January 20, 2003
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: Wow! Thanks for coming (referring to many media in the interview room).
Q. Would you say that's probably one of the most consistent matches you played in your career?
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: Yes. I think I served well the whole way. That's the most difficult thing for me, is to keep a very high level of play during the four sets or maybe five sets. And today I did it. Lleyton helped me a little bit. I don't think he played his best today. I saw I had a chance, and I took the opportunity.
Q. The last game, down a breakpoint, you shanked a ball with your forehand in the bottom of the net. Were you a little nervous?
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: Yes (smiling). I knew I didn't get broken the whole match. That was not the moment it's going to happen, but it almost happened. That's the nerves. I think I served a double-fault. I was realizing that I could win the match, and that's when you don't have to think such things because if you think you can win, and you didn't finish the match yet, maybe you start to get nervous.
Q. And you were?
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: Yes.
Q. So how did you pull yourself together?
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: A little bit of luck with some good serves after these bad points. I kept on believing I could finish it. Usually I'm not too bad at this. I'm not the kind of player who is serving for the match and losing the match. Most of the time I finish the matches. So just kept confident.
Q. US Open last year you played a very tough match against him, ran out of gas at the end. What happened between now and then to make this possible for you?
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: Yeah, I think it might be a surprise for most of the people. I mean, who knows me around the world? Not many people. But the ones who knows more about tennis knew that I had a chance today. I beat him once in Indianapolis, and at the US Open I had some set points on the second set. I knew I had my chances. I didn't want to look like Stepanek the other day. We saw some really fast matches. I knew he could roll very fast. I wanted to hold my serve, and that's what I did on the first set, and the second set, too. I knew I had a chance, and I took it.
Q. What happened for you in your preparation?
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: Not much. I'm just doing the same work. Everything the professional player does, stretching. I'm traveling with a physio. I'm just doing the job like it has to be done. I'm feeling good, in good shape.
Q. Can you compare the atmosphere today to when you won in Casablanca?
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: Not at all. I think that's what I said at the end of the match. This is just fantastic. Most of the other countries where I play, you would get boo, maybe when you want to serve, some people will try to bother you. Here, the people are really coming to see tennis matches, and that's the most important. They don't even really care who's from where, they just want to see a good match. If you perform well, they'll be behind you.
Q. What were your goals for this year? With this victory, are you going to up them a little bit?
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: For sure, my goals is to play well in the Grand Slams. I haven't done too well since I start my career. Last year I play my second quarterfinal. I start to play well in 2000. Quarterfinal here, and last year I play well at the US Open. So this year now I'm back again in the last eight. This is my goal, to perform well in those tournaments. They're so beautiful, so much attention. That's my main goal to play well in those ones.
Q. You finished last year with your highest ranking. Why is it you're playing your best tennis after 30?
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: Well, I think I start late. You know, in Morocco, I was 19 or 20. When I see Richard Gasquet now almost full professional when he's 16. I start pretty late. Then I had two years off due to injury. I'm 31, but can say I'm 27. I feel like 26, 27 (smiling). For me, I start late, so now I find it a bit strange that some people, some players, stops at 29 or 28. I'm fully enjoying myself and I want to play some more.
Q. You don't feel like maybe your longevity is due to not having played so much?
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: Right now no. But maybe tomorrow when I wake up all sore... (Smiling). For sure, there are some good and bad parts. The experience play on my side, and the fitness, of course, on the other side. But I try to work a lot and keep in good shape.
Q. Before the tiebreaker in the third set, you had 15-40, two set points.
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: Yes.
Q. You missed the first return, you threw your racquet. The second return you missed, you hit yourself in the head with the racquet. You didn't injure yourself, perhaps you helped yourself. Did you shake yourself up a little with that?
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: That happens to me a lot. The other day I did the - I don't know how you call it.
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: I roll over. I like to shake myself on that occasions. That was another opportunity that it could have cost me a lot because luckily I could manage to win the tiebreaker. But that's what happen in the US Open. I had four set points in the second set. I didn't win the second set. He took confidence. So that was another very, very important point during the match.
Q. Is this the best serving match of your life?
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: Yeah, I think I served this year in Toronto, in Canada, in three sets against Kafelnikov, I served 36 aces. Today I think I served 33 or 34. But I served at the right time when it was very important, and that's very important, to serve well.
Q. I reckon Jeff Tarango helped you?
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: Yeah, Jeff is helping me. He's helping me. We started in Doha, the beginning of the year. He doesn't know if he wants to keep playing or if he wants to be a coach. I'm just happy that such a player like him is interested in my tennis. That gives me confidence. Just listening to what he's telling me, he's right about a lot of things, tactic, strokes.
Q. Why Jeff Tarango?
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: I think he's a guy with a lot of experience. It's almost 15 years he's on the tour. We played the doubles together. We didn't plan anything. We don't have any agreements together. But he just does it because we are friends before. He likes the type of game I play. He really believes I can go higher. So that's why he's giving me tips.
Q. At what point of your career did you realize you could be that good of a player, or did you always know that you could be that good?
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: No, when I start, I never thought I could make it even to the Top 100. I was looking at those guys like they were from another planet. Slowly I took confidence. Today every time I'm playing a big tournament, I'm thinking of winning it. Since last year that I've won a little bit more tournaments, I really believe I can improve. This goes by working a lot, working out. That's what I do. Then I feel better on the court.
Q. The racquet change in the middle of your service game, then your request for the trainer, was that a mind game going on?
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: No. I change my racquet with tension.
Q. He changed his racquet in the middle of your service game. I don't think he broke a string. You called for a trainer directly after. Was that some mind game?
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: No. I think he change his racquet, I didn't even notice it. He can change his racquet any time he want, if the string is on his way to be broken. I wanted just to have some cream. Unfortunately, the trainer came on the court. I didn't want Lleyton to see that the trainer was coming. He had to come to put a little bit of cream. My legs were fine, but just prevention in case if we were going five sets. I wanted to start before getting cramps or anything like that. Just some Anica cream with menthol, feeling fresh.
Q. You are doing well, Hicham, Paradorn is doing well from Thailand, guys from South Korea are winning tournaments now. Not traditional tennis countries. That is good for the game. What do you think it does for tennis with guys like you winning?
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: I think it's good. It give the chance to other countries to dream about, the youngsters, playing tennis. For us I think it's also a very positive thing because we are from small countries where there are not so many athletes. We get great support. That can pushes you. I received a call from the King when I won last year in Qatar. That's just feeling great. I think Paradorn, too, got a lot of big connections in Thailand. I think it's good for our countries.
Q. What did the King have to say?
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: Well, that was last year when I won Doha. I was wearing this little pins that I was wearing today, the yellow.
Q. What is this?
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: This is a charity thing that the King does in Morocco. I give $100 every aces I make.
Q. Expensive day.
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: So (smiling). No, he just congratulates me, just having him on the phone, it was a great honor. Later on during the year, I received a medal.
Q. A medal?
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: Yes.
Q. What is it called?
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: Oh, no. I know in Arabic. I have to think. It's a kind of medal that they give to sportsmen. They have three degrees in that medal. I had the highest one, gold.
Q. A gold medal?
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: Yeah (smiling).
Q. What is the King's charity called?
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: Foundation Mohamed VI.
Q. And he's Mohamed VI?
YOUNES EL AYNAOUI: Yes.
End of FastScriptsâ€¦.