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June 30, 2006

Max Mirnyi


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. The match went back and forth quite a bit. You started off very well. James Blake played very well in the middle there. Then in the end, you rolled through the last two sets. How do you explain the shifts?
MAX MIRNYI: Well, exactly. To have won 6-1, 6-0 in the last two sets is certainly an unusual thing in men's tennis. But I felt like playing against James, he's such a shot-maker that when he does get on to my serve, you know, he makes the return come back many times harder than the serve was.
So, you know, I felt that when he was picking up my serve directions well, it was tough for me to hold on to my serve. So I started off well by maybe him not reading my serve as well, but then when he got a hold of it, I felt like it was really tough for me to do anything. You know, he was serving well, as well. For that reason, it's sort of -- it faded away from me, even though I started well.
But then I was just fortunate enough to just make little adjustments and, you know, mix up my spins and speeds and my approaches to net. So, you know, probably, you know, helped me to come through at the end.

Q. Were you aware at all of his record in five-set matches?
MAX MIRNYI: No. I mean, I knew I've beaten him in the past, so that's what sort of kept me out there. It certainly helps you. You get into such a long match like that, uhm, I look back at a few years ago. I played him in a Masters Series in Madrid, just recently played him in doubles in Queen's. So, you know, certainly helps you knowing that you've beaten somebody.
But overall I felt just comfortable out there, you know. Certainly, you know, it was my first singles experience on Centre Court. Great feeling. Everything's very silent. You hit a ball, you hear an echo. It's good. I was pretty much within myself there.

Q. Did you notice his first serves, especially over the last two sets, seemed to dip there?
MAX MIRNYI: Sure, sure. One of the main reasons it helped me to get on top of the second serve and dictate play. But, again, playing James, it's not like playing my last-round opponent, Philippoussis, that you know that his serve is his strength. James is a very speedy guy and, you know, just such a good ground-stroker, makes many balls back. You know, this is probably one of his main strengths.
So it certainly did help me that his percentage dropped, but, you know, it's not how he wins his matches, I believe. Still he's a dangerous player when the ball's in play in the back court.

Q. You were hitting some volleys, half-volleys and volleys from all sorts of angles, all sorts of places. Is that about as well as you've volleyed?
MAX MIRNYI: On some occasions I felt fortunate to come away with a few winners. But generally speaking, I wouldn't say this is the best volleying game for me because I did miss quite a few and, you know, partially because he hit some good returns.
But, you know, this is how I work on my game, and by playing a lot of doubles, you know, I feel like I hit a lot of those balls. Sometimes just difficult to cover the full court, but, you know, by the nature of my size, it helps me to get to some of these wide balls.

Q. The way you play certainly works well on grass. What sort of expectations, though, did you have coming here, and at this point what are your hopes for how far you can go?
MAX MIRNYI: No expectations at all really. I just come to this time of year and just try to enjoy grass tennis the best I can, you know. I've played Queen's, Nottingham and even, you know, a match of exhibition at Stoke Park when I was knocked out of Nottingham, and all that is because I like being on the surface. It's very limited nowadays that, you know, we don't get to play on it - unfortunately for me.
But just, you know, I like being there, enjoy its traditions, and, you know, everything that comes with grass court tennis. My game at times suits it very well. But, again, nowadays, grass is quite a bit different than it was 10 years ago when I was starting. So, you know, at the end of the day grass is still grass even though it's a little slower.

Q. Max, when are you available to give volleying lessons, especially how to hit those balls off your shoe tops?
MAX MIRNYI: You've missed a couple questions before (smiling).
I'd say that it's good that I made some spectacular balls. But other than that, I feel like I've made quite a few errors also that I shouldn't have made.
So, you know, James partially hits big returns that causes problem. But I've had a few balls that I want to look back on and go on the practice court and just correct myself there.

Q. But your game is a little bit of high risk.
MAX MIRNYI: Sure, but some of those that I missed, they were very makeable balls. You know, I shouldn't be missing them.
But, you know, when I come to net more often, I give myself the best chance to win, especially against someone like James. He's very dangerous and moves well, offensive from the back of the court.

Q. When you consider who the opponent was, No. 8 in the world, and how well you volleyed in the first let's say set and a half, have you had a stretch like that where you were that hot before?
MAX MIRNYI: Probably, you know, probably. Set and a half is not enough to win a five-set match. That's why that was such a swing there where James got on to my serve and made me miss a few balls. You know, there's a lot of time to make adjustments in a five-set match. Today I was fortunate enough to stay calm and just be within myself to do that.

Q. Did you feel that he got a bit fatigued in the later stages of the match? I mean, some of the shots he hit early in the fifth set were just very un-Blake-like.
MAX MIRNYI: It's a combination of many things. When you're winning and the momentum is going your way, it's easy to stay upbeat and energized, you know. Certainly when you have some things turn around and the opponent is causing some trouble, everything falls in play. Mentally, physically, you certainly get drained out.
Today was a very warm day, unlike previous couple, three, four days. Maybe part of that also played a role in his fatigueness. But I think it's, more than anything, just the fact that, you know, he let it slip away and then I was fortunate to capitalize on it.

Q. You guys are so close in Florida, an hour away. Do you ever cross paths in training? Has he ever come down to Nick's? Do you ever wind up in Tampa?
MAX MIRNYI: Not really. I think it's, you know -- we're probably at the two best places for training in the world. They have many guys there to train with, as well as we do. So we know we're nearby, but there's never been a reason for us to drive up or down to meet each other.

Q. Nick Bollettieri once said he's had players that worked as hard as Max Mirnyi, but he's never had someone who worked harder than Max Mirnyi has.
MAX MIRNYI: I don't know. Nick is very complimenting of me, and it's great to hear that from him. But, you know, he maybe tends to forget things. He's had incredible generations of players, going back to Brian Gottfried, to Kournikova, Sharapovas, Venus and Serena Williamses. He's had, you know, very hard-working horses throughout his life, so I'm sure there have been some guys that worked as hard as me, perhaps harder, you know. Jim Courier is a good example. Aaron Krickstein. I know those guys were.

Q. You might admit, though, in terms of natural gift for the game, you've had to work harder for what you've got?
MAX MIRNYI: Probably. But more than anything, I just enjoy being out there. I like working out. You know, I try to make the best of what I can during my career, and that's what helps me through some of the tougher matches and some tough training days.

Q. Pardon my ignorance, but how and when did you get the nickname of "Beast"?
MAX MIRNYI: I'll go over that again (smiling). You know, so much has been said. I wrote a blog actually on ATP explaining that whole situation in details.
But it goes back to maybe '95 or '96 when Alex Rikl (sic) - former player - and I travelled in Asia, played some challenger tours, you know. Despite the fact that we were staying at some cheap hotels and not having dinners at times because places were closed and we didn't know what to do, I would still go out and play tough matches. Win or lose, it didn't matter. You know, he just started calling me that I am the "Beast" after one of the matches that I lost having three matchpoints.
It sort of stuck up to me and, you know, nowadays many people relate to me as the "Beast," not even knowing who the name stands behind this nickname.
So ATP has picked up on it very well. Any headlines I make, it's not the "Max Mirnyi," it's the "Beast." To me, I think it's good that fans have something to relate to, you know. Now we watch Brazil play football and you don't know whether it's their real names or the nicknames.
So I think it's fine, you know. Doesn't bother me. I think it's good that people have something to relate to, and I think it's a funny name anyway. Because then later in my career, as I was already playing singles consistently, I picked up on some mixed doubles titles. After a while, we teamed up with Kournikova. Then it was another splash of information and reason to talk about, because then there was a "Beauty and the Beast."

Q. A lot of fathers are involved with their sons or daughters in tennis. Frankly, some have been something of a detriment. Your dad has been very special for you, though, hasn't he? What has he meant to you?
MAX MIRNYI: Well, sure, you know. It's very important to have support of any kind, for anybody, whether you're an artist, singer or athlete like myself. And to have my dad there ever since I can remember myself being three or four, you know, running, playing ball, doing stuff, it's important for him to grow up with me throughout my professional career and to be supportive.
He's been there for me the whole time, and on the moments like today, it's very special to have him there. I know how much he enjoyed it and sort of it's payback time for him because he's gone through many things in his life. To have me there, Centre Court and win a match like that...

Q. How has fatherhood changed your life?
MAX MIRNYI: Not too much yet, you know. My daughter is only a year and a half old, and still very much dependent on my wife, on her mother. I love to see her develop and it's a great feeling to be a dad and see your production.
But in any way, you know, I felt like I was always a pretty responsible person. By having a baby, I don't feel like it's increased any kind of pressure or responsibility on myself. I enjoy it very much. I like her to grow up quicker so that she could see moments like today, you know, make her, I'm sure, very happy and proud to have a father to be at such a stage like Wimbledon.
But at the moment, she's still little bit too young and I don't think she wants anything other than her mum's milk.

Q. Have to get the tape of the match.
MAX MIRNYI: Well, that will be later. That will be showed to her.

Q. How do you feel about facing your doubles partner in the next round?
MAX MIRNYI: Well, very tricky. Very tricky matchup. Always tough to play somebody you know so well and share so many good and bad moments on the court with. We've been playing doubles together now for close to two years at the end of this year. Certainly know anything there is to know about each other's game.
So, you know, I think the way I want to look at it is just an incredible opportunity, you know. Have another match at Wimbledon, have a chance to win, have a chance to compete and, you know, do my best. Jonas is a very tough opponent, very experienced, has been on tour for as long as anyone perhaps, a little less than Andre. But a very difficult proposition for me, especially looking at our head-to-head record.

Q. You played doubles with many other guys, but is Bjorkman the one, the partner that most suits your game?
MAX MIRNYI: I would say that he's the closest to the same ambitions as I have. We've always got along well with Mahesh and the past partners I've had, but some had their minds only on the singles game, like Lleyton Hewitt, for example. When we won the US Open, he decided to, you know, continue with his singles, and rightly so.
But then I had some time with Mahesh Bhupathi. We got along perfect and got to be close friends, but then it was a completely opposite where he did not play the single tour and only focused on doubles, and I feel that I was missing out a little bit on some practice from time to time, like I do get with Jonas now.
So at the time, when we teamed up with Jonas, it was perfect in a way that our ambitions with singles game were the same. We wanted to always train hard and play a lot of singles when we are not in doubles. But then when we were in the doubles court, we both have the same passion for the game where we would never sacrifice, you know, ourself for tomorrow's singles or tomorrow's doubles match. We'd always try to win, and it's very important. That's why I think we were fairly successful in the last couple of years.

Q. You also played with Roger Federer in doubles. What do you think about him as a doubles player?
MAX MIRNYI: Well, he's just the best player that's played the game, you know. Whatever he does is at a very high level.
But, again, Roger very quickly made his mind, and probably sees something what's out there for him. Because when he stopped playing doubles with me, we haven't lost, we played three tournaments, we won three tournaments, and at that point he stopped and soon after he started winning the Grand Slams that he has now.
So great decision for him.

Q. How many times have you hit Jonas in the back of the head with one of your 135-mile-an-hour serves?
MAX MIRNYI: Luckily none. I hope to stay accurate. It's not going to be pleasant.

Q. Whizzing them by his head?
MAX MIRNYI: Not really. I guess the objective is to hit the spot in the box. You would have to be really off on a given day to. But it does happen. But it hasn't happened in our history yet.

Q. Travels with his family, too. The two of you have dinner maybe before this singles match, or will you avoid each other before?
MAX MIRNYI: No, probably not dinner because, you know, the schedule has been so busy over these last couple days. I've been actually having, you know, dinners in the apartment we're renting here. My father is a great cook.

Q. Really?
MAX MIRNYI: Yeah. So I tend to stay inside and have dinners in when I can, just saves a lot of time and energy. So I'll just probably do the same. Both socializing, we're playing a doubles match in about an hour. We have plenty to talk about.
But probably no dinner before singles.

Q. What is your dad's specialty?
MAX MIRNYI: Well, given that he's coming from Russia and, you know, been brought up in a Russian system, you know, I guess the Russian cuisine is what he knows best. Potato soups, different types of meats, yeah.

Q. It's going to be tonight, potato soup?
MAX MIRNYI: I don't know. I have to -- we'll probably finish late, so not sure yet.

Q. You know that John McEnroe will play another time with your partner, Jonas, in Stockholm in next October. Do you fear that he's going to steal your partner if he wins again the tournament?
MAX MIRNYI: I don't know. I don't know. I actually hope the best for John. But I know guys will be much more ready this time than they were in San Jose. I hope he realizes that and gets ready for the opposition. Because when he was in San Jose, even though they had couple tough matches, guys perhaps thought that maybe, you know, he's the old John McEnroe, and may have not taken him as seriously as they should.
Now Stockholm, and since the news has been announced so much in advance, many guys are going to be gearing up, you know, for that tournament, to play against him. You know, I'm sure it will be much, much tougher for him to come through that tournament than it was in San Jose.

Q. Where would you list this victory in your book of great Grand Slam memories?
MAX MIRNYI: You know, it would definitely be up there. Firstly, it's a five-set victory, you know. Over the course of your career, you can count on your fingers how many there were there. It's, you know, for that reason. And also for it being on the Centre Court at Wimbledon. This is my first experience in singles, and certainly a very memorable one. To beat somebody who's top 10 like James Blake and who has such a hot year, you know. All these things put together make it a very special victory. So, you know, maybe as big as having some five-set victory in Davis Cup when you play for your country.

Q. When was your last top 10 win? Do you remember?
MAX MIRNYI: Probably a while ago because, you know, I just lost 7-6 in the third to Lleyton Hewitt in Queen's. Just got to look at the numbers. I'm not sure. But, you know, it's great to have another one.

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