Interview with the French Team
Paul-Henri, I know it's not easy for you, but can you tell the story of the match? How did you feel in the beginning?
PAUL-HENRI MATHIEU: In the beginning of the match, it was all right. I was trying to be into the match immediately. It was not easy, though. With all the crowd, it was quite difficult. But I succeeded in getting into the match early. But after, it changed, and I don't know why.
Before going onto the court, you were in the locker rooms with Thierry. How did it happen?
PAUL-HENRI MATHIEU: We talked a lot, we walked a bit outside. It was long to wait. But it's part of it.
After the beginning was great, you were up, how did it turn around?
PAUL-HENRI MATHIEU: I believe he started playing a lot better, and I was more defensive. But the difference was very little.
Were you surprised by what he was able to do?
PAUL-HENRI MATHIEU: Yes. It's true, he's a good player. He's not a zero.
How long have you known you were going to play the match?
PAUL-HENRI MATHIEU: Last night.
But against Youzhny?
PAUL-HENRI MATHIEU: Well, last night I thought it was Kafelnikov. It was just this morning I knew it was Youzhny.
How did you feel your game compared with Friday?
PAUL-HENRI MATHIEU: I played better than Friday during the first two sets. I felt better.
Sebastien, Fabrice and Nico, you have more experiences. Some are happy, some are sad. What can you say to Paul-Henri to make him feel better?
NICOLAS ESCUDE: The only thing we can say is, "That's sport." There are happy days and bad days. Given the potential and the state of mind we are in, all of us, we certainly do not have to stop after this loss. Last year we had luck.
But Paul-Henri really doesn't have to regret anything about today. He proved with his past that he's a great player. I'm sure in the following years, he will be top in France.
Sebastien, you're the last French player who played Youzhny before Paul-Henri. Were you surprised at the level of his game in the third set?
SEBASTIEN GROSJEAN: It's true he didn't start off well. But the more the match was going along, the better he was playing. He was very surprising in the end. I think he really took his chances. He took more chances than when I played him.
Can you tell us how you felt when there was this changeover in the situation, Fabrice?
FABRICE SANTORO: Well, in the beginning, Paul-Henri seemed to be up. He didn't have any letdown at all. But Youzhny raised his game considerably. It was his day today, I believe, simply.
Fabrice, you said you had the possibility of putting an end to your career tonight. What do you think?
FABRICE SANTORO: It's too beautiful to do that. I'll continue.
Was it more difficult, this match, or in Sopot? What tactics did you choose?
PAUL-HENRI MATHIEU: I was not thinking about tactics. I was trying to play my game. In Sopot, I was not in very good condition to play the match, so it was more difficult.
Paul-Henri, your 2002 season was beautiful. This loss, is it spoiling it all?
PAUL-HENRI MATHIEU: It's a strange question. A loss is very difficult to digest already. It's the end of the season. Now we lost and that's it. It's not bad. We are going to bounce back.
Discovering the Davis Cup, does it make you feel you want to play it again or, on the contrary, are you disgusted?
PAUL-HENRI MATHIEU: How can you be disgusted after such an atmosphere? It's an incredible atmosphere. We are all together, all united. I can't believe we can be disgusted. It doesn't exist.
Paul-Henri, can you tell us what the other players told you, Guy Forget especially, after the match? What were their words?
PAUL-HENRI MATHIEU: They told me I did everything I could, I tried everything. But, of course, the truth is that I'm disappointed.
You requested the support of the crowd in the beginning a lot. After did you feel it was less present?
PAUL-HENRI MATHIEU: No, I didn't miss the support of the public. I believe they were behind me until the last point.
Which match was more difficult, Safin or Youzhny?
PAUL-HENRI MATHIEU: They were two completely different matches. Safin was my first match. This one was a decisive match, so it's completely different.
We are here on a difficult loss. If we look at the three days, we can realize that Safin was very impressive. We had the impression he was even better on clay than on hard courts. Did you also have the same impression?
SEBASTIEN GROSJEAN: I think on fast surfaces, he beat No. 1 in the world in three straight sets. It's not a problem of surface really, it's just his level of game that was impressive during three days. The same during Bercy, on a different surface, fast surface. When Safin is confident, when he wants to play well, he can beat the best players in the world. Also Lleyton suffered from it in the finals in Bercy.
A. If the captain wouldn't have changed Kafelnikov, would you have changed Mathieu?
CAPTAIN FORGET: Mathieu was going to play anyway. Whether it was Kafelnikov or Youzhny, Paul-Henri was going to play that match.
Guy, after this loss, what is going to happen now? You worked together for two weeks. It's going to be difficult. You are going to be separated. Do you intend to stay in contact with the players to support them mentally, morally?
CAPTAIN FORGET: Yes, of course, we'll be in contact. I think our strength is this strong relationship we have all together. Today we are deeply touched because we really believed in it. When we want to reach a dream for the second time, you want it to come true, when you try so hard, you are so close to achieving it, it makes things very difficult to live with afterwards.
But this doesn't change at all the relationship we all have together. This is going to help us to overcome this loss and to start again next year with the same faith and the same motivation.
Why did the match change, in your opinion?
CAPTAIN FORGET: There are many little things. I was taking notes during the match. I know why Paul-Henri lost, and it's difficult to talk about it right now because he gave everything mentally and physically. He was very strong in his mind, in my opinion. Today the only thing he was lacking were technical things. He could have done different things on the court. He's not able to do them yet. He needs to work on it still a bit more, to have a more complete game. To win that kind of match at a certain time you need to be a bit stronger. It's not in the mind or physically, but it's just to be able to play a certain number of cards that he wasn't able to use today.
You said yesterday you were very tired. You said it was for Sebastien to try to win the first match. Can you sum up those three days?
CAPTAIN FORGET: I think each player and myself live things differently because I have no physical effort to make. I go to the warm-up of the first one, I go to the warm-up of the second one, I stay there during the matches. If you lived the doubles, as I did, which was very stressful, you are sitting down in a chair experiencing a match without being able to hold a racquet in your hands. It's very difficult.
I really believed in it, because I thought things were going well. Even when Sebastien was down 2-Love, I thought he could have won the third set. Marat was not playing as well in the end. He was starting to be nervous, to be annoyed. I would really have liked a fourth set. It would have been a completely different match. This didn't happen, so that was one disappointment. Then I had to start again with Paul-Henri.
He started beautifully, playing well. But the other one was cracking down. At 2-Love you start believing it, you think it's going to be too difficult for the other one to come back. Suddenly, things change over. There's one, two, three games, a set. You have to keep on going. Once Paul-Henri got broken, then he broke back. I was thinking, "It's not possible, it's not going to happen this way." All during the match I believed, "No, no, no, be positive, kill him." I showed him the direction to follow. I tried to put forth his qualities to congratulate him. Certain things he was doing were a bit average, so I was spending my time to repeat the same things.
Suddenly in the end when it's over, you feel a big weight on your shoulders. That's the role of the captain. Unfortunately, it's sometimes like that in sport.
Were you more surprised of the mental attitude of Safin or of Youzhny? It's the second time you've lost on clay at home. Do you have something to say about the choice of the surface?
CAPTAIN FORGET: I think both Safin and Youzhny were very strong mentally. It's more normal for Marat because he already won the US Open. But it's more surprising with Youzhny because he's young, like Paul-Henri, and he showed enormous mental qualities. Both of them were very strong in different aspects.
But I believe the loss against Australia can be explained because many errors were committed before the match. But this time we made no mistakes. What I regret, of course, is that Arnaud Clement was hurt. Maybe with his experience, his game, he could have been able to pose problems to Youzhny a bit more with his experience. We knew that on paper the Russians were stronger than we were, and it was a difference of two points only.
To come back to the two matches today, isn't it the first match that gives you more regrets?
CAPTAIN FORGET: For two sets, Marat was playing well. Sometimes I was watching Fabrice behind me. I was sort of thinking, "What can I say to Sebastien?" I couldn't see what he could do better. This is frustrating when you are on a court with a player who is playing well and it's not enough. What can you say more? It's a bit like a Formula 1 driver who has the best car, and he does his best round after round, he just has to expect an accident for the other ones.
Friday you said you didn't want to give too much advice to Paul-Henri. Today you spoke a lot to him. Wasn't it destabilizing for him?
CAPTAIN FORGET: We talked tactics before the match. During the match, he had difficulties respecting the tactics. It was not his fault because what happened was not scheduled beforehand. What I was telling him is just recalling to him what we had said before. It was a sort of internal fight within himself. He was able to face it.
In the end, he got excited, he was going beyond his normal level. I told him to take his time, to calm down because I knew he had trouble. He was watching me more and more. When someone watches you like that, you have to be able to say simple things, things that do you good, that are comforting.
So Paul-Henri is a player you want to see again?
CAPTAIN FORGET: Yes, absolutely.
Good luck to:
Nicolas Escude, Gustavo Kuerten, Arnaud Clement, Roger Federer, Sebastien Grosjean, Carlos Moya, Marat Safin, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Paul-Henri Mathieu, Marcelo Rios, Richard Gasquet, Fabrice Santoro, Alex Corretja, Xavier Malisse, Juan Ignacio Chela, Tommy Robredo, Max Mirnyi, Ivan Ljubicic, Gaston Gaudio, Paradorn Srichaphan, Yeu-Tzuoo Wang, Yen-Hsun Lu and many many more!