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June 18, 2006

Goran Ivanisevic

Michael Stich


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Pleased to be back on grass?
MICHAEL STICH: Get a little sore playing there twice, but it's fun. It feels good. It's just a little - we talked about it yesterday - it's just a little too slow. And we have to run at the baseline. That doesn't suit us that much, huh?

Q. Are you surprised how much the grass court game has evolved since you've both won your Wimbledon titles?
MICHAEL STICH: Well, if you would have said "change," it probably would have, you know, been a better -- yeah, because "evolve" means it's going maybe in a better way. For me, in my English understanding.
But I just think it changed in the way that most of the guys play from the baseline these days. You don't have any serve and volleyer left. It is nearly impossible to serve and volley with balls and the grass, the combination. That's why all the Spanish guys and South American guys and Argentinian guys start to play on grass and do extremely well, which is for me a little bit frustrating because I think still the game -- you saw it in Henman's match. If you have one guy comes in, the other guy passing well, interesting exchange of shots, that's what for me grass court tennis is all about. Not just staying from the baseline, waiting for the error of the other guy, or hitting a huge forehand that I never had, so it was no work with me anyway. It was work with this guy.

Q. What is it that's changed in your opinion specifically? Is it more balls, or actual service?
GORAN IVANISEVIC: I think both. Grass and balls, they open the balls I think two, three weeks before. Is much, much slower. You can't serve and volley now. It's impossible. I remember the days like ten years ago, twelve, you play first round a Spanish guy. On Monday he arrives, Monday morning with a clay court shoes, socks red, and, you know, he just comes to pick up the prize money. Now, you know, they are favorite to win Wimbledon, these guys. So it's changed a lot.

Q. Are you surprised about that, that the balls have changed? Obviously it would appear to minimize the chances that Tim and Greg in particular have.
GORAN IVANISEVIC: I am surprised, especially because Slazenger is the sponsor of Henman, you know. I don't understand why. They should have a faster ball, definitely.
MICHAEL STICH: They should have faster balls at least for him, you know (smiling).
But it's like at our time, we had the discussion, you know, serving, whatever, how many aces did you serve in your best Wimbledon year? A hundred and, what, thirty? Something like that.
GORAN IVANISEVIC: 200 and something, yeah.
MICHAEL STICH: 200 and something. That's when the discussion started that people said, Well, it's boring.
I still believe now if you see like an Andy Roddick serving with 145 miles an hour, which we never did, but people just love it. It's great. Then they think it's great that James Blake gets the return back. It's even more fascinating.
But they made it too equal. They don't make it equal on clay, on hard court. They don't take like small, hard balls out on clay and say, Listen, we want the serve-and-volleyers to have a better chance on the clay court, we just want this to have exchanges and everything.
So I think this is a special surface, and I think it should be special to the people who have the talent to play on it and not just make it even for everybody to make it just possible that everybody can play. It's like you see at our time some serve-and-volleyers who weren't that great on clay. You know, they didn't make it for them that they felt better.
So I think they took away a lot of the grass court game and the fascination of the game.

Q. Do either of you have any fears that in the long term grass court tennis might not exist?
GORAN IVANISEVIC: No, it's gonna exist, but I don't know how it's gonna be. Probably even slower - or it's impossible to get slower than it is now.
MICHAEL STICH: Well, don't say that. Just make the grass a little longer.

Q. But if it's effectively like playing a slow hard court, and it's a four-week season...
MICHAEL STICH: Let's be honest, they're never gonna take Wimbledon away. Wimbledon is grass. It's the most important tournament in tennis historically. And so what are they gonna do? Put a hard court at Wimbledon? I don't think so. I can't believe that, and I don't hope it's ever gonna happen.
I think they have to go the other way. They have to go back a little bit more to the typical grass court game. The space at the service line is used up for the split step, and not the space at the baseline. When we go on center court now, the service line is perfect. You can just run up there and it's there, it's grass. I never felt this after five days of a tournament that was supposed to be grass.
If you look at the list of winners at this tournament, I mean, you've got Edberg, you have Becker, you have McEnroe, obviously Connors at the time, you got even Scott Draper, myself, Mark Philippoussis. I mean, used to be all big servers, serve-and-volley. Tried to change the game. Lleyton Hewitt obviously is different because he's a great counterpuncher, good returner who came in there. And Andy Roddick now, I mean, he's not a serve and volleyer. I mean, he's a great server, he's a great all-court game player, but he doesn't serve and volley.
It changed. If you look at the list of winners over the last six years, I mean, you have two guys there who basically play from the baseline most of the time - all of the time actually. It just shows.

Q. What are Tim's chances at Wimbledon this year, do you think? You must have been impressed with him this week.
GORAN IVANISEVIC: I think he's okay. For me, like, he's up there. Depends of the draw because he's not seeded so he can play Federer first round. So if he has a good draw, hopefully he can do well. I hope so because it's really good for tennis and for the grass court tennis and for everything.

Q. Do you think the thing about Henman, obviously this year he's come in with far less expectation, which is what you did in the year you won it.
GORAN IVANISEVIC: Yeah, but as soon as he wins two rounds, it's gonna be crazy again. There gonna be a lot press again. They gonna put pressure on him. Here, is impossible to play without pressure if you Englishman. Is gonna be always pressure for him.

Q. That to an extent happened with you as well, didn't it?
GORAN IVANISEVIC: For me is not hard. I was happy to get a wildcard first, so (smiling).
MICHAEL STICH: I think you can't compare with Goran because Goran played the finals before there three times here. Three times?
MICHAEL STICH: It was like on the tour as well, he was a guy where all of us said, Well, there's gonna be a guy who never won a Grand Slam and, you know, one of the best players in the world for so many years.
So at the end it was going to Wimbledon maybe and saying, It's my last chance. Taking it in, you know - the atmosphere, the feeling, knowing he was playing well. Played better round by round.
The thing with Tim is it's just a question of how much pressure he puts on himself. I think Andy Murray has got to be the one people are looking at more maybe, even especially because he lost first round in this tournament. It's like, What is he gonna do?
He shouldn't be too pressured. He played very well here. He should have won against Lleyton yesterday. I think he would have been set up by a lot of bad calls that he received yesterday. He just reacted to it, that was the worst part about it, understandably. But I think if he wouldn't have, he probably would have won that match. He played well. He found a good variation. I asked him, and he said, I play well and I feel well. That's a combination of those two things. If you feel better, then obviously you're gonna play better.

Q. Which brings us to the HawkEye question. Where do you both stand on its introduction?
MICHAEL STICH: I just see it from the commentary box. It's a help for obviously the commentator to see is the ball in or not. I don't go along with the fact what they tried at Key Biscayne, the thing where a player can say, Listen, I thought it was good, and if he is right then he gets another chance to say it was good. It's like a lottery a little bit.
It takes out something of the game. It's just like we're all humans, we make mistakes; so do chair umpires and linespeople and the players. You know, players don't like to be blamed for bad behavior, so they always find excuses. The chair umpires, they have tough calls to make. I mean, a serve comes in, they're like within a half a second, then you have to make a call. And the moment the ball bounces like probably a tenth of a second.
So I, you know, think we always accepted the fact that it was that way. And, you know, if we would have had HawkEye for 30 years, we would have never had John McEnroe saying, "You cannot be serious."
It's like, well, it shows. It takes away something from the game. I think it shouldn't. We just have to accept that we're all people and we do make mistakes.

Q. Goran?
GORAN IVANISEVIC: Yeah, I think I agree with him. Even you see now the World Champion in football. They make so many mistakes, the referees, it's a joke. You cannot -- a mistake is a mistake. Sometimes you lose the match maybe because of that mistake, but still this is a tennis and they shouldn't change anything. This is a nice sport and fun, and I think Michael is right.

Q. On that point about HawkEye, Roger and Lleyton have both been iffy about HawkEye coming in. The majority of the players seem to be in support of the way it was done in Miami except saying that maybe there should be a little bit more umph?
MICHAEL STICH: "Umph," what is "umph"? How is that spelled? U-m-p-f (laughing)?

Q. But to give it a bit more life, it was a little bit staid the way they were doing it, a little bit down, to boost it up some more. What I'm getting at, what they were saying is that it brings the crowd into it. Do you think that maybe tennis is trying to be like other sports, a little bit too much like basketball or the wrestling, that the crowd has to get so involved all the time?
MICHAEL STICH: Well, you know, I heard the changes that Etienne wants to make with the HawkEye and maybe with giving the players like a mic on the body to get reactions. I'm not a believer of that. I mean, you know, the funny thing is, and I think that's what the players should think about and also the ATP, if you look back - and it's not looking back because everything was better in the past - but 20 years ago when McEnroe, Connors and all those guys played, you didn't need anything to get the crowd involved. The players made the crowd get involved because they were characters, they were personalities. They were allowed to yell at the chair umpire. They were allowed to throw a racquet. They were allowed to be as they were as a person, as a player.
These days, everybody is the same. It's streamline. It's like, Be nice, Don't throw the racquet, Don't yell out, Don't argue with the umpire or you get a warning right away. You know, just ease up a little bit. I mean, it is -- again, chair umpires make mistakes. Players have the natural behavior. I mean, I was more like -- I was a bad guy on the court from time to time as well, you know. I could go out afterwards to the chair umpire and say, I'm sorry, not good behavior, but I'm sorry, let's move on. These days, it's all streamlined. It's like where are the characters? Where are the guys who just really make a difference on the court where the people say, "I love that guy," "That's great," "I like it when..."
I mean, still now people love it when John on the Seniors Tour gets crazy. It's a historic thing, but I think that's what makes the crowd get involved. It's the players, it's not technology. If it's technology, it would be so easy. Just pump up the music during changeovers, hand out a couple of beers, do HawkEye, get a mic on. What's gonna happen? You think a player is going to go to the chair umpire with a mic on his shirt and say, Listen, you know, I think you're an idiot. No, he's not. He's going to say, Excuse me, was the ball really out?
Is that interesting? I don't think so. I just find it's just too much talk about making this an event or whatever, you know. Just go to the players, make the players understand it's them who make the difference. It's Lleyton, it's Roger, it's Andy, it's those guys. Let them have a chance to make a difference, be who they are. Like Andy yesterday, jumping around the court, trying to dive for the shots, that's what gets people involved. It's not HawkEye or stuff like that, I don't believe it. I think it has to come down to the players. They have to open up more.

Q. It's almost like we also, the media and administrators, don't know what we really want. Because when the McEnroes and Connors and company were exploding on the court, there were claims that we have to stop this, we have to get the bad behavior in check. Now that that's happened, we say we need to go back and have a little bit more life on the court. We don't know what we want.
MICHAEL STICH: Well, you know, for me, you know, maybe obviously Goran has an opinion which he can state, but for me it's like what does every regular person do on a tennis court in a club match, on a soccer field? If he plays bad, he gets pissed off. That's the way it is. I think people can relate so much more to that behavior because it happens to them on a daily basis. On a Sunday afternoon they think, Why the hell am I playing club matches and losing badly against, whatever, another guy, instead of sitting at home and maybe watching World Cup? That's what they can relate to. They can't relate to HawkEye and all that stuff because they don't have that experience. They don't know what it's like. It's so far away. It's getting so far away from the people, from what they daily experience themselves on a tennis court, on a soccer pitch, on whatever. I think that's basically the problem because it's getting too artificial. It's not reachable for the people anymore. And instead of that, in the old days, it was reachable. They maybe didn't like it because it was on TV and they didn't want John McEnroe yelling out, and Jimmy Connors sometimes said things that shouldn't have been said. But, fine, give them a $10,000 fine, donate it to charity and say don't do it again. But deep inside, hopefully he is gonna do it again because we have something to write about, we have something to argue about.
What are we arguing about these days? Nothing. We're arguing about - I don't know - about what? Nothing, I mean. Tell me any match you would say like, What do you think about the behavior. There are no matches you talk about that.

Q. There was a classic one at the French a couple years ago when Safin pulled his shorts down or something stupid. He got a warning for that as well.
GORAN IVANISEVIC: It's stupid. They shouldn't get warning for that.
But it's tough to please people, you know. In my case, when I was behaving bad, they say, Look at this guy, should be banned, crazy. Then I tried to behave good, then they say again, What's wrong with you? Are you sick? Are you okay? Do you have a temperature maybe?
So, I mean, you don't know what to do, you know. It's never good. It's never good enough.
MICHAEL STICH: I remember last year when you played Wimbledon. I think you said -- wasn't it like you said, If I'm going out, my last match, you better watch out, I'm gonna do something. People said, What is Goran gonna do? Is he gonna pull down his pants?
It was like all of a sudden people started talking about it. It's like the thing like with Marat. You know, he doesn't do it to offend people, he does it because he feels like doing it at the time and it's something that he just like -- it's a sign of emotion. If we don't show emotion on a tennis court, we might as well, you know, play without spectators, have a TV camera and just broadcast it. It's as good.

Q. Picks for the Championship besides Roger?
GORAN IVANISEVIC: Ancic, number two. Nalbandian, Hewitt, Roddick, Henman.
MICHAEL STICH: In that order?

Q. So were you misquoted when you said that Henman was gonna win?
GORAN IVANISEVIC: I would like him to win, but he is one of my favorite up there, like five, six. But also, like I said before, depends of the draw.
But first two favorites for me, okay, Federer and Ancic, one and two.

Q. What about Mario in particular, given what we were talking about earlier, about the slowing of the courts and how you can't serve and volley anymore?
GORAN IVANISEVIC: I think he is the best serve and volley player of the game at the moment. He is for me best volleys of the game. He play semis of Wimbledon before, so he knows what he's doing. He improve his game on clay. He's much aggressive. So I think it's gonna help him on grass this year. And he believes that he can do it. And he's the only guy who beat Federer in last three years on grass, so he has a chance.

Q. Michael?
MICHAEL STICH: Obviously, Roger. I agree with Goran.
I wouldn't pick Mario as a second favorite because maybe mentally there is a Lleyton or an Andy Roddick or those guys who have more experience in those kind of situations. But I think there's Roger and a bunch of guys who can really, you know, go for the title.
I take Tim in there as well if he's playing like he did here. It's just a question of if his body holds up for best of five sets, if he just takes the positive out of what's coming. If he plays like he did here and he has a good draw, I think he has a good chance. Maybe it's even better for him to play Roger in the Round of 16 than waiting to play him in the semis or the finals. Because the earlier, the better I think it is.
But it's gonna be interesting, and Roger is gonna feel it. The pressure is gonna get higher and higher each year he comes here. There are more and more players each year. I mean, you have guys like Gasquet who took him in Halle now to a third set. You got all those younger guys who now are getting a little older and feel like, Well, he is great, but there is a challenge that we want to beat this guy, we're gonna put every effort into this. And that's gonna help the Championship.

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