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Interviews with Xavier

Wimbledon 2002

Day 5

X. Malisse/Y. Kafelnikov 7-6, 7-5, 6-1

THE MODERATOR: Who would like to start.

Q. How, bearing in mind the results that have gone on in the last couple of days, how confident were you of putting out someone?

XAVIER MALISSE: Well, I knew I had a chance obviously. On paper he has to win. But there's been so many upset, which means anybody can beat anybody these days. And, you know, I knew it was going to be very tough but I definitely gave myself a chance. And, you know, winning the first set definitely made me a lot more confident of going, you know, keep going for it. You know, as soon as you walk on the court, you have your chance. You know, that's with every match I think.

Q. When did you make the difference?

XAVIER MALISSE: I think we played a lot of rallies and I think he just made always one more mistake than I did. We had some tight games and I always got out of it good. I think we both played a little bit the same the first two sets. There wasn't really too much difference. I had some good passing shots which kept me in there, and I think from the third set on it was just -- only needed one break. Then I felt pretty confident of going through because he wasn't going to try as hard anymore probably.

Q. You were more patient than him? He was making a mistake every time. You were more patient than him?

XAVIER MALISSE: I think so. I think overall I knew it was going to be a mental battle to not break, you know, in the head. And I think that's what it was. There wasn't much patience. Sometimes I think he went for too much maybe. But overall, I think it was just the same game a little bit. Just every chance, make two or three points more than he did, and that made a difference.

Q. Centre Court feeling, is it quite different from Paris?

XAVIER MALISSE: Yeah, it's totally different. In Paris it's huge and there's so much space around the court. Here it's more -- the people are more involved, they're closer to the court and it's really nice. They're just so close. Centre Court, it's big stadium, but the court doesn't feel as huge. And it was a great feeling. Also we warmed up and it was noisy. As soon as you hit the first ball, everybody gets really quiet, which was an unbelievable feeling. And I think, you know, it's easy to play here. There's less noise and more concentration on the game.

Q.Do you experience the applause then?

XAVIER MALISSE: Yeah, you hear it better. In the French it's so big, it's all the way upstairs, you know, can't even see the people upstairs I think. Here it's more intimate, the players and the fans are closer to each other, less noise. And I think, you know, this is, yeah, definitely an unbelievable Centre Court.

Q. Some tennis players say that it's a kind of magic place. Have you had the same feeling?

XAVIER MALISSE: Yeah. When I walked on, I was impressed, that's for sure. And it's just -- you're really into it, together with the fans, you know. And it's different than other centre courts, I think - French, US Open, Australian Open is also big, it's also big but a little smaller in one way. It is a different feeling. I had the luck to have that feeling, and, you know, it doesn't happen very much and, you know, it's definitely a really good experience.

Q.There's a possibility that you may be back on Centre Court if Greg comes through his round. Would you prefer to play a British player or do you prefer to keep the crowd more neutral by playing someone who isn't from home?

XAVIER MALISSE: Well, for me myself, it's probably nicer, you know, when the crowd is maybe neutral. But then again, you know, if it's against Greg, then there will be a lot of people, they'll go crazy, which is a good feeling too. It's just nice to be out there and to sense that great feeling. But it doesn't really matter, you know, somebody has to win, and it doesn't have -- how the outcome is. Just I'll be playing my own game and see how that goes, take two days of rest, practice a little bit and, you know, just try to do my best on Monday.

Q. Although you haven't been very far in Grand Slam tournaments, you've beaten players who have. You've beaten a Grand Slam winner today. The draw's opened up. You must be hopeful that you can reach the latter stages I would think.

XAVIER MALISSE: Yeah. I think, well, the draw's opened up really a lot. Not now, not for me in the next round, but maybe after, if I do, if I can get a win out of it, then it opens up. And, you know, this is basically anybody's tournament. You know, all the favorites before the tournament, they're probably all out almost. So it's just, you know, this is anybody's game. And this is -- you know, if somebody wants to win it from the outside, this is the year to do it. And I think, you know, I got my confidence. Everything's going well. But I have to take it one match at a time. And we'll just see how that goes. We'll just -- I'll just do my best on Monday and see how far that brings me.

Day 8

X. MALISSE/G. Rusedski 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4

MODERATOR: Good afternoon. Xavier Malisse. First question, please.

Q. When you were young, you went through all those crazy things - the colored hair, the people telling you how brilliant you were going to be, had a future that couldn't miss. But it did miss for a while. When in your life did you decide you needed to become a more serious tennis player, nothing would be handed to you?

XAVIER MALISSE: Well, I think I missed '99 and 2000 a little bit. Then at the end of the 2000, around October, I told myself I've got to give myself a shot at it. Everybody was talking and saying I had talent, but I wasn't really working hard. So I think about October 2000 I started practicing more. I went to Florida on November, December and practiced a lot. 2001, I had a different mindset. You know, just tried to do something different, too. I had to play quallies, got through the quallies three, four tournaments. I think it all started there, you know. Started off well, then, you know, it was down for two years, then, you know, since the beginning 2001, everything's been going really well.

Q. How did you sleep last night? How did you handle this situation, which was I think pretty new to you?

XAVIER MALISSE: Yeah, I've never had this before. It was a little bit tough. I mean, you're thinking about it. Obviously, I was thinking about more when I get up than when I went to bed. Yeah, it was different. But, you know, there's two players. It's the same for him, I was thinking. So it didn't really bother me. Once I got out on the court, it was just all about tennis again. But, you know, I slept fine.

Q. Would you have liked to continue yesterday evening? You seemed on a roll.

XAVIER MALISSE: I think I played really well in the fourth set. It was getting a little colder, so his serve, I could handle it a little bit better. Of course, you never know what was going to happen yesterday. I could have lost 6-Love, I could have won. You never know. You know, it's just how it is, and you got to accept it. I think that's what I did yesterday.

Q. Could you go through that crazy point yesterday, the between the legs, how it ended? Disappointment.

XAVIER MALISSE: I think it was a good rally. Took a little dropshot; I don't know if you'd call it a volley afterwards; then he lobbed. Well, I had no more chance. The only chance I had was hitting it hard. It clipped the net a little bit. I saw it on TV at night. I don't know. I'm not going to say much.

Q. Would you like him to call that on himself?

XAVIER MALISSE: Well, I don't know. I don't know the rules for that. Obviously, he touched it twice. I think he even tried to hit it afterwards, too. But then he seen it was going over. I couldn't get back in time. I could understand he didn't see it, but it's easy to see in slow motion. But in reality it looks like one motion. It all goes quick. You know, it's just a call. I just was arguing. I needed a little time because I was tired. I knew I wasn't going to change the call, but discussed a little bit to get my rest helped.

Q. Have you forgiven the umpire?

XAVIER MALISSE: I mean, forgiven? I don't know. I mean, it's the way it is. You know, it's not my call. You know, it doesn't change. His mind is set, it's set. You just keep going. Yeah, I've forgiven. That's the way it is. Everybody makes mistakes. We do, they do. Sometimes one's worse than the others. You've got to accept it.

Q. You think these results on grass are because you use instincts, on the other surface you have maybe too many options, have to think too much?

XAVIER MALISSE: Yeah, maybe. Because, like, I played Kafelnikov. My first two matches were baseline rallies, which I feel good on my other matches. Blanco, he started coming in more. With Greg, I think it gives me a target that I have to pass him. He comes so much to the net. Yeah, maybe I concentrate more because I need to hit the shot. You know, I feel good on all surfaces. Maybe I wasn't expecting to get to the quarters. But, you know, I feel good on grass, and every match is going better and better. So everything is going well.

Q. You must wish you could play against British players every week.

XAVIER MALISSE: How that is?

Q. You have a good record against British players. Beaten Tim twice in the year. Have we done something to upset you?

XAVIER MALISSE: No, no. It doesn't matter which nationality. I think you go out there and just give it a shot, you know. There's a lot more years, though. They can get back at me, as well.

Q. What gave you the edge over Rusedski, do you think?

XAVIER MALISSE: I knew on breakpoint if I got it back, he would get a little tight, and that's what my plan was, too. Sooner or later, he gets a chance or I get a chance. I knew if I got it back in play and moved around, then he sometimes takes his eye off the ball, looks at the play, where he's going. That's exactly what I did. I got it back in play, and he missed an easy volley, which he normally would always put away. You know, I think that's one of the main reasons.

Q. Is that the pressure of Wimbledon or is that part of his game that all players think about is perhaps suspect?

XAVIER MALISSE: I think it's the pressure, you know. Maybe I would do the same. I had a lot of pressure on the last game. I hit two balls that I shouldn't miss. You know, it's just the pressure. It's one set, everything or nothing, to go to the quarters. You know, everybody's going to be tight. It's I guess the one who handles it.

Q. Can you go through your coaching situation, how you got from Felgate?

XAVIER MALISSE: I started with David in I think March 2001. With David, it was perfect. Everything was really well. He brought me to 30, 27. He taught me a lot about the game mentally. But David chose to go. You know, he hadn't seen his kids in 10 years, traveling with Tim. And he wanted to be with his family which, you know, you've got to have respect for that. So it was time for me to look for somebody else. I was a little bit with myself. I think in January I started with Dean. It was working great, but he just had a baby who was five months old. He also wanted to be a lot with his baby. For me, I need a coach who is full-time with me, every tournament. You know, everything was working well, it just wasn't the right timing. Then I think asked Craig. I've known him from Bollettieri's. We've talked as friends. Obviously, he knows the game, on grass, too. We started at Queen's. You know, this is -- you know, in the beginning, new personalities have to fit off and on the court. You know, it's going perfect. We're the same type. He helps me a lot on the court, helps improving my game. He's very calm, too. I think off the court, we really get along. You know, we laugh a lot, we understand each other. So I think this is looking really good.

Q. Has he been coaching anybody since Martina?

XAVIER MALISSE: I think a little bit Pierce at the time. I don't know, all women. So, you know, it's a little different. But I have a ponytail, so it looks like a woman (laughter).

Day 12

D. NALBANDIAN/X. Malisse 7-6, 6-4, 1-6, 2-6, 6-2

MODERATOR: First question, please.

Q. How was your health today? Were you feeling all right?

XAVIER MALISSE: Yeah. Everything was fine. Everything -- everything was normal, as always.

Q. Where did it all go wrong then?

XAVIER MALISSE: Well, I think yesterday in the beginning I didn't play my best. A little stressed. After the rain, it got a little easier. I was more relaxed. And I think today I was just a little bit too stressed. I wasn't really thinking about just having fun; I was thinking about winning. You know, it's unfortunate, maybe, after I was playing really well, and it became dark. You know, that comes with it. That's sport. But, you know, who knows. But today, you know, it's for both the same. You know, I made more mistakes.

Q. When you broke serve to go 2-1 up, how hopeful were you then?

XAVIER MALISSE: Well, I mean, I hadn't -- I didn't play my best three games. You know, I got a break. I was pretty hopeful. I felt like pretty confident. But, you know, I lost my serve on Love, and then I got broke again. You know, that hurts, especially in a five-setter, such a long match. But, you know, he played well. He probably kept his nerve just a little better than I did, and that's why he's going through.

Q. You talk about having fun. But is thinking about winning not a necessary part of being in a Grand Slam semifinal?

XAVIER MALISSE: Yeah, no, it's definitely you think about it. You want to win. You think about winning. But I think once you think about it too much, you're not having fun anymore; you're just too stressful every point. At least for me, I don't know about other players. But, you know, for me, it's most of -- you know, if I have fun, then the winning comes by itself. You know, I think I was just a little too tense today.

Q. Did you have a choice of which court to play on today?

XAVIER MALISSE: No. We had to finish on the court we started on.

Q. What chance do you give David beating Lleyton Hewitt tomorrow? What would he have to do to beat him?

XAVIER MALISSE: Well, he'll have to play really well. Lleyton's No. 1. He's playing really well. He's confident. But it will be a lot from the baseline again. You know, he has his chance, but it will be very tough. You know, on paper, everybody thinks, you know, Lleyton's going to win. You know, we'll see. Maybe there will be a surprise. But it should be, you know, Lleyton.

Q. Do you honestly believe he has the game to beat Lleyton, particularly that he plays from the back court?

XAVIER MALISSE: Yeah, I mean, you know, you never know what happens with baseline rallies on grass. You know, he might have a super day, Lleyton might have a little bit of a less day. You know, everything can change really quickly in a couple of games. So, you know, once you get on the court, it's 50/50 for the players. You know, we'll see how they do.

Q. Were you surprised the way David played today in comparison how he finished the match yesterday?

XAVIER MALISSE: Yeah, he came out really strong. He made a couple mistakes, but not too many. He served really well, got my serve back. You know, he came out really well, and that's probably why, you know, he deserves to be in the final.

Q. And what about you, because you started your first game, you got three aces, but then it seemed the serve didn't work as well as last night?

XAVIER MALISSE: Yeah, I got -- I think last night I was much more loose after being two sets to Love down, you know, you have nothing to lose anymore, you can go for your shots. You know, I was playing really, really well towards the end. You know, darkness didn't help me very much. And today, I think after I broke, I got a little too tense. You know, you start thinking about winning, and that's where it goes wrong.

Q. A lot of people have talked about the heart problem. Is it a major problem? Is it the kind of thing that come back or is it something that hit you hard yesterday?

MODERATOR: Can we just leave the questions on the health, please. I think Xavier has indicated he's fine and well. If we can just have some tennis questions, please.

Q. Can he not speak for himself? If he doesn't want to answer, he can say that.

XAVIER MALISSE: Well, I'll say one thing. You know, it's not -- you know, it's not -- it's blown out of proportion. You know, I was stressed yesterday. I get it sometimes when I'm really stressed. You know, my heart beats faster. You know, I went off the court. They talked to me. You know, obviously I know my body. I know how it feels. You know, I've had it before. It happened twice in the set because I was really tense. And it proved also when I came back out later, you know, nothing happened. So it's nothing, you know, nothing serious. It's just fast heart beatings, and everything else is normal.

Q. It's true that the doctors told you not to come back to the court?

XAVIER MALISSE: Yeah, that's their opinion, you know. They don't know what happened. I've been to a cardiologist, and I've checked everything up. Everything's fine. I mean, there's nothing to worry about.

Q. Yesterday evening you went to a cardiologist?

XAVIER MALISSE: No, just before, like a year ago.

Q. So this is what we would term a benign situation?


Q. Benign, meaning it's not a situation that can cause you any medical danger?

XAVIER MALISSE: No, no. This is -- no, not that.

Q. I'd like to get on to the final tomorrow. When you played Lleyton on grass at Queen's, I think it was last year, did you perceive any weaknesses in his game that you feel that David could take advantage of?

XAVIER MALISSE: Yeah, last year I played -- actually, I lost 4-2. But I played one of the best matches I think I've played all year. I played really well. He didn't have any weakness. Maybe this -- you know, everybody's talking about his forehand, you know, how sometimes it gets off. But, you know, he's steady. You know, he serves well. All his strokes are perfectly fine. You know, he's No. 1 in the world, so it means, you know, he doesn't miss a lot. You know, it will be hard for David. But, you know, he's got to believe. You know, so does Lleyton.

Q. And what you saw of him at the US Open last year, do you think he's playing better at Wimbledon this year compared to that time?

XAVIER MALISSE: Yeah, I think he's having fun. He's more confident. You know, he played really well against Tim yesterday. You know, Tim is one of the grass court specialists. It was three sets to Love. So I think, you know, he's definitely, you know, been playing a lot better on grass. And, you know, he's got a good shot at it.

Q. Can you tell us what you found most difficult about David, most difficult to play against?

XAVIER MALISSE: He doesn't miss much. I think I hit good shots, and they always come back. His second serve slices right into the body, which is pretty good. But, you know, he doesn't miss anything. That's his strongest point. He's fit. Everything comes back.

Q. You seem to be more tired today than yesterday evening. Were you completely fit?

XAVIER MALISSE: Yeah, I mean, obviously I was a little sore, a little tired this morning, which is normal. Probably he was, too. And, you know, once you're at a tournament, everything calms down. Now I'm beat up. It's been a long two weeks with everything. But it was great, you know. Yes, I'm tired, but I've got a couple weeks off, so it will be good.

Q. What will you keep from this tournament? What did you learn?

XAVIER MALISSE: Well, I mean, I didn't expect to be in the semis. I came here to do the best I could do, you know. I didn't know I could play well on grass. It's been a fantastic two weeks. I've enjoyed every moment. I've enjoyed today, even though I lost. It was great. The crowds, the tradition, you know, it all plays a part of it. Yeah, it's probably one of the best two weeks of my life.