Re: The Martin Jaite, Lucho Horna and Malisse's string breaking Appreciation Chat Thr
You have a close relationship with your fans. You e-mail them often with updates about your form and send them photographs. Why do you do that?
Because I like to stay in contact with people. And they were the people, together with Agassi, who didn’t let me quit the tour last year. I have been very surprised to see how many supporters I have, how many people want to see me continue to play and win and continue fighting. I think I’m a good person. Therefore, I felt a responsibility to these people. They ask me questions, and they deserve an answer. When they ask me for a photograph, I send a picture from my computer and write a few words. I have free time. For some people I met through the Internet, I get tickets for my matches and autographed rackets. I like doing that.
You enjoy telling amusing stories, but you've also said, I'm not a comedian. I always like to be very serious and philosophical. There are times when I love to be alone. Please tell me about these two very different sides of you.
Its actually one side. I’m not a comedian. If I make people laugh, that’s not because I intend to make them laugh. They ask me questions, and they get answers that come straight from my heart. If they find them amusing, great. But I’m really not a clown. And there are times when I like to be alone because I need to recharge my batteries because I lead a public life and play in front of everybody in a T-shirt and shorts and people want to find out everything they can about me.
People who know me understand this. And they leave me alone. Sometimes I can be rude when I feel empty, and when people ask me for something, I can be very aggressive. But I’m not an evil guy. I don’t mean to hurt anybody.
Michel de Montaigne, the French philosopher, observed: There is no man so good, who, were he to submit all his thoughts and actions to the laws, would not deserve hanging 10 times in his life. What are the worst things you’ve ever thought or done?
To answer this, I would have to reveal the darkest and most disgusting thoughts I’ve had. But I will tell you there was a moment when Becker really behaved badly when we played at Wimbledon in 1994. My first thought was to smash him as hard as I could somewhere in his face. But, instead, I just gave him the finger.
You have said that the women in your life -- your mother, grandmother and sister -- have made you a sensitive, soft person. Would you please tell me more about that?
They brought me up. I don’t know if that explains why I’m a sensitive, soft person. But I think it’s the only explanation. It also comes from my own personal intelligence. Because I know that some teenagers have idols when they grow up, and frankly, some idols are questionable to me. They would not be my idols. My parents gave me an idea of what is good and bad. And then it was up to me to apply these ideas to life. I think I’ve done a good job. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, and some things I wish I had never done. Its life, and I’m learning. I take responsibility for everything I’ve done.
If you’re a soft, sensitive person, does that mean you are too nice a guy for the fiercely competitive, dog-eat-dog world of professional tennis?
Oh, no. No. As I said, if I get inspired, if I want to compete, you cannot get an inch from me. I will give you absolutely nothing. And then after we play the match, I will say [to my opponent], I invite you to join me for the best dinner of your life. You are two different people, a professional tennis player and a normal human being. It doesn’t destroy your competitive hunger when you are a normal person off the court.
Unlike some players, you don't seem to argue over line calls. You once said, "If I have a bad line call, I'm upset for a few moments, and then I forget it.
I cannot blame the linespeople because they are human, too." How does someone who wants to win so much have such a sympathetic attitude? The linespeople are actually doing a job much harder than what we do. They go to work at 9 o’clock and umpire five, six matches a day. They get tired. They’re human.
We get tired from playing an hour and a half of tennis. Even though they are watching only one line, their mistake is only [by] one centimetre. I can’t blame someone for making a mistake like that. Sure, you get upset and think: How couldn’t he see this ball? But you realize they’re entitled to make a mistake just like you.
How is anyone going to judge [perfectly] the serve of Sampras or Ivanisevic or Philippoussis, or Yevgenys hard crosscourt? You cant. Last year Lindsay Davenport criticized the half-hearted play of Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Goran Ivanisevic, Marcelo Rios and other men players, saying: Those guys play 30 weeks a year, get paid 200 grand just to show up, and they don’t give a s--- in the first round. That happens way too much. Half the weeks they don’t even care.
Is Davenport right?
Oh, I love this question. I’ve got some news for Davenport. She should keep her mouth shut. Because she’s starting to piss off everybody. And not only on the men’s tour. I have friends on the women’s tour. But, is Davenport right? She’s not right! She’s jealous. I have no problems with her whatsoever. But I don’t understand how the No. 1 girl in the world, making a lot of money and doing what we do, can blame us for not trying. Has she lost her mind, or what? Who, in a normal state of mind, would come for the tournament and pick up 200 grand guarantees -- and, believe me, that [large sum] does not happen often -- and not try?
But last year Peter Kovarcik, director of the Czech Open, refused to give Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Goran Ivanisevic their six-figure appearance money after listless first-round defeats in which they didn’t run for gettable balls and were jeered by the crowd. Believe me that was the problem of the tournament director. I remember this case particularly well. Yevgeny was trying so hard to win this match as No. 1.
He became No. 1 in Prague, and he was playing the first round [match] against [Richard] Fromberg. He phoned me and said, Listen, I can’t lose anymore. I’ve lost six first-round matches in a row. I’m No. 1 and people are laughing at me. I’m going to try everything to win. Sure enough, he loses 6-4 in the third [set]. Was he tanking? No way!
You’ve earned about $10 million in prize money and endorsements during your career. Since Ukraine is one of Europe’s poorest countries, is it hard for you to fit in there?
No, because I would never show that I make a lot of money, especially to my people. I don’t make a big deal out of money. I respect and I’m grateful for the chance that life gave me. I really consider myself Russian and Ukrainian, and it’s hard to see the people there struggling because they earn $20 a month for working eight hours a day. All they can do is pay their rent, get some food and not much more. It’s very sad. No way am I going there and start throwing around money. Never.
Because I feel the emotions of the people. There have been a series of attacks on high-profile athletes -- such as Natalia Gorelova, Aleandru Curtianu and Maria Butyrskaya -- in Russian cities in the past year.
When you stay in Ukraine and Russia, are you worried about your safety?
I actually had some kidnapping threats at the end of last year. But normally people don’t come to you and say we want your money, or we want your life or anything like that. You must be doing something bad. I would bet that nine out of ten people who get in trouble, they did something personal, outside of sports that they had no right to do.
But you didn’t do anything wrong, and you were the victim of kidnapping threats.
Yeah but the point is, there are some mentally sick people anyway. To claim that in Russia, attacks on athletes have become common, that’s wrong. No way! You sound like you’re blaming the victim. Id say it’s their fault. Why? It makes sense because the difference between poor and rich people is very great in Russia and Ukraine.
There are lots of rich people, but the vast majority are very poor. If you are rich, that means you are a multi-millionaire. And if you are poor, you really have nothing. That creates jealousy. The point is, I would not get into cheap trouble. The kidnapping threats have been handled very professionally by our secret service. It turned it they were just flim-flam threats, nothing serious.
For several years you have helped several promising teenage players from the Ukraine. Would you please tell me about that?
Everything in my life revolves around tennis. My mother is a [tennis] coach. My stepfather is a coach. My sister was a professional player. When I come to Kiev, my parents talk about tennis all the time because they have students, players. They say, we have this young, promising kid, but his parents are poor.
He needs this and that. Of course, I help him. If one of 50 kids I help actually benefit from it and make it to the pro tour and earn a living there, I would be very proud of that. And I don’t want anything in return. It is my sympathy for my countrymen.
Specifically, what did you do for them?
I brought some of them to Germany and America and paid for their room and board and training. I have also organized clinics in Kiev and Moscow and given more than 500 Prince rackets to kids. Were planning more clinics with Fischer, my current racket sponsor.
Does Ukraine have a lot of tennis potential?
No, because the economic situation is very poor now. There aren’t enough stadiums, staff, balls, rackets -- not enough product. Because I’m the only [world-class] tennis player in Ukraine, people look up to me. But they also look up to great soccer guys, to Sergey Bubka, to our great gymnasts, the Klitschko boxing brothers. So they have a wide choice of sports, and tennis is the most expensive sport.
When the parents realize this, tennis loses out to other sports. Last year Shamil Tarpishchev, the new president of the Russian Tennis Federation, vowed: One of my main goals is to help tennis to become the number one sport in Russia and for Russia to be the number one tennis power in the world in the near future.''
Do you think Tarpishchev can achieve either or both goals
I think Tarpishchev has done a fantastic job for Russian tennis. Because he was the right-hand man of [former president Boris] Yeltsin, a lot of money went into tennis development. The Russian girls are playing better and better. The young guys are playing better, too, but it’s much harder to make it on the men’s tour. Imagine if tennis becomes the No. 1 sport in Russia, which has 220 million people.
They will have a lot of players in the Top 100 -- just like the United States and Spain -- and the Top 10 as well. Russia can dominate the tour, if not in five or 10 years, then in 20 years.
Who are the best girls?
Kournikova is not going to make the cut anymore. There are much prettier girls. (Laughter) They hit harder, they play better, and they have the instincts of winners. I would pick Lina [Krasnoroutskaya], instead of Kournikova.
ď On Nadal bumping him on the changeover, Rosol said: "It's ok, he wanted to take my concentration; I knew he would try something".
Wilander on Dimitrov - "He has mind set on imitating Federer and yes it looks good. But he has no idea what to do on the court".
Machado wins 6-2 6-1
I definitely would have preferred Gaba winning as he needs the points much more, but Jan would have beaten him anyway. I expect Hajek to destroy Machado, like 6-1 6-2.