Are you going to settle the score with Paul Haarhuis this year?
I certainly hope so. Paul beat me in the finals last year and he played beautifully. I relish that match now I can watch it over. I know we’re playing early this year so I’ll need to be sharp and ready to go because he’s tough.
How does his style compare to your own?
Paul is one of the best returners we’ve seen in the last 20 years, it shows in both his singles and doubles results. Very aggressive in his return, moves very well – not a guy who overpowers you, but he defends beautifully once he gets into a rally. I’m much more of a power baseline player so it’s an interesting contrast.
Your training regime was famously tough. Do you still work as hard before each and every match?
I do take my conditioning very seriously and I’m in much better shape than last year. As you age as a tennis player, what you lose is your movement.
Is there one rivalry you wish you’d settled before retiring?
I think the one rival who really owned most of us in the ’90s was Pete Sampras. My record against Pete is certainly not even, he has a sizable lead over me – but he certainly deserved all of that. Everyone else I felt fairly balanced with, no one else really dominated me but him.
You’re playing Goran Ivanisevic again this year. He’s pretty volatile. Reckon we’ll see a few tantrums?
I sure hope so, they’re a lot of fun. Goran is an excitable character, he brings a lot of flair, personality, emotion – people can connect to that. Tennis is a very personal environment, you’re playing a one-on-one sport, everything you do implicitly effects you and vice-versa. It’s highly charged, some of us try and control our emotions whereas others let go like a pressure valve. Goran’s always been one of those who let’s his emotions run free.
Ever come close to losing it?
I’ve let my emotions run wild before. I’ve shattered my share of racquets along the way.
What’s the worst on-court hysterics you’ve ever witnessed?
I have a whole catalogue of McEnroe meltdowns I could share with you. He was playing in one of our Outback Champions Series matches in Rhode Island and got defaulted for only the second time in his career. He got a bad call, laced into the chair umpire and gave him a piece of his mind, then flipped the bird to the entire crowd before being defaulted out of the match. That just indicates the kind of passion the guys bring to the tour.
How does it feel to have changed the game of tennis forever… by wearing a hat?
I did it more as a practical thing, it kept the hair out of my eyes and I’ve got a pretty light complexion. Nowadays very few players will play without wearing something. I can’t believe no one thought of it before really. Weird.