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September 5, 2005

Andre Agassi


THE MODERATOR: First question.

Q. Tough but highly profitable day at the office. You're into the quarterfinals. Don't need to think about Federer until the title round. At this stage, how do you assess your chances of becoming the oldest ever US Open champion of The Open era?

ANDRE AGASSI: I don't know. I mean, for me it's about one match at a time and doing what's asked of you. Each match, it's had to be more. Today was no exception. The standard that Malisse played in the third and fourth was really high. I needed to answer that. I did in the fifth. I'm a lot closer than I would have been had I lost today, so that's good.

Q. Could you speak a bit about your physical state and sort of emotional or mental state when the tiebreak ended.

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, tiebreaks, while you have to execute, you also in some cases need a little bit of luck. I felt we both executed, with the exception of a double-fault I had at 3-2, both played a good breaker. 5-3 in the breaker, I hit a real good return that he had to pick up and scrap himself back into the point. You know, you're just telling yourself, "Keep executing, there's a lot of tennis left out here," after that breaker. So I just kept my head down and kept wanting to make him earn it. He kept raising his game all the way through the fourth set. Appeared like the wheels were starting to come off a little bit towards the end of the fourth set, but I couldn't get into the points on his serve. He was hitting the lines, hitting them real close to the lines. But then in the fifth, I settled down a little bit on my service games and my groundstrokes, put enough pressure on him to get that break.

Q. How important was it that you were serving first in that final set? Did it give you a bit more of a boost?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, I think it helps to be serving first in the fifth. You know, it helps to take care of your serve. The fifth set, it has a lot to do with momentum. If you're just hanging on and just hanging on to hold, you know, you feel like the guy's going to start taking his chances any second now. I mean, you can't live on the edge like that much longer. You know, the third and fourth set, I felt I was a bit living on the edge with my serve. He was getting a lot of good swings at it, had me under a lot of pressure. But the fifth, I had a few good easy hold games and started to relax a little bit more and hit my spots a little bit better, so that helped me to relax on my return games, as well.

Q. Were you playing on the second, third or fourth wind in that fifth set?


Q. Did you catch a second wind in the fifth set?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, I was a bit discouraged there in the fourth. As hard as I was wanting to try, there's not a lot you can do when you're just not getting into the points. I mean, he went through a stretch there where I was lucky if every third point I was in the point. I mean, he was hitting ace after ace. So, you know, physically it felt great, but I just needed a chance, and I didn't get that till the fifth.

Q. What happened with your serve in the third and fourth set? You refound it in the fifth.

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah. He went through a stage where he was returning exceptionally well in the third and fourth, especially on my second serve. He was really taking chances on it. That always happens when a guy's holding so easy. I mean, he was going through periods where I wasn't touching his serve. That allows you to really hit out and take your chances. Once he started putting that pressure on my second, then it's a function of how I'm going to respond to that, and I didn't respond well to that for maybe an hour and a half out there. Again, I was holding on in the third -- in the fourth especially, and partly in the third. With that being said, I had a 5-All breakpoint. I covered the middle serve, hit it firm, hit it well. Just hit the tape. You have that shot again, you know, you break and it's a straight-set match. I knew that match was close to being real tough because all these matches are. It was just good to step up in the fifth the way I did.

Q. Does it help mentally going into the fifth knowing how up and down he can be, not somebody who usually sustain as high level?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, you know, I'm sure Youzhny would disagree with you there. So in my mind, I knew that he had come back from two sets to love in his last match, down, I believe 5-3, Youzhny serving for it. If he's been unpredictable, he's answered that question this tournament. He's knuckled down and gotten the job done there. I wasn't happy about being in a fifth after being up two sets to love, but I did know I was going to make him earn it. He was going to have to play another great set. When I got on top, I think the wheels came off quickly.

Q. You always get the crowd support. If Blake should happen to win, they love him as well. Might that be different for you, the atmosphere?

ANDRE AGASSI: You know, listen, I mean, James is an easy guy to like and he's an easy guy to root for. If he's getting the better of me, if we happen to play, you know, I couldn't wish it for a better person. You know, he deserves support. I just hope it to be a great standard match.

Q. You mentioned the back was no issue at all in the fifth set. Were you feeling it at all? If you weren't, how good a sign is that?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, it's a great sign. I've trained hard. This is why you work so hard so that, you know, physically you can do it. Something like a nerve, you never know when it's going to be an issue. But I'll feel it on cool-down, when my body cools down. I'm not a big fan of just standing around and going for walks when it starts to cool down. As long as it's not coming on the court, you know, when I'm active, then I don't mind a little pain. It didn't. It makes me feel great that I can play the five sets without that. That's certainly a good indication that everything's holding up. But I'll keep my fingers crossed from this day forward. I live under -- I play by different rules now. My body plays by different rules. I need to listen to it.

Q. When did you learn what had happened to James over the last year and a half? Did you know at the time?

ANDRE AGASSI: Oh, yeah. As he was going through it, you knew it. Obviously, when he hurt himself in Rome, broke the vertebrae in his back. That was tragic news for those peers that compete against him. You wouldn't wish that on anybody, especially him.

Q. Did you have any kind of contact with him when he was off the tour?

ANDRE AGASSI: No. I spent some time, when I did see him, certainly expressing my condolences. Then as the year unfolded, with the tragedy of his father, what can you do except offer your support and prayers?

Q. Is it your impression that Blake really has improved to the point where he has the entire package now or do you think it's still possible he's just on a hot streak and is kind of rolling?

ANDRE AGASSI: I think he's always been a real dangerous player. You know, you never know when somebody comes of age or game. Some people, it happens a lot earlier than others. I haven't played him in a while. Certainly watching his wins over the last couple weeks have been great, not only here, but also in New Haven. Just looks like he's doing a lot of things well. Yeah, I would need to play against him to have a clear indication as to where his game is now versus the last time we played. There's no question he's doing something better than he used to do.

Q. What does it say about you that in your last service game of a match that lasts 2 hours, 55 minutes, you're able to throw in three consecutive aces?

ANDRE AGASSI: It tells you that even a blind dog can find a bone every now and then.

Q. How tough was this mentally for you today, just staying with it?

ANDRE AGASSI: Getting up two sets helps a lot because a guy can play great for two hours. In worst case, the match is going to be even. It's tough going through it. Early in the fourth, I was really discouraged. He had a couple great shots on my service game. I made one error, got careless, couldn't get into the return games. I was pretty discouraged there, but had every intention of making him do it for another set. Then when the fifth starts, best thing you can do is put everything behind you and focus on the next point. Pretty experienced at doing that. So mentally, I was ready for that challenge. You know, got up early in the fifth, which always makes it easier.

Q. Does it hit you at any point before the fifth set, "I was two points away from the match"? Do you think about that?

ANDRE AGASSI: You're aware of it, but two points from the match, but there's still a person standing in the way there. I mean, it's not like, say, in basketball where you run out the clock and somebody throws up a half-court shot that happens to go in and rips your heart out. This is a guy that's forcing me to close him out, and I didn't do it because of his standard. He played some good shots and some big points late in that tiebreaker, he deserved that set and outplayed me in the fourth. The match was even, as far as I was concerned.

Q. Fourth game of the final set, you've already seen numerous breakpoints come and go. You pull the trigger, rip your backhand. What is going through your mind as you're preparing to hit a shot like that?

ANDRE AGASSI: The previous breakpoint, I got into a bit of a (fondle?) point, where I was hitting the backhand cross-court, not doing a lot with it. He ended up getting the error for me. I just told myself, I can't live that way. You know, I'm not going to get my chances and then not take it, not go for it. I can live with losing; I can't live with not taking my chance. The next breakpoint, we got into the same backhand to backhand. In typical fashion, I took it to the other side of the spectrum and just fired it up the line. I was thankful I did that.

Q. When Borg left, John McEnroe said basically for a while he was wondering where his rival went. When Pete retired, did you suffer any kind of motivational letdown at all? Did you have to adjust? Did it have no effect whatsoever?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, to say it has no effect would be probably overstating it because there is an effect. You grow up with a guy, you compete against him for so long, he's such a big part of your career, something that's pretty special, so you do have that sense of personal regret that he's not around any more. You miss having that around. But as far as actual tennis or my motivation, it had zero impact.

Q. He wasn't like a measuring stick in that sense? You just moved on?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, there was a time that he was, for sure. You know, for me it's always been about the challenge, the everyday perseverance and pushing myself. You know, I've never been motivated by any given person or any given accomplishment. I've been motivated by overcoming challenge and overcoming the hurdles and obstacles that face me, in most cases by the day. Pete leaving was certainly one of those obstacles and one of those opportunities gone. But there was and still is plenty out there to get motivated by.

Q. Isn't the challenge here, though, the tournament, that you're three matches from another possible title, rather than the day (indiscernible)?

ANDRE AGASSI: While winning is something you always want and it's something that you work for, it's like serving for a match, you know, you don't talk about holding serve, you talk about what you're going to do with that first serve, what you're going to do with that first shot. Then if it's 15-Love, what are you going to do with the next serve. It all boils down to your next step. My next step is not this title. My next step is my next match.

Q. Is Roger a measuring force for you right now, a motivating force? Is he a motivating force?

ANDRE AGASSI: He's an inspiring force, for sure. You know, I'm not convinced that I'm motivated by the last few matches we've played. But to watch him do what he does, to watch the best in any given aspect of life or any arena in life, to watch the best do what they do is an amazing thing to watch. Like last night, Rochus played one of the probably best sets he's ever played. That second set was unbelievable. He couldn't win it. You never would have guessed that. He was up a break. Serve again. Up in the tiebreaker. You know, Federer just is at a level right now that other guys haven't been playing. Rightfully so, he deserves the respect he gets. But, yeah, you know, I'll look to be motivated by him if I have to play him.

Q. You've competed against many generations. Lendl, Edberg, Sampras. How did you get through them?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I didn't many times. I didn't get through them. You know, I mean, I played a lot of champions here. I've had a lot of successes and a lot of disappointments. Yeah, I mean, it's nice to still be here.

Q. Do you realize that with every match you play, you gain more and more respect from tennis fans? It must give you an incredibly sweet feeling.

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, in every match I play, I grow in my appreciation for this opportunity, this chance to be out there playing at the US Open for another match, another time. More of the same people that have supported me and many new ones out there. It's a great feeling for me. I'll keep working hard. I'll keep doing what I do. It's my privilege if somebody's inspired by it.

End of FastScripts….

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