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March 16, 2000

Byron Black


MIKI SINGH: Questions for Byron.

Q. You played one set, it was terrific. You wound up winning that one. Did you sense at some time in the second set that things changed or did you sense that something changed at all?

BYRON BLACK: I didn't sense anything changed. Just the way the match went. In the second, I think the key was I was up Love-40 first game on Pete's serve. I needed that break. I think that would have changed the match. I was feeling really confident, winning my service games pretty easy. If I could have got the break then, because he was still a little unstable, wasn't hitting the ball well from the baseline, flying a few. The only thing that sort of held him in there was his serve. I think the key was to get that early break in the second. Then after that, I played pretty well holding my serve, struggling. I did well until I got broken at 4-3 in the second. You can't afford to get broken basically against Pete. He just sort of ran away with the match then. He started picking up his game. He started changing a few things, he was chipping and charging off my serve. He just took it to a new level actually, hit his groundstrokes better.

Q. Did you think that he had something bothering him or thinking about something else in the first set?

BYRON BLACK: No, I don't think so. Why would he be? I think that's just the way it goes. I played a good set. He started quickly. It was key that I held my serve the first couple times in the first set. I knew from watching him yesterday playing Wayne Ferreira that he was hitting the ball long a bit on his groundstrokes. I felt like whenever he got into a back-court rally, I had my chances. I was trying to be aggressive, come in. First set I was getting a hit at his serve. In the third set, I mean, he was just hitting lines.

Q. Did you think that he made any difference or any change in his strategy or any change in his game in the third set?

BYRON BLACK: Like I said, he was chipping and charging off my second serve.

Q. Only in the third set?

BYRON BLACK: Yeah. He really tried to do that in the third set. I think he was trying to be more aggressive. I was sort of rallying with him in the back of the court. He wasn't sort of hurting me. I was able to crack a few and come in. I thought he was a bit more aggressive. I think that sort of changed it.

Q. You've played him before. How recently?

BYRON BLACK: I couldn't tell you. I've played him four times, five times now. He's 5-0.

Q. Before the match, are you saying, "I'm going to be playing Pete Sampras"? Is there something that works on you mentally that you're playing Pete Sampras?

BYRON BLACK: You know, you realize that you're playing one of the best players in the world, obviously. You've got to play well to beat him. I realized that I had to be aggressive. I've lost to him four times before, so I had to try a few new things. I was trying to serve-and-volley a bit more, attack his serve when I could, just try and be aggressive.

Q. It worked?

BYRON BLACK: It worked for a while. It worked for a while.

Q. You could do it again?

BYRON BLACK: I'll try to do that again if I play him. It's frustrating playing Pete because he's got such a big serve. Even when he's playing badly, it's tough to break him with that serve. Even the second, he goes for it. Really doesn't give you too many chances. When you do have a chance, you put a little pressure on yourself because you realize you only have a couple, one or two chances.

Q. This may not be a fair question, but I'm going to ask it anyway, you played Lleyton Hewitt, many who think could be the next Top 5 or even No. 1 in the world. You played him and Pete in the same week. Do you think Hewitt has a chance?

BYRON BLACK: Against Pete?

Q. To become No. 1, to be a really great player.

BYRON BLACK: Comparing him and Pete, I don't think you can compare them right now. Pete just has more weapons. Lleyton has speed, he's a very consistent player, but he's still very young. He's only 19, I think. He doesn't have Pete's serve. He doesn't have Pete's forehand. I think Pete volleys a lot better than him. I think he can fill up into a Top 10 player. What is his ranking?

Q. 12 under the old system.

BYRON BLACK: He's almost inside the Top 10. I don't know. He's going to have to get a bit bigger, a bit stronger, develop his big shots. He's got to get a better serve. I found I could attack his serve yesterday. There's no way I could do the same against Pete today like what I did to him yesterday. But, yeah, one thing he's got going for him is he's a fighter, hell of a competitor.

Q. This was your best showing against Pete. You won your first set against him. Certainly had a chance with breakpoints. How did it feel?

BYRON BLACK: That was the key. I played a good first set. I think Pete was struggling to find his range a little bit on the groundstrokes. The key was just trying to break him. I had Love-40 I think on his first service game in the second. He hit some big serves. He tends to go for it when he's down like that. I just felt I needed to get that break to win the match because the longer the match went, you know, the better he served. He found his pace, his rhythm with his serve, and the rest of his game came together, too.

Q. He seemed to be more confident after he broke you in the second set.

BYRON BLACK: Obviously, yeah. When he found his rhythm, he just started going for it. In the third, he kicked it up another level.

Q. Pretty disappointing to see those four breakpoints?

BYRON BLACK: I knew it was big, you know. You put a bit of pressure on yourself because you don't get too many chances. I had four in one go. The rest of the set, I hung in there on my serve. I always struggled to hold my serve; did it well. When he got the break, it was tough to come back.

Q. You had 40-15, then he came back and broke you in the second set. Could you feel the match turning?

BYRON BLACK: Definitely when he got the break. In the third, when he broke me my first service game, that was a key. Against a big serve and volleyer, you've got to hold your service as long as you can into the set. Especially when you're playing a guy like Pete or Philippoussis, you've got to try to get it to a breaker and then anything can happen in a breaker. Yeah, I got broken earlier on. When you're down two breaks against Pete, it's not looking good.

Q. Were you mindful of winning this match for your country against a guy that you might have played in the Davis Cup?

BYRON BLACK: No. I wasn't even thinking about that. I played Pete four times, five times now. I've lost all five. Just for myself, I've played the Davis Cup for my country, that's over now. I was just trying to see if I could go out there and beat him for once. I've come up a little short before. I tried to change the way I was playing, try to come up with a winner.

Q. You've seen Pete at close range a great deal. How do you think he's playing?

BYRON BLACK: The court is pretty slow. The ball goes through the air here pretty quickly. When I was watching him yesterday play Wayne Ferreira, he didn't really have his range, especially on his groundstrokes. I thought I would be aggressive today. The first set he was sailing a few long, especially his returns, his approach shots. He found his range in the end. I mean, I guess that's what counts. I was saying earlier, the tough thing is always the serve. Even when he's not playing well, his serve is such a weapon, it's not like you can get an easy break against Pete.

End of FastScripts….

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