1998 U.S. OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP
Flushing Meadows, New York
September 5, 1998
G. IVANISEVIC/P. Haarhuis, 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-4
Interviewers - black
Goran - sage.
Your good friend and next opponent, Patrick Rafter, was in here a few moments ago. He informed us that you'd received a number of interesting items in the mail, including handcuffs. Could you share with us what those items were, and where they came from, what use they're going to be?
I don't know. First time in my life I see handcuffs. I just came at 9:00 o'clock this morning, a little bit earlier, 9:15, I was checking the mail. I saw the big package. It's my name. So I open, and I see handcuffs. I see there's something like chocolate, it's like tube, so you probably do this for the painting, so you paint the girl probably. I don't know what you do with it (laughter). I know -- I know from who, but I can't tell you. But she said, "Don't open before your birthday." But I was curious to see.
Who was it from?
Who sent it?
I know, but I can't tell you that (laughter).
Was there a note?
Sure, there was a note.
What did it say?
I know you want to know, but I can't tell you (laughter).
Can you talk about your relationship with Patrick Rafter? You guys seem to be pretty friendly.
Yeah, he's a nice guy and a great player, defending champion. Going to be a hell of a match on Monday. Both playing very good tennis at the moment. He's confident. I'm confident. We'll see. But somebody has to win, so it's going to be interesting.
How confident are you right now? I mean, you're in the second week
Oh, very confident. I beat Paul, which I usually used to lose to him. The way I'm playing, it's very good. I mean, even today I was not very aggressive from the back. I was keeping the ball in the play. I mean, I can play everything. I'm returning well, serving well. I mean, I'm hitting the ball very good. So it's maybe the best ever I play the US Open. But doesn't mean anything, you know.
John McEnroe said with the speed of the courts being so fast, if you've ever had a chance at a Grand Slam, this could really be it. Are you feeling that way, as well?
I had a chance '96, but nothing happened. I play Patrick. For him is also -- this speed is good. He's going to serve and volley. Doesn't matter, you know, if I play good, I can play slow, fast, hard court. But it's better, you know. I can hit more aces. That's okay.
Looks like you solved the problem with your sleeve.
Yeah. I try, but is not -- doesn't help. Again, it's coming down. Is best to cut it, you know. I don't think to can I any is going to like that.
What about something like that, both sides?
Yeah, maybe. But this side is okay (indicating). I just have problems with the other side.
That's something interesting, because that's the side you serve, the left. That doesn't bother you at all?
Is it just the toss?
Yeah, from the back, it's coming down, up, over. I always go like this (indicating). In the middle of the point, I hit a forehand, then I go quickly like that (indicating). It can be pretty annoying.
There's talk about you being the best player out here not to have won a Slam in singles. Do you feel that at all? Is that pressure or frustrating?
It's kind of the question I'm hearing for six, seven years. Every time I come to a press conference, you know, always the same question. Always the same stupid answer from me, you know (laughter). You know the answer. What can I tell you? I know that I'm maybe the best player who never won a Grand Slam, but I'm trying. So probably when I finish my career, I can say I won. But I give it the best. I mean, I gave it a shot, you know. I was three times Wimbledon finalist. This time I was close. But it's a chance here I can win this one, if I play good, if I continue to play like this --
What were you saying to the line judge there in the third set?
I don't think she made -- that ball was pretty wide. There was a mark there. I just said, "Did you see it?" She was pretty serious, you know. Tough lady. So I didn't say anything anymore.
She didn't send you the handcuffs?
No -- I don't know. No, not her, no, sir.
Back to this note that you got in the package, Goran. Did it give you instructions on your ball toss or how to punch your volleys?
No, no, no. It give me different instructions (laughter). Gave me instruction what to do with the handcuffs, and how to put it. The tube is nice, chocolate tube is great, you know. Is to paint (laughter)
Going to try it out soon?
Yeah, but I have to find somebody. This is pretty weird stuff, you know (laughter).
They don't have anything like that in Croatia?
Yeah, we have probably. But those things you hide. Maybe if you have your wife or girlfriend, you do it. But you don't go out and say, "Oh, I bought the handcuffs for my wife. We're going to have a great time tonight."
The other night you were banging your head on the court. How do you think that's affected your game since then?
Great. I started to play better. Probably something, sometimes I have a little bit messed up there, I have to bang, then everything comes together.
Patrick said you guys were in the locker room, starting to say, "Bring it on, I'm going to take you down." Did you guys start in the locker room trash talking a little?
Yeah, we started. We just have fun, you know.
Are you doing anything different this year as compared to the previous years?
I don't think so. Everything is pretty much the same.
Is it always a battle against yourself out there to keep your concentration, especially through a five-setter?
I usually tease. When I'm clear with myself, then rarely I lose the match. You know, I can lose to Pete or somebody really who is very good that day, but it's tough when I have to play me and the other guy. It comes a little bit mixed up sometimes.
But lately, I'm playing most of the time against the other guys, not against myself. I'm pretty good, you know, confident in my head. I'm pretty clear what I have to do, playing good tennis.
One of Patrick's most important weapons is his kick second serve. Your height and the fact that you're left-handed, does that help you neutralize that serve a little bit more than other players?
I don't know. I mean, maybe. I like kick second serves. Maybe he's listening now, he's going to change. But if he serves good, I have to return good. I return always good against Stefan Edberg who had this great kick serve. I had good results against him.
So I know Patrick, his serve is not so hard, but he's mixing his serve very good, he's hitting kick, he's sitting slice, and it's tough to read his serves.
I going to have to really be very concentrate on his serve. Even if you hit a good return against Patrick, he comes up with some great volleys. So it's going to be interesting.
What are the two or three things that are the key to your serve which many consider to be the toughest in the game?
When I have a good rhythm, I mean, I don't think. Always before I toss the ball, I know where to serve. Sometimes I change when I toss in the air, then is not good.
But when my rhythm is right, then everything is fine. It's very simple motion, and I hit, you know.
Is the rhythm something you can work on mid match?
It's tough, you know. When is rhythm not a hundred percent, then I start to force it too much, start to go for the big serves. Usually those big serves don't go in. Then I start to go for the big second serve.
But lately I'm not going for these big second serves, only sometimes when I'm 40-Love up. Hitting more kick serves, and is working much better.