March 22, 1997
KEY BISCAYNE, FLORIDA
Q. Good match. It looked good from the second set, 4-2 to 5-4 up, looked like you weren't thinking that was Michael Chang, like it was any other player at that point. Am I right or not?
MARK MERKLEIN: Because I was kind of mad at myself because I hadn't won many games after I was up 3-1. I kind of got upset with myself. Things started happening. He played a few loose points, then I put a couple points together. I went on a little run. I just played an awful game, awful game, at 5-All I think, yeah, 5-All. Then I had to try to start over again. I got the break back. I started feeling good. It just didn't work out in the end.
Q. In that tiebreak, got the first point, and the second point I thought it was a key, a long rally, great groundies hit a booming forehand, came in on it, didn't do much with the backhand, he passed you, boom. Seems like it took gas out of you.
MARK MERKLEIN: The legs were burning after that point. That kind of hurt me for a few points. At that point I thought I had it won twice. Normally, it probably would have been over against a guy with normal speed. He's pretty quick.
Q. Who is the highest ranked player you'd played before this?
MARK MERKLEIN: Before this?
MARK MERKLEIN: Have to be the guy -- have to be the guy I played first round, that's Neville Godwin. Is that right?
Q. Before that, who was the highest ranked?
JOE LYNCH: We can look it up.
MARK MERKLEIN: No, it was Javier Frana.
JOE LYNCH: He was probably in the 40s.
Q. Did the extra day hurt or help or no effect?
MARK MERKLEIN: I think it helped me. I played a little money tournament in the Keys. I played a couple long three-setters there. I didn't even have a day off, just came here and started playing. I think that actually helped me out, playing that before.
Q. Which Key?
MARK MERKLEIN: Marathon Key. A little money tournament, a few players, like six guys, a couple other like club players. They were battling it out in the first rounds.
JOE LYNCH: Margarita Festival.
MARK MERKLEIN: They had the keg, it was great.
Q. Did you win?
MARK MERKLEIN: I lost to Robbie Koenig. I lost to him six in the third. Next day I played Shuzo Matsuoka. Beat him in the third. I was playing a lot of tennis.
Q. How much money did you make?
MARK MERKLEIN: About 20 bucks.
Q. How did you feel when you walked out on the court and saw Michael Chang on the other side?
MARK MERKLEIN: Oh, man. I was feeling really good when I walked out onto the court. When I put my bag down and sat down, I usually go through my little ritual, setting stuff up. I'm looking around. My legs were like a little Jell-O. I was like "Oh, great, this could get ugly." I gave myself a chance. I just settled in quick in the warm-up. I'd never played in front of that many people. I got used to it quick. I think I played okay. I have a lot of things to work on. We'll see what happens.
Q. Did Chang say anything to you afterwards?
MARK MERKLEIN: He just said, "Great week." I'm in the second round. That's good for me. I'd never won a match in a Super 9 tournament. Is that it?
JOE LYNCH: Mercedes Super 9.
Q. Did he say all that to you?
MARK MERKLEIN: No.
Q. He just said, "Great week"?
MARK MERKLEIN: He said, "Good week, nice playing." I don't really know him. I don't know him at all, so.
Q. You're not a member of his new website then?
MARK MERKLEIN: No.
Q. What does this do for your career, this whole run you've had?
MARK MERKLEIN: It's funny because three weeks ago I was in town with my parents. I really thought I was going to quit. I spoke to them, told them what I was going to do. I spent a few days here deciding what I was going to do. I actually really thought that this time I was going to quit. I don't know. I just went back to Gainsville and started thinking about it even more, spoke to my coach. He said I'd look back on it and feel bad about it if I didn't give it a fair chance. I think this helps me out a lot. I'd never played in a big tournament. My friends don't even know that I play anymore. They never see me in the papers. Hopefully this can help my confidence and also keep people around me thinking that I'm actually still playing the game. That's good.
Q. Is Ian Dubenhage still your coach?
MARK MERKLEIN: I work with the assistant coach, Bruce Burque. He was the assistant at Florida. He travels with me full-time. Ian is kind of like a second father to me. He was my coach at Florida when I was there. He pretty much made me into the player that I am today. I really didn't know how to play the game before I went to school there.
Q. Did you talk to him also?
MARK MERKLEIN: That's who I spoke to, yeah.
Q. Did you come into this match dreaming of an upset?
MARK MERKLEIN: Yeah, I did, yeah. I mean, how can't you? You have to think that. I felt comfortable and I thought I settled in well and had a good chance to do some damage. Who knows, if I would have won that set, who knows. It would have been a battle. I'm sure he wouldn't have been happy to drop that set. I don't know. I was definitely thinking of winning, for sure.
Q. But doesn't this tell you that you can play with the No. 3 in the world? That second set looked even.
MARK MERKLEIN: Oh, gosh. Yeah, it helps my confidence out a lot. I needed something like this. It definitely is not going to hurt. I don't think he was on top of his game. It showed me that I can step on the same court and compete with these guys, and that helps. I think that's what it's all about.
JOE LYNCH: Mark will reach a new career high on the ATP Tour rankings next Monday. Have to wait an extra week for those rankings to come out.
MARK MERKLEIN: I'll move to 180?
JOE LYNCH: Up a little bit, yeah. Anything else for Mark? Thank you.
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