October 20, 2001
STUTTGART, GERMANY, M. MIRNYI/Y. Kafelnikov 7-6, 6-3
MODERATOR: Max will play his first final tomorrow. Questions for Max.
Q. Quite a good week.
MAX MIRNYI: Yeah, certainly.
Q. Beating big players, coming through the qualifying segments, match points there. Today, how difficult is it to play somebody like Kafelnikov, big player, but you have good experience against him?
MAX MIRNYI: I think it's more exciting rather than difficult. We come from basically the same country, know each other very well. Any time we play, we're going to bring the best of one another. Today was another example. Fortunately for me, I was able to raise my game level from the tiebreaker on, keep it the same till the very last point.
Q. Seven matches in eight days. More difficult than winning a Grand Slam.
MAX MIRNYI: I haven't won a Grand Slam in singles, so I don't know. I feel I'm physically fit; I'm actually quite happy. The more matches I play, the fitter I'm going to get. We still have the finals tomorrow, then I have two more tournaments till the end of the year. I'm going to try to capitalize on that.
Q. Did you feel it was only a matter of time before you had a very good week in a big event in singles?
MAX MIRNYI: Well, I never had any doubt about myself. Whether it was going to be this week or last year or next year, I wasn't going to change any of my training habits. My attitude stays the same whether I lose or win tomorrow. I'm going to do my best to win my first title. But, you know, I like my tennis. I enjoy training. I guess it was just a matter of time.
Q. Can you talk about having your father as your coach, what sort of interesting difficulties that poses, having a kind of family relationship.
MAX MIRNYI: Well, my dad and I, we have a different relationship. It goes far beyond just coaching. He's been very supportive of my career ever since I started playing tennis. Up until now, he's been with me through all the highs and lows. We just share a lot between ourselves. Coaching is just a small portion of what we have between us. I owe a lot to him because if it wasn't for him, I wouldn't have been sitting here today.
Q. How long did you spend in Florida?
MAX MIRNYI: First time I came there was in '91.
Q. So ten years ago?
MAX MIRNYI: Yes.
Q. What have been the benefits of spending so much time, apart from the weather?
MAX MIRNYI: Well, I feel very fortunate timing-wise because just when I left Belarus, it was right after the breakup of the Soviet Union. Sports wasn't a primary thing there. There was so much political issues that were needed to be solved. Right at that time I was given the opportunity to go to the best tennis school in the world, in my opinion, hit tennis balls, you know, study. I finished high school there in Bradenton. I feel very fortunate that I was given that chance.
Q. What did you specialize in school? Anything particularly?
MAX MIRNYI: No. This was just a general high school. I didn't go to college.
Q. Are you looking now for a double victory or would you not be that sad to go out in the doubles now?
MAX MIRNYI: Well, I have a semifinal match today. There's still a tough two matches. In order to win, I need to win today. I'm just going to look at today's match. David and Martin Damm are tough opponents. You know, it's another tough match. We're going to spend some time now, speak about how we're going to play, try to win this one.
Q. You were saying you never changed your approach to the game, your style of game. That's probably a big strength for you because you're not of two minds once the point starts, you know what you're intending to do.
MAX MIRNYI: I understand. I really don't hesitate much. I learned a while ago the type of tennis I play is very effective. If I do it successfully, it's going to produce results. It's a matter of me just polishing this way of playing. When I capitalize on my serves, my volleys, my aggressive coming forward, it's tough to beat me.
Q. Right from being a very young boy, were you always a serve and volley player or did you play from the back court like so many people from eastern Europe do?
MAX MIRNYI: No. I think I was a typical junior player at the age of 10, 12, 14. As I was growing bigger physically, people that were surrounding me picked it up quicker than I did, and they were developing this game from about the age of 16, 17.
Q. Saving match points in three different matches, how much does that help your confidence and attitude?
MAX MIRNYI: Very much so. It feels as if I can't die. There's always something that I can rely on. Whether it's serving or returning, it just feels like it's out there for me today. I can't really get fazed by the match points or the score. I try to play every point separately and try to win it.
Q. Looking back at this week after beating Kuerten, Ivanisevic, Sampras, Kafelnikov, did you ever think about whether this could be a dream or real?
MAX MIRNYI: It's certainly a good feeling. It's not a dream because I am in control of what I do. I know these guys for a while. I'm not a newcomer to the tour. I've played the tour now for five years. I've had some success in doubles. I've played a lot of these guys in doubles and I've beaten them. I think that's the fact that's helping me to cope with these victories today. I know that I'm capable of beating them. It's just a matter of putting everything together which I'm doing this week.
Q. Has this week been your greatest week?
MAX MIRNYI: So far in singles, yes.
Q. What about the final, your opponent, Lleyton or Tommy Haas? How do they shape up against you? Do you feel their game lends itself to match up well against yours?
MAX MIRNYI: Obviously, the finalists are the best two players in a tournament on a given week. Whoever it might be, it's going to show that these are the two players that are in the best shape for the time being. It's going to be another tough test tomorrow - hopefully one I can come through.
Q. In Juniors, were you always the biggest kid?
MAX MIRNYI: No, no, by far. I started growing at about age of 17.
Q. So Juniors you were on level with most of them?
MAX MIRNYI: Yes. Sort of, say, a late-bloomer (smiling).
Q. Your first results were in doubles.
MAX MIRNYI: Mixed doubles actually (laughter).
Q. Was there a stage where you were thinking, "I may only be a doubles player, this is a way to make good money," or were you always determined you were going to make it in singles, too?
MAX MIRNYI: No, singles has been a priority for me ever since I started playing. I've always paid a lot of attention to doubles because it's another good way for me to train my game and develop it to a perfection. It's also another good way of spending time at the tournament when you are eliminated from singles. Having these facts considered, I've always played doubles. You know, I never thought of turning into just doubles player, specializing only in that criteria. I've always played singles. Up until today, I have structured my schedule for the year around my singles. Doubles is just an addition to the whole picture.
Q. Do you anticipate that you'll continue that way, if you start having more success in singles, getting to the finals, will you think twice about the doubles? Or like John McEnroe, do you feel playing doubles is good preparation for singles anyway?
MAX MIRNYI: Well, maybe for the last two years since I've been playing more singles matches on tour, I have been choosing my weeks for doubles. I'm sure that if I stay healthy and physically fit for my singles, I continue to play a lot of singles. I will be choosing my doubles weeks, but I will still be looking to continue to play successful doubles. When I do play doubles, I will try to win.
Q. What have you learned about yourself this week, if anything?
MAX MIRNYI: Well, just a good statement for myself. I proved to myself that I am able to play at the top level. It's just a matter of putting, like I said yesterday, these weeks together, play on a consistent basis throughout the year, raise in the rankings.
Q. Do you have a special relationship to Lleyton Hewitt after the US Open title or is it just one of your opponents?
MAX MIRNYI: Certainly winning a Grand Slam is something that stays with you for your life. Lleyton and I share that between ourselves. We're respectful of one another. But besides that, when it comes to playing a singles match, when you have an opponent on the other side of the net, that's how I approach every singles match. It doesn't matter what you have in common and what you share. If it's Lleyton, then it's Lleyton tomorrow. If it's Tommy, then it's Tommy. Tommy and I are also close friends. We've stayed at Bollettieri's camp since '91. We both have a lot in common.
Q. What in your career so far was the big stand-out achievement before this week?
MAX MIRNYI: Well, besides the results, mixed doubles, doubles, occasionally singles matches that I've been beating top players, I'm mainly proud of the fact that I've been fairly consistent. I haven't had many injuries, which I'm happy of. I spend a lot of time off the court dedicating a lot of time to my fitness program and be able to play a full year. There are many characters in this game who are having very high and low results due to the injuries. I wouldn't like to be one of those because, you know, I like the game. If I can prolong it for as much as possible, that's what I'm going to do.
Q. Are you a great sportsman, like a star in Belarus already, or do the people have other problems? Is it a problem that they probably can't see you?
MAX MIRNYI: It's not up to me to decide. If anything, I can contribute to the fame of the country, I will - whether it's through sports or any other activities. But, you know, it's up to other people to decide what kind of a sportsman I am. I'm just doing what I can. Let people decide for themselves.
Q. But have you a feeling you are well-known in your home country?
MAX MIRNYI: Well, in a circle of sports, I am. But in a country like Belarus, little by little we are getting a little bit more recognition around the world. But it's still overshadowed by many political problems. Just on a day-to-day basis, there are people living their lives, not thinking about sports or tennis in particular.
Q. After winning these matches, leaving the court, you didn't write any autographs. Is there any reason why?
MAX MIRNYI: Well, because I'm due on the court maybe in another 45 minutes. I wanted to get back to my routine after the match, come and see you guys so that I can prepare for my doubles match.
MODERATOR: He also has to do TV live. We have to tell him to hurry up. He has signed autographs from here to the locker room.
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