Re: Gonzo Articles and News
2009 Press Conference
AAMI Classic 2009
13 January 2009
Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club.
JASON DUNSTALL: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome, one
and all to Kooyong, to meet the players for the 2009 AAMI
Classic. Without any further ado this morning, here is the
field for the 2009 AAMI Classic. Again, like every other
year, another star-studded lineup. We welcome Roger
Federer, Marcos Baghdatis, Fernando Gonzalez, Fernando
Verdasco, Marin Cilic, Carlos Moya, Stanislas Wawrinka and
Ivan Ljubicic.(Promotional video played). Certainly,
another wonderful array of talent, and we look forward to
another fantastic event this week. A very special welcome
this morning to Sue Jellie, the Executive Manager of AAMI,
and also John Bennetts, the Manager of Sponsorship, and our
friends at Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club, Tennis Australia and
Tennis Victoria. We welcome our event partners, the Seven
Network, Mercedes-Benz, IEC in Sports, Rolex,
Cadbury-Schweppes, Snap Printing, 3AW, Diadora, Peter
Rowland Major Events, Wilson, Nepenthe, Lanson, Vittoria
Coffee, and last but certainly not least, of course, a big
welcome to all our friends in the media who are in
attendance today. At this point of time I would call upon
the Executive Manager of AAMI, Sue Jellie, to say a few
SUE JELLIE: Thanks, Jason. Ian Hill, President of the Kooyong
Lawn Tennis Club, Colin Stubs, players and members of media,
AAMI is delighted to be able to sponsor the AAMI Classic,
and I extend a warm welcome to all of the players here today
who make this event one of the most enjoyable and relaxed
events - certainly from the spectators' perspective - on the
Australian tennis calendar. The quality of the players
participating is testament to the organisers of the event,
and may I take this opportunity to wish Ian and your
committee and Colin and your team all the very best over the
coming four days. AAMI has sponsored this event for the
past three years, and I am very pleased to announce that
this year's event marks the first year of a new three-year
sponsorship arrangement. To the players, welcome again, and
on behalf of AAMI may I wish you all the very best for the
week and also, of course, in your endeavours over the
following weeks in the Australian Open. Thank you.
JASON DUNSTALL: Thank you, Sue. I would now call upon the man who
puts it all together every year, of course, with the help of
a fabulous team behind him, to say a few words and also to
announce the draw for the 2009 AAMI Classic, Colin Stubs.
COLIN STUBS: Thanks, Jason. I would like to just take a minute to
acknowledge the support, the continued support, of Roger,
Marcos, Fernando - Gonzales, that is - and Ivan, and to also
welcome our new participants in Carlos, Marin, Fernando - as
in Verdasco - and Stanislas. I guess our hope is that when
you leave us at the end of the week you will go away feeling
that your AAMI Classic experience has provided you with the
best possible preparation for the Australian Open. We
certainly are aware of some issues, some challenges, that
we, as an event, are facing. I just want to assure you that
we stand ready to address those issues and are hopeful that
during the week I will be able to talk to each and every one
of you to get some views from you. I would also like to
take the opportunity to thank our major sponsor, AAMI - Sue
and John - a wonderful company to deal with, and I would
also like to thank Channel 7, who you may or may not know
are providing 15 hours of live telecast for this event and
facilitating a telecast internationally to, I think it is at
last count, 17 television stations. Down to business. The
draw for the event: in the top half we have got Roger
Federer versus Carlos Moya and Marin Cilic versus Fernando
Verdasco. In the bottom half, Stanislas Wawrinka versus
Marcos Baghdatis and Ivan Ljubicic versus Fernando Gonzalez.
The schedule for tomorrow: the first match, 11 a.m., Marcos
versus Stanislas, followed by Roger versus Carlos, followed
by Marin versus Fernando Verdasco, followed by Ivan versus
Fernando Gonzalez. Thank you.
JASON DUNSTALL: Thanks, Colin. Time now to hear from the players.
I will start with you, Marin, if I could. Just 20 years of
age; you have come off a fantastic year when you won your
first title last year, finished with a ranking of 29. You
won at Chennai this year, moved into the Top 20. You must
be extremely excited about the year ahead, particularly the
Australian Open, given you made it to the fourth round last
MARIN CILIC: I mean, last year was the best one in my career and
beginning of this year was also very good, winning the
Chennai Open and coming here with good tennis in myself and
feeling very confident for the Australian Open, and it is,
of course, my pleasure to be here and to be part of the long
tradition, and I am going to try to play my best tennis and
to enjoy my time over here.
JASON DUNSTALL: We are certainly looking forward to seeing you in
action. Marcos, you had a terrible run with injuries last
year. You played just the 12 tournaments. I am sure
everyone would like to see you back at your confident best.
MARCOS BAGHDATIS: I'm pretty fit. I worked hard this winter, I
had a bad year last year and I'm happy to be back on court
and play some tennis, and I hope I will do my best here and
also next the tournament, which is Aussie Open, to play my
best tennis and have fun.
JASON DUNSTALL: I am sure you will. Ivan, another one who had
some injury problems. You had an injury that sidelined you
for six months, all of the second half. Has that come up
again - they can be nasty things, the old backs.
IVAN LJUBICIC: Well, yeah, except my voice, that's fine. I'm
feeling healthy, I'm feeling good. First time I am playing
here without playing the first week, so it's a fantastic
opportunity for me to get my game in place. So yeah, I'm
feeling very good really, first event, so I'm really
excited, and hopefully the year is going to be better than
last year when I didn't play in the second half.
JASON DUNSTALL: Also congratulations on becoming a father, I think
only three months or so ago. Roger, on a slightly different
note, you were elected to the ATP Player Council for a
two-year term. What are the priorities or the biggest
challenges facing the players, as you see them.
ROGER FEDERER: Well, there is quite a few, but I have been working
very closely with Ivan, you know, obviously, who is also on
the Board. I think the players have really sort of rallied
together, have come together trying to make a positive
difference in the game. A new CE coming, so that's an
exciting thing. I hope that, because the players are more
active today than ever, I think that is only going to help
the game, and I am very excited about the future.
JASON DUNSTALL: Stanislas, you broke into the Top 10 for the first
time in June last year. What are the goals for 2009 - is it
all about consolidating a Top 10 place?
STANISLAS WAWRINKA: Of course, was my best year, but I hope this
year to be in the Masters, but I know it is going to be very
difficult. But that's my goal for 2009.
JASON DUNSTALL: Ladies and gentlemen, we are going to open up for
questions from the floor, so don't be shy. We want this to
move as quickly and smoothly as possible, so if you have got
questions fire them away to the players.
Q. Roger, how does it feel not to be the defending champion in
the Australian Open this year?
ROGER FEDERER: I've had the feeling a few times before, you know.
It's not the first time, but I'm always, you know, really
happy coming Down Under. I`love playing here, I'm always
very successful, you know. I have reached semi-finals or
better the last few times, so it has always been very good
for me here, and I'm still coming off winning the US Open
last year, so I hope I can carry that form over the year
ahead to the next Grand Slam - they are hard courts here in
Australia. But, you know, a new year; you never know what
is going to happen. Many guys want the same thing like I do
and want to win a tournament.
Q. Obviously, last year you couldn't play here; physically,
how do you feel?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, better, you know. I mean, I am feeling
really good, you know. The back problem is in the past from
the end of last year; sickness as well, same thing. I was
feeling quite bad here last year. That's why,
unfortunately, I couldn't play here at the AAMI Classic.
That's why I'm really happy to be part of it this time
around again. It's a great tournament. I love playing
here. It has always been a good preparation for me to play
here well at the Australian Open, and I hope it's going to
work again this time around.
Q. Roger, you pointed out yesterday at the airport, when you
arrived, that Andy Murray has yet to win a Grand Slam. Are
you surprised that he is favourite for the tournament?
ROGER FEDERER: Who said that?
Q. That's what the bookies say.
ROGER FEDERER: The bookies, okay.
Q. He's one of the favourites.
ROGER FEDERER: Good for him. I mean, it doesn't help him a whole
lot. You know, I've been in that position before as well
and didn't make it before as well, 2005 or 6 or whenever it
was. But look, he has put himself into a great position.
He started off well, playing well in Doha, finished strong
last year, but it still does surprise me that the bookies
say that, because he has never won a Slam, nor is he
defending champion here. It's surprising to hear, but we'll
see what happens.
Q. Roger, what is the priority this year? Is it continuing to
win Slams, or is getting that No.1 ranking back the main
ROGER FEDERER: Well, good proposition. You know, it sort of goes
hand in hand. Of course, I have high hopes and I hope I can
play well from the start, taking hopefully a good Australian
Open into the rest of the season but, you know, records are
really close now, you know, trying to equal Pete Sampras'
record of 14, so we will see what happens this week, the
next couple of weeks, see how it goes.
Q. Are you feeling any extra pressure, given you are now
within the one Slam of doing that?
ROGER FEDERER: Not really. You know, I felt quite a bit of
pressure when I reached six or seven Grand Slams, and then
trying to keep it up, everybody was expecting me to win
every single tournament I entered, almost. So that has gone
away a little bit, which has been a bit of a relief
actually. It has been quite nice and I am just enjoying
myself. I love this game so much, but I'm still feeling
very motivated for a long time and I love playing against
all these guys. Some of them are very good friends of mine
as well, and we will see how it goes. But honestly, I don't
feel the whole lot of pressure that I felt at the beginning
of my career too much probably.
Q. Ivan, do you really think that with the new changes in the
point system it will be much harder for the lower-ranked
IVAN LJUBICIC: No, I don't think so. We will see throughout the
year how the system is going to work. It is going to be
really different in 2009 for the ranking because there is
going to be a lot of changes. But at the end of the year I
think the idea is to make it more easy for the fans to
understand. But I think if you play well you are going to
be well ranked; if you don't play well, you don't deserve to
be up there. So I don't think it's really going to make
that much difference.
Q. Carlos, you've got Roger first up. I think you are 0 and 7
against Roger. Does that concern you?
CAROLS MOYA: Actually, it is 1 and 7 because I beat him in doubles
two years ago. I won a set once in practice. I just want
to set that right. It's not an easy start, of course, but
there are many good players here. You cannot get an easy
start. Still, I hope I am going to play a good match and
maybe it is one of my last chances to beat him but, you
know, I try to enjoy. Always to play him is a great feeling
and, you know, hopefully I try to have fun and enjoy it out
on the court, which is most important for me right now.
Q. Carlos, Rafael hasn't been able to win in Australia as yet.
I think he has improved every year, he has gone closer and
closer. Is there reason - you know, does he need a lot of
matches before he plays a Grand Slam to find his peak?
CARLOS MOYA: No, I don't think so. I think he proved last year
that he can play well, even not playing many matches. But
he lost a quarter-final last week, which is the first round
of season. He was coming from two months and a half just
practicing and resting and, you know, those results are
normal first week, so you don't know what can happen. But,
for sure, he is going to be ready for this week. He had an
unbelievable year last year and is very motivated, so
obviously he is one of the hot contenders to win the title.
JASON DUNSTALL: Fernando Verdasco, if I could: you had your best
year on tour last year, breaking into the Top 20 for the
first time. It was amazing heroics to win the Davis Cup,
which must have been a great thrill for you. How are your
confidence levels in terms of this week's preparation and
heading into the Australian Open.
FERNANDO VERDASCO: Yes. The Davis Cup, for me, was amazing, my
best experience all my life and, of course, you know, I am
feeling so good and with a lot of motivation for this year,
so I will try to have the best year in my career. I am so
happy also to be here, it is my first time, and to be with
all these players to prepare good for the Australian Open.
Before, I didn't feel so good, and I hope to play better
JASON DUNSTALL: Well, you started in good form because you had a
great week in Brisbane, so you must be happy with the way
you are playing.
FERNANDO VERDASCO: Yes. I was playing really good the first week
of the year, and I will be trying to play the same and
enjoying the tournament.
Q. Roger, some players opt to take the week off, they don't
play any tournaments so close to the Open. Why do you
continuously come back to a tournament like Kooyong?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, usually before Grand Slams you take it easy
or you practice, that is all you do. But this is a
different type of approach here because we are all lacking
matches at the beginning of the season, everybody is looking
for matches. Of course, we do play matches in practice, but
it's not the same - you don't have linespeople, you don't
have fans, we don't you have the umpires - it is a different
mindset. It's more serious when you come out on the match
court, like here at Kooyong, whereas if I go into the French
Open or Wimbledon or Paris I don't need any matches. That's
why I can just sort of take it easy. But this is a
different approach and it has served me well, you know. I
have benefited from this type of preparation. But I know it
is also possible to do it differently, but I kind of like
being in Melbourne already the week before the Australian
Open so I can settle and get used to the conditions.
Q. Roger, can you please takes us through your whole
preparation? What did you get out of Abu Dhabi and then
Doha and also this year, and finally, do you think you are
ready now for the Australian Open, to peak, that is what
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I like to be able to peak at the Australian
Open. It's just a matter of getting into the tournament,
winning the first couple of rounds and see how it goes if
the preparation is good. Jose Higueras and the Davis Cup
captain was there as well, and a lot of fitness training. I
also needed a rest badly after the long season we had. I
played at Abu Dhabi and Doha in the Middle East. It was a
lot of fun, I played pretty good and I arrived here feeling
actually not too tired, which I am happy about. I will go
out and practice this afternoon and I should be ready for
tomorrow to play Carlos.
Q. Marcos, I think you said last week you weren't completely
match fit in Brisbane. How do you feel about it going to
be 39 degrees tomorrow? How does that make you feel?
MARCOS BAGHDATIS: I will see on court, I will see tomorrow on
court. But I feel okay. I had some leg problem in
Brisbane. I had pain on the - -
ROGER FEDERER: Thigh.
MARCOS BAGHDATIS: Thigh, yes. So that's all. I had some pain
there. Now it's feeling better. I got some three days'
practice here. I arrived here on Friday, so we will see how
it goes tomorrow.
Q. And it does still feel a good place to come, Australia? Is
it a good place to start, to come back from injury?
MARCOS BAGHDATIS: Yes, I am very happy to be here, especially back
on court, and I am happy to be back in Australia and play
JASON DUNSTALL: Fernando Gonzalez, another great year for you;
your fourth consecutive year in the Top 15, and a silver
medal at the Beijing Olympics, but I don't think we've seen
you in action yet in 2009. How is your preparation going.
FERNANDO GONZALEZ: It was the best preparation I ever had because
I took a long vacation, so I am really mentally rested and I
was at home for three months - I didn't do that for maybe
eight years - so I am really happy, I am really fit and I am
looking forward for this season.
Q. What was the reason for the vacation?
FERNANDO GONZALEZ: I was really tired, mentally, physically. I
wanted to spend time at home with my friends and with
everyone, so that's why I did it. I quit the season before
and I think it was a good decision.
JASON DUNSTALL: Final questions, ladies and gentlemen.
Q. Roger, I am sorry to have come back to Andy Murray. But
basically over the last year he seems to have closed the
gap on you. Where do you think his strength is?
ROGER FEDERER: Where his strength is.
Q. Yes. What has he strengthened over the last year, where he
ROGER FEDERER: I just think he got used to playing at a high level
consistently. Before, he was very up and down, you know.
He had some early losses, you know. I guess if he would
have had an easier draw at the Australian Open he would have
been able to go further here, but because he lost early in
Australia, we only kind of heard of Andy later on, and the
French Open is not going to be his favourite Grand Slam so
it only came up in Wimbledon basically, six months later,
but I think he has shown now he is knocking on the door, he
has been able to make his move, he is a good all-round
player, he has good tactics, he has become very confident
and you can see that every time.
Q. He didn't win any Grand Slams last year. Do you see him
ROGER FEDERER: Sure. He has put himself into a winning position;
but still, winning a Grand Slam is a different animal. Not
many guys have been able to win Grand Slams in the last
years. Rapha won, Marat won here a few years ago, but you
know, it doesn't happen that easy. They don't come easily.
That's why I guess he has got a chance, like many other
Q. Marin, your preparation this year, can you take us through
that and how you are feeling coming into this tournament?
MARIN CILIC: I had six weeks preparation and I was three weeks at
home in Croatia and three weeks with Bob Brett in San Remo,
which was pretty good. So it was obviously pretty good
preparation playing the last week, and here I came to have
one more week of preparation, a few more matches before the
Australian; so I am feeling okay, physically very well, and
I hope I am going to be prepared very good for the Australia
Q. And Stanislas, could you just give me some idea - Roger has
obviously been a great influence to you. Are you moving
out of his shadow now, and where do you feel you are
heading going into the Open?
STANISLAS WAWRINKA: You know, last year was very nice. I have a
good relation with Roger. We go ourselves together to the
tournament. Every off season on the tour itself I have five
weeks preparation with my trainer and my coach, and it was
nice, and I am happy to be back on the tournament and to be
ready for the Australian Open, and to be here for the first
time I think is good preparation before the Australian Open.
Q. What is it like having Roger as a partner and what did you
learn from him? Obviously, you won a gold medal, but what
sort of things did you learn from him?
MARIN CILIC: Yes. You can learn a lot of things when you are
practicing with the No. 1 a lot of the time, but I think to
have the chance to play with him in the doubles in the
Olympics it was the best week of 2008, and to win the gold
medal I was very happy.
Q. Fernando, what is it like to have Ana as a partner?
FERNANDO GONZALEZ: Good question. I am here, like I said, to play
tennis, and my private life, I don't want to speak about it.
Q. Roger, you mentioned Jose Higueras before. What is your
coaching situation on a permanent basis?
ROGER FEDERER: The Davis Cup captain, he is my coach. He travels
with me every week now. He basically did that last year as
well, but Jose came in once in a while, you know, for the
clay, and later on he came to the States, and now for the
preparation for this year. But he is going to start with
the USTA in the States now, so our relationship is over, but
it was a good one. I was very happy working with him. He
taught me some good things, but I am continuing with the
Davis Cup captain in Switzerland now.
Q. So he will do both roles, the captaincy and you?
ROGER FEDERER: Yes.
JASON DUNSTALL: Is there a final question, ladies and gentlemen,
before we wrap things up.
Q. Ivan, how do you feel about having a Slam so early in the
year in such heat?
IVAN LJUBICIC: I feel warm. I mean, this is what it is. I mean,
we have to get used to it. Obviously, I think it would be
much better if it was a couple of weeks later, maybe all of
us could have some matches before and really show our best
tennis for the Slam. But this is why Australian Open is
unique. We have seen a lot of upsets in the past and I
think this is what the people also like to see also a little
bit - different players in the finals and the semi-finals,
so it has its own unique style, the Australian, and that is,
I think, something that we all feel like, we who are not
favourites, we feel like we have a chance, maybe the best
chance, the Australian, because that is where the upsets
were happening more often than somewhere else, so it also
has something special about it.
JASON DUNSTALL: All right, ladies and gentlemen, that just about
wraps things up. We certainly thank the players for their
time this morning, and we wish them all the best for this
week, and of course heading in to the Australian Open, the
first Grand Slam of the year.
* * *
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