November 29, 2002
PARIS, FRANCE, M. SAFIN/P. Mathieu, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4
MODERATOR: Questions for Paul-Henri.
Q. From the time you learned you were going to play, did you feel nervous, even before coming onto the court? How did you experience all those moments?
PAUL-HENRI MATHIEU: No, I was not nervous at all. I heard yesterday evening I was going to play. I immediately thought I was going to give my best. That's what I did.
Q. Were you happy with the beginning of your match?
PAUL-HENRI MATHIEU: Yes, because when you play the finals for the first time in Davis Cup, it's good. I think it's Safin who played better than me.
Q. Can you compare this match with the Moscow match? Was he stronger today?
PAUL-HENRI MATHIEU: He played better today. I didn't play since Lyon. Maybe I was lacking competition. But the difference is very little between the two. If I had won the fourth set, it could have turned around.
Q. About the serve, was it a choice to serve not so strong as on indoor courts?
PAUL-HENRI MATHIEU: I can serve at 195 kilometers an hour. At some moments I thought I should put in as many first serves as I could. Of course, every time I had a breakpoint, he came up with a great first serve.
Q. What did you feel about the crowd, especially in the fourth set when you were coming back into the match only one break behind? What did you feel at that moment?
PAUL-HENRI MATHIEU: I felt the reaction of the crowd, especially in the fourth set. It pushed me a lot. I was more eager to come back into the match. It was a great feeling.
Q. You say the result depended on just a few details. Which details?
PAUL-HENRI MATHIEU: Well, I think in the third set, I had a letdown, and he improved his game. After that, it was more difficult for me. He stepped into the court a bit more, and I was a bit behind the baseline. I was a bit behind also in the score. On breakpoints, he served very well. He was very solid from the baseline also.
Q. Apart from the fact he played very well and you lost, were you happy to be present physically and mentally during that match in spite of the pressure of your first final? You played naturally. You were elegant on the court.
PAUL-HENRI MATHIEU: Well, in fact, the pressure comes from you a little bit (laughter). Normally, I'm within the team and I don't think about anything else. Of course, I had pressure. It was the first time I was playing Davis Cup, and plus it was the final. It was a bit of a different situation than usual, so it's a bit because of that. I didn't want to miss my match completely.
Q. So you were happy with what you did?
PAUL-HENRI MATHIEU: Yes, but I lost. I think this loss will teach me many things.
Q. Did you watch Thierry Champion during the match?
PAUL-HENRI MATHIEU: Yes. Sometimes I did. Guy brought a lot to me also during the match. I was more watching him than Thierry.
Q. You never played competition in this stadium. What did you feel?
PAUL-HENRI MATHIEU: Yes, it was the first time. With the whole crowd there, it was impressive.
Q. What did Guy say at the end of the match?
PAUL-HENRI MATHIEU: He said that I gave everything I had and that Safin was a great player today, he played a beautiful match, that's all. I had nothing to regret, that it was not finished, it was just the first match.
Q. If you have to play against Kafelnikov on Sunday, will you have a different approach than today, in the way you're going to prepare?
PAUL-HENRI MATHIEU: No. I think I started off very well this match. I won't change my preparation. As I said, today I lacked competition, so I think Sunday it will be better. It will be a lot better because I will have that match behind me.
Q. How can Safin be beaten? He was very impressive today.
PAUL-HENRI MATHIEU: I think today he's the best player in the world. When he plays like that, it's a rollercoaster. I mean, today he played very well. If he hadn't played so well, maybe I would have had some opportunities, but I didn't have them today. After there were a few things, and that made the difference.
Q. If you had to assess your level of game compared to Moscow, what would you say?
PAUL-HENRI MATHIEU: It's difficult because here it was a clay court. In Moscow, it was faster. But today I was not far from having a good result. It was a good match.
Q. During the match Safin fell two or three times on the court. Did you realize that? Did you think about that?
PAUL-HENRI MATHIEU: No. We're not boxing (smiling). It's true that the clay court is slippery anyway, so it happens often. The only thing I watch is if he's all right, if he didn't get hurt.
Q. Didn't you believe that wrong-footing him was useful, that it was a good weapon?
PAUL-HENRI MATHIEU: Yes. Well, I had him on the ground once during that, but the second and third time he fell when he was going up to the net.
Q. You played a very high backhand. You missed that shot completely. Was there a particular reason?
PAUL-HENRI MATHIEU: It was an easy shot, in fact. I don't know why I missed it. It happens.
Q. Did it hurt you for the rest of the match?
PAUL-HENRI MATHIEU: No, because the thing I thought I had to concentrate on was the rest of the game, not thinking about it anymore.
End of FastScriptsâ€¦.