearing up for it?
TAYLOR DENT: Yeah. You know, I would have liked to have had my preparation for Wimbledon a little bit differently, you know, because I'm still, you know, trying to get back into the swing of things. But, you know, you have to roll with the punches. You can't have everything the way you want it, otherwise I'd never lose a match. You know, you've got to roll with the punches. You know, I feel like I'll be as prepared as I can be.
Q. Was there an important moment in your life, a pivotal point in your life, where you came to the realization that tennis was more than just something you could play and enjoy, that it could be a career?
TAYLOR DENT: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I don't think I'd be out here if I didn't realize that or want to do it. I'd be doing something else. I don't know what.
Q. When was that time?
TAYLOR DENT: Actually for me it was probably pretty young. I was 12. I get that way. If I set my mind on something, it's done. You know, it's my full concentration, and that's all I think about. So I started hitting a little bit when I was 10, played a couple tournaments, and then I won a couple and I liked it. Right about 12 was the time my dad was hitting with Chang and coaching Chang. And I saw what he was going through out at our tennis court. I was like, "I want to do that." So I set my mind straight and said, "This is what we're going to do."
Q. You mentioned about how nervous you were at Centre Court. You made the contrast to Newport. I've heard players say how relaxing it is. You come in as a former champion. How do you keep your focus coming into Newport? So many players look at it as such a relaxing tournament compared to Wimbledon.
TAYLOR DENT: Well, for me it's not too tough to keep my focus. I'm out here and I want to win titles. At the end of the day, that's what I want. You know, Newport is another opportunity for that to happen. I don't think focus is going to be an issue. I think me just staying relaxed and just trying to, you know, stay in the present, not look too far ahead, you know, just stay calm is more important than the other stuff.
Q. Vince Spadea, he was the top seed. I asked him about the pressure of being a top speed at Newport. He thought of it as an advantage because he thought the other guys would have to play real well to beat him. He said he fought three and a half years to get back as a top seed.
TAYLOR DENT: Yeah, no, I mean, being top seed's, it's a nice thing. It doesn't mean anything, though. It just means you're the favorite to win that week, even if that. So you have to go out there, and because you're the top seed, guys are going to be gunning for you and you're going to have to play some good tennis. You're still going to have to go out there and win matches. So being the top seed is nice, but it doesn't guarantee victory.
Q. Have you been a top seed before?
TAYLOR DENT: I don't -- I don't think so. I don't believe I have. I may have been, but I don't think so.
Q. You won your first title on grass, you've been real successful indoors. What surface do you feel most comfortable playing on?
TAYLOR DENT: It actually depends on the grass court, believe it or not. I've kind of been trying to talk myself into grass being my favorite surface for the last couple years. But the fact of the matter is that at Wimbledon these days, the grass is very slow, it's very tough to move on, it's a little slippery, and the balls are heavy. So it's not the best surface for me. Whereas the courts -- if I remember right from a couple years ago, the courts at Rhode Island are a lot softer and the ball skips through a lot more. So those suit me a lot better than the courts at Wimbledon because it makes it tougher for guys to return and to pass. But as far as overall, my best surface, my favorite surface, probably like a fast hard or an indoor court because I get good footing around the net, I can push off and dive for volleys, and my volleys and serves are skidding through the court so it doesn't give guys time to hit good passing shots.
Q. You alluded to your ankle injury. How are you going to face the challenge of playing best-of-five-set matches when because of your injury you haven't been able to play since January.
TAYLOR DENT: It's a long way to go. If you play a five set match, I don't care even if you're well prepared, it's still a long time out on the court and you're going to be tired. I'm just going to have to cross that bridge when I get there. I've been trying to go for long jogs to get ready for it. But, like I said, sitting down for two months, not knowing what to do with my ankle, hasn't really given me a lot of opportunity to train and work out. The body hasn't been responding well to long jogs or anything. So, you know, hopefully I'm just going to play a lot of points here at Nottingham and then a lot of points for the practice week at Wimbledon and just get in some sort of shape so I can last a little bit.
Q. How do you deal with the frustration and stay optimistic? You played such great tennis beating Safin at Indian Wells. Played Coria, played Agassi tough in Miami. Looked like you were getting to the verge there of breaking through, then you have the injury. How do you keep yourself optimistic and pumped up mentally?
TAYLOR DENT: Yeah, that's happened a few times in my career. The bottom line is I'm doing everything I can to be the best player I can. I can't control what happened to my ankle in Miami. I can't control getting food poisoning in Indian Wells. You know, those things are out of my control. So I can't be too upset with that. I have to just go on about my business and make sure that I'm giving myself the best chance possible to, you know, be the tennis player I want to be. You know, that means taking care of injuries and doing all this stuff. So I feel like I'm doing that right now, and sooner or later hopefully the tide will turn and things will start to go my way.
KAT ANDERSON: Thank you very much, everyone, for being online with us today. Taylor, thanks for being with us today.
TAYLOR DENT: Thanks, very much.
KAT ANDERSON: Good luck in Nottingham tomorrow against Travis Rettenmaier. Good luck with the rest of the tournament. We very much look forward to seeing you July 4th through the 10th for the Campbell's Hall of Fame Tennis Championship.
TAYLOR DENT: Great. Thank you very much. I can't wait to get there.
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