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November 28, 2002

Paul-Henri Mathieu


MODERATOR: Questions for the French team.

Q. Marat Safin said that you will not be able to play like you played against him in Moscow when you won because you took many risks, and this time the pressure will be on you, will prevent you from taking so many risks.

PAUL-HENRI MATHIEU: Anyway, it's going to be my first match in Davis Cup, that's true, but taking risks is part of my game. I played definitely my best match against him. That's the way it is. I don't understand why he said that.

Q. When did you first hear, and how did you hear, that you were playing? How excited are you about making your Davis Cup debut under such circumstances?

PAUL-HENRI MATHIEU: The captain told me before the dinner last night. Of course, I was really excited. That's the way it happened.

Q. What did it mean to you?

PAUL-HENRI MATHIEU: It's like a dream coming true.

Q. You had a beautiful season. How do you compare winning here and winning a tournament like Moscow or Lyon? Can you sum up your season? What was your most important match?

PAUL-HENRI MATHIEU: I think the turning point was the French Open against Agassi. I played very well. I almost beat him. I drew many lessons from this match, even though I lost.

Q. It's a long time since you have played a best-of-five set match. Do you believe physically you will have an advantage, you will be less tired, or on the contrary will it be a drawback because you don't have much experience in five-set matches?

PAUL-HENRI MATHIEU: Well, I practiced a lot this week on this particular point. I think physically I'm perfectly prepared.

Q. Do you believe it's lucky for you to play against Kafelnikov or, on the contrary, it's bad luck?

SEBASTIEN GROSJEAN: It's going to be a difficult match because it's probably going to be his last match, so he will be very motivated. But I will be pumped up very much myself. It's going to be a difficult match, but I'm prepared for this match particularly well.

Q. Guy, can you explain how you made your choice for the second singles player?

CAPTAIN FORGET: Well, during the past three or four days, many things happened within the team. We had three players, Fabrice, Paul-Henri and Arnaud, which were very close to each other. First of all, I thought I would save Fabrice for the doubles because I knew this match would be very tiring, especially if Safin was going to play. So I was rather hesitating between Paul-Henri and Arnaud. But during the past two or three days, Arnaud had problems with his wrist, and Paul-Henri on his side was hitting better and better. He was reaching almost his best level. Of course, it was a risk for me, but Arnaud was honest enough to tell me he was not 100%. In order to win that kind of match, you have to be at your best. 80% is not enough. You have to play being very ambitious. I was wondering about Arnaud having problems with his wrist, and it was not so sure about him, whereas Paul-Henri was almost at his top level. I thought it was wiser for the team to choose him.

Q. Paul-Henri never has played in Davis Cup. Is that the most audacious bet you ever took?

CAPTAIN FORGET: I often make bets. But, in fact, the word "bet" is not a very good word because it implies luck. I prefer the word "choice." In this particular case, the choice came by itself, obviously, the same way it came when I chose Escude to play in Switzerland or when I chose him to play the finals on grass. According to my criteria, it was an obvious choice. I thought, toss the coin and see which side it will fall on.

Q. You've had great success on fast courts in doubles. How will you feel on clay, on a different surface?

NICOLAS ESCUDE: Well, in fact, the doubles are always the same, whatever the situation. Nothing changes, except the surface, of course. But it's true that on the circuit during the last month we had a lot of success, me and Fabrice. I think it would be dangerous to stop here and not try to go further. During the last 10 days, I've been thinking a lot about it because I know doubles is very important in a Davis Cup tie. During those last 10 days, we've been practicing and working very hard on that.

Q. Playing your first Davis Cup match, what is the most difficult thing to manage? What are your memories? What is the hardest thing to do?

FABRICE SANTORO: I think the hardest thing to do is to play a Davis Cup match when you are not ready because then you start asking yourself questions, and you can completely miss your match. But now we have had two weeks with great work, great preparation, and we know our level is high enough for picking up that challenge. Now, speaking about Paul-Henri, he has the level to beat Safin. He showed it during the past two weeks. He was very fit. To sum up what I was saying, if you're not ready, that's the most difficult thing to do. But if you are ready, then it's okay.

SEBASTIEN GROSJEAN: The first time I had problems getting into the match. Now this time with a very good preparation, I believe I can play a good match. I think what is important is to prepare well from a tennis point of view, but also mentally. I think you should play exactly the way you play on the tour, then you can produce a good Davis Cup match.

Q. You are only 20 years old. Last year you were playing in the finals of the Interclub French Championship. Now it's going to be a completely different thing, it's going to be a Davis Cup match. What are the images you have of Davis Cup?

PAUL-HENRI MATHIEU: The last matches I have in my mind for Davis Cup are '91 from Lyon that I watched on television. I didn't see Sydney because I was asleep, it was at night, but I was with them with all my heart. Tomorrow it's going to be different because it's no longer a dream, it's reality.

Q. What will be different tomorrow?

PAUL-HENRI MATHIEU: Why should anything be different? It's going to be a tennis match, and I'm going to try my best.

Q. Guy, with your experience, what are you going to say to a player so young playing for the first time in the Davis Cup finals? What is the risk? Do you believe he's going to try to do too much or is he going to be bogged down by the crowd?

CAPTAIN FORGET: No, I think a natural strength of Paul-Henri is his maturity. He's very mature. He beat very strong players, or played as well against average players. This is the experience he has. Maybe he's less experienced than the other guys here, but very often he beat very strong players during very big matches. So that is the experience he has. Now, what I'm going to tell him will be exactly the same thing as for Fabrice or the other players. I'm going to try to help him play his best tennis.

Q. Safin told us you will play less aggressively than you did in Moscow.

PAUL-HENRI MATHIEU: As I said, I don't understand why he said that because, of course, there's going to be pressure. But this is what makes me play well. In Moscow, it was my first semi. There was pressure also.

End of FastScripts….

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