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September 2, 1997

Irina Sprilea

Flushing Meadows, New York

Q. Going into the match how confident were you of winning?

IRINA SPIRLEA: I mean, arriving so far I was like what can I do, what do I have to lose. So, I was playing every point. I was trying to win every point, so, I was pretty confident.

Q. How does it feel to win?

IRINA SPIRLEA: Once you start playing, you know, just think point by point and, you know, you see what is working, what is not working and you keep doing what you can do and what can bother her pretty much. So, actually, you know, it is strange. I was not having like "Oh, my God. I am matchpoint." Or, "I can win this match." I was like pretty concentrated every point.

Q. What about after when it was over out there?

IRINA SPIRLEA: I had no time to think about it. I was like I was press there, press there, press here (laughter). So, I still have to think about it after I finish here.

Q. When you beat Anna Kournikova, you said it was a nice feeling to beat somebody who had that much publicity. Nobody has more publicity than Monica Seles. But, it is different, isn't it?

IRINA SPIRLEA: Yeah. You are right. I mean, Monica is No. 2 in the world, so, I mean, you cannot compare Kournikova with Monica, I think. So, it is not that Kournikova is not playing well or is not a great player, but let her arrive to be No. 3 in the world and then I don't care, I am not going to complain about anything.

Q. Some people are just getting familiar with your game. What is it about your game that had Monica looking discouraged late in the third set?

IRINA SPIRLEA: I think she don't like to play against, you know, when I play slice. I mean, she has a little bit same game with Steffi. When you play slice you don't give her so much rhythm that she can come and hit every ball. If you mix it up, I think it bother her more than when you hit every ball.

Q. How closely do you resemble Steffi in your game?

IRINA SPIRLEA: I mean, I think we just have the slice backhand, you know. But I mean, I play also topspin, so maybe because we have both a good forehand. I don't know. It is not that I am moving so well as Steffi. I wish I could move so well that she is moving. But, I think it is close, but it depending from which side you are watching, I think.

Q. You were hitting some unbelievable shots. Have you played better? Is this your best match?

IRINA SPIRLEA: I think so far, yeah.

Q. Confident, or everything coming together, what do you think is the reason?

IRINA SPIRLEA: I think the end of the second set I was a little bit disappointing because I was trying to play like two or three dropshots which were right in the net. I was like I don't want -- everything for her was like over and mine was just in the net. So was like, "Oh, it was painful."

Q. Why did you keep doing that then?

IRINA SPIRLEA: I know that she doesn't like to run, so --

Q. In the third?

IRINA SPIRLEA: Everything was in, so, you know, I just let my, how do you say, my forehand, my backhand to -- my arm to hit the ball.

Q. Did you think that break helped you?


Q. Yeah. Did it help you?

IRINA SPIRLEA: Well, I was just waiting so much. I mean, it was not that I had time -- I was running and changing and I was sweating, so during the change, so I was like, you know -- not really because I am not used to change, after in between sets, so it is pretty tough to concentrate after.

Q. Players often talk about being in the zone. Did you feel that third set, particularly, when you saved those three breakpoints in the second game that you were zoning?

IRINA SPIRLEA: I don't want to lose 8 points in a row because the first game I lost the first four points and then, you know, she was like another 3 up. So, I was like "What am I doing." I mean, it was tough to concentrate what I say, coming from the locker room, I was like I have to start again and try to keep the ball, you know, go for it when I have the shot and making the serve and volley a little bit -- put the first serve in. Actually, I was just point by point.

Q. How do you keep yourself from feeling intimidated knowing how well she has been playing and you are facing three breakpoints in that game and all it takes is one for her to win that game, how do you get through that?

IRINA SPIRLEA: I was just thinking if I put the first serve in, let her make the unbelievable shot and then we will see what is going on. But, I served pretty well there. I was not serving hard. I was just serving, you know, angles, so, it hurt, I think she has no power to hit the ball, so it helped me a lot that serve.

Q. How could you improve that match living in Rome? It is a lazy town. Your coach is Roman and lazy guys, they get up late in the morning, how can you cope?

IRINA SPIRLEA: Who is saying that he is lazy? I don't think, you know, that he is late or I cannot wake up in the morning at practice at 8 o'clock. I mean, it is nothing to about the court or about me that I practice in Italy. It is about the mentality or whatever, you know, if I like to wake up in the morning and hit at five o'clock I will do it. But I don't like it, so I am not going to do it (laughter).

Q. It is possible that you could play Venus Williams in the next round. Do you feel the same way about her that you do about Kournikova in terms of the court placement; she has gotten the attention she has gotten for how much she has played?

IRINA SPIRLEA: I think let her first win this match and then, you know, I can think about this. I am not going to think that I play Williams and maybe I am going to play Testud next round. I am going to see who is going to win and -- so far, she deserve it to be there, but I think it is a lot of pressure also for the player who is playing on the Center Court. With so much popularity for her, you know, like Huber, she is seeded. She is going on the court, you know, with Williams I think she has more pressure than if she was playing on Court 10.

Q. The French Open you were in a similar position against Steffi. You were playing a good match. You let it slip away. What is the difference between you three months ago than right now?

IRINA SPIRLEA: I think, you know, like with Steffi she played -- she changed a little bit the game and, you know, like I was trying to do too much with the ball. I had not anymore patience and try to keep the ball and then wait for the good one. I think I was just trying after the first set to win, you know, and to make pressure and I was going out of control.

Q. You had a couple of breakpoints in the final game. Is it difficult not to start thinking, wow, I can't believe this might be the final game, I have had these great shots, try and keep your concentration going?

IRINA SPIRLEA: Actually when I was 5-3 up I was like "I want to win here." Like I am going to give everything for every point, you know, so, I didn't think about, you know, oh, my God, I am like 40-15 up or whatever, I don't even know what was the score, how the game went, you know, I was like every point, I don't care.

Q. When she was not able to take advantage of those breakpoints earlier in the set? Did you get some sense of maybe that was her chance and did you sense that she started to feel like that was a chance that she let go by?

IRINA SPIRLEA: Maybe. I don't know. I mean, then I break her back, so it is not that, you know, maybe, you know, I got into the match at that point because if she was going 2-Love and I was losing 8 points in a row, I think it is tough to hit the ball to have the confidence and go for it.

Q. Did you sense how much the crowd was behind you and did you feel like well, it is about time?

IRINA SPIRLEA: Well, I enjoy actually playing out there. Especially actually you said the crowd was pretty -- yeah, you know, it helps me a lot. Because you make a good point and you just feel that they appreciate your effort down there, so it is a good feeling.

Q. You sound unused to that?


Q. You sound not used to that.

IRINA SPIRLEA: Well, I can get used to it. I like it (laughter).

Q. You have played Monica a few times before. How did Monica play today and was it a matter of your game rose that much and she stayed the same or that she had an off-day?

IRINA SPIRLEA: I mean, like compared with Lipton we played each other I was just, you know, not pushy too much and when she was, you know, when she had the game point or when I had the game point I was just, you know, trying to be more calm and stay focused on every point. And, you know, not risk too much like I did the last time. So, I think she played even better than we did there. I think it was a good match and we both played well there time. I mean, even there in Lipton we played well. But, I think this one was even more -- much better.

Q. Is part of that just instead of thinking too much, just letting it happen; is that what you were doing?

IRINA SPIRLEA: No. I don't think so. It is not to play with Monica just let her do it, because she is going to kill you if you just hit the ball. I think you have to think about how to mix it up and how to make her, you know, not hit the ball in the way she likes it.

Q. You played a few lousy points at the end of the first tiebreaker. Were you able to forget about that at the beginning of the second?

IRINA SPIRLEA: I think so. I mean, -- yeah. I mean, you know, what I have done there, you know, I was just, you know, like I said, I was doing the same thing as I have done in Lipton like, you know, 5-All and I was trying to go for the first point I had, you know, so it is not that you are not shaking at that moment or you are not thinking oh, my God, it is 5-All in the tiebreak and somebody has to risk at that moment. So I think it was not the right moment to risk. So just let it go and start over.

Q. You were saying on TV that you had a bet with your coach. Can you sort of talk about that and how did that come about?

IRINA SPIRLEA: Well, actually at the beginning of there we had a bet like if I am going to make semifinal, I have to make a present for them and they have to make a present for me, so, I have to do it for two of them, for my coach and for my manager, so....

Q. (Inaudible.)

IRINA SPIRLEA: Actually, they know what they want.

Q. What is that?

IRINA SPIRLEA: I am not going to tell you.

Q. You are two wins away from winning this tournament. Is that overwhelming to think about?

IRINA SPIRLEA: No, I am going to think just about the next round and we are going to talk after. (laughter).

Q. Can you describe how tough it has been to get to the point where you are right now to be just two matches away from winning?

IRINA SPIRLEA: I am not thinking that I am just two matches from winning. I am thinking that I have one more match to win; then I can think about the next one, so I am thinking, you know, so far I have done well, so, I can do better.

Q. You had a very excellent control on your first serve throughout much of the match. Have you and your coach been working on anything specifically?

IRINA SPIRLEA: I think, you know, I wasn't very confident with my serve, so, he just said, you know, you have to mix it up and if you feel like it is working, just go for it because I was just serving like 90, 98, so, he said I can hit harder. So, we were working on it a little bit and I think it helped.

Q. Did you win many matches with matchpoints against you?

IRINA SPIRLEA: I cannot think about it now. I think I lost more than I won.

Q. You had a long game 7 of the third set when you had a couple of chances to break her. You didn't. You have the changeover there; then you come out and have a real strong service game. Were you thinking about anything going into that next game? You just came out and like bang, bang, bang you were up 5-3 at that point.

IRINA SPIRLEA: In the first set?

Q. In the third set, after that long game when you went --

IRINA SPIRLEA: Oh, after the long game?

Q. Yeah.

IRINA SPIRLEA: I think I was trying, you know, like when I had the first breakpoint or something.

Q. After that game it was like a chance that you could have maybe -- maybe the momentum could have shifted?

IRINA SPIRLEA: I said I am serving, so I was not thinking about anything. I was like -- I never lost the serve so far, so I can serve pretty well so I was like pretty confident with my serve. So, I wasn't even thinking that I am going to lose that game, so, I think that helped a lot.

Q. You had a tough three-setter with Testud at the '96 Australian. What do you remember about that match?

IRINA SPIRLEA: That I got burned (laughter). It was like so hot and I mean, we played like, I don't know what was the score, in the third set.

Q. 8-6.

IRINA SPIRLEA: Yeah, but we played like three hours. And, I think it was tough because it was the first round and I mean, we know each other pretty well since juniors, so, it is tough to play against, you know, one against each other.

End of FastScripts….

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