Taylor Dent Inteview - US Open, Sept 4

Posted on September 5, 2009

Taylor Dent Inteview
US Open - Friday, September 4, 2009

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Have you busted the strap on a buckle before?
TAYLOR DENT: I can't recall ever busting the actual strap itself, but I've definitely busted a few nets going through the net.

Q. Really was an incredible scene out there. What was it like for you, start to finish?
TAYLOR DENT: It's really tough to describe. I mean, I'm out there, you know, I feel like my execution, you know, isn't all that great, but I am just battling away and battling away.
I had set points in the second and third set. The crowd just never stopped. They never stopped kind of being my third leg out on the court. They were just with me the whole time. When I started to turn it around, I mean, the emotions just boil over here.
The US Open is such a unique experience for a tennis player. It's really unbelievable that I have the privilege to experience it.

Q. Were you surprised at the level of his volleying? He didn't miss too many.
TAYLOR DENT: I think he missed like three volleys the whole match. It was unbelievable. Halfway through the match, three quarters of the way through the match, I'm thinking, The guy is just playing good, he's playing solid.
When I'm making him play these volleys, he's not missing, and I'm missing a few passing shots and missing a couple opportunities. Other than that, I mean, he was just rock solid. His first serve percentage had to be in the 70s.

Q. It was over 80.
TAYLOR DENT: Over 80. There you go. I mean, it was killing me. I felt like kicking him on the changeovers, you know (laughter.)

Q. You talked about the emotion out there tonight. Big stadium for the next match against Andy Murray. How critical will it lift you to have that whole crowd in front of you?
TAYLOR DENT: You know, I honestly don't know how I'm going to fare against Murray. But I will guarantee everybody this: if I lose 6 0, 6 0, 6 0, I'm going to die fighting for every point. Like I said earlier, my execution isn't at the level that I would like to go into a match playing Andy Murray, so I'm going to make up for that with just pure grit and toughness up there.
You know, we'll see if that's enough to get me through.

Q. What is your internal dialog like during that match? You mentioned you were fortunate to be out there.
TAYLOR DENT: At the time, no. We'll clean it up a little bit. It's encouraging. It's just trying to encourage myself in a firm way to just keep plugging away, because I hadn't missed so many opportunities. I felt like I had a couple set points in the second set on his serve and another one in the third set. I just felt like I was so close to really just breaking the match open, but it didn't go my way. Then I played a horrible breaker.
I was just, you know, really on myself to stay out there and keep fighting and not worry about, you know, the opportunities that I've missed and my level of play. I really gave a couple service games away. I let him get away with a couple holds he probably shouldn't have.
Like I said, it was just my goal out there was to fight for every point.

Q. Was it a pleasure or is it strange to be playing a guy who plays like you play at this level of a slam?
TAYLOR DENT: Today it was tough because I didn't feel like I was returning as well as I needed to. But normally, I mean, I have a pretty good record against guys that have a big serve and come in behind it.
Normally, you know, I don't mind it.

Q. Who was the last guy you played who played like you?
TAYLOR DENT: López a few days ago.
Before that, I played Ljubicic, but he doesn't really serve and volley. It's a rarity these days. He has a game that can be successful serving and volleying because he does hit 80% of his first serves in. He's very accurate with it.
But if you try and serve volley hitting second serves, you're in big trouble.

Q. Was that scene after with grabbing the microphone and going around, was that something you envisioned or something you made up as you went along?
TAYLOR DENT: After match point, I was so fired up, and the crowd was there, they were so fired up. I saw the umpire announce with the mic. I'm like, I have to thank these people for staying out here, for being my backbone in the match. There were a couple of times where I was pissing and moaning to myself.
You just hear, C'mon, you know, you just hear a whole bunch of stuff and it helps. It helps. I had to show my appreciation to them more than just giving the traditional wave. I wanted to say something to them.

Q. Did you expect Navarro to play in that style?
TAYLOR DENT: Yeah, I heard beforehand. I've been away from the game for so long that I don't know a lot of these guys. I assumed when I saw who I played that it was going to be a typical clay court player.

Q. That's what I thought.
TAYLOR DENT: And then actually Justin Gimelstob told me that the guy serves volleys. I'm like, Oh, all right. Well, I guess we all four got drawn consecutively. Karlovic, Navarro, myself, and López.

Q. Second match point, high forehand volley. Little eager to hit it.
TAYLOR DENT: Yeah, I saw it go there, and I thought the match was over. That's what you get for not playing enough matches (laughter.)
But, again, it went into my thing where I wasn't executing as well as I wanted. So after the match point, I'm like, Bummer. You're gonna fight as hard as you can for this next point.
Unfortunately, I didn't win it. Came back next point, I fought hard for that one, and I don't think I lost one from there.

Q. Five sets on hard; how is your back?
TAYLOR DENT: Back is the least of my worries right now. You know, this is a little bit of unchartered territory for me, two matches in a Grand Slam. We'll have to see what happens tomorrow. I'm on cloud nine right now. I'm not feeling too much.

Q. You have to get treatment or anything for it tomorrow, or nothing?
TAYLOR DENT: I just do my little exercises. It keeps quiet. It treats me right now.

Q. What do you remember of your two matches against Andy Murray in 2005?
TAYLOR DENT: Yeah, I mean, the way I play, the matches tend to go the same way all the time. You see the same things. It's just where I'm going to get in trouble if it turns out this way, because Murray is going to put a lot of returns down at my feet on my first serve. That's going to lead to passing shots for him.
What I remember last time is he passed really well, and I couldn't really read the backhand. He could hit both ways really well.
My game is slightly different now, so hopefully I won't be facing too many low volleys off of second serves. But, you know, like I said, I mean, he knows how I'm going to play, I know how he's going to play, and it's going to come down to execution and just grit out there.

Q. He was very much the new kid on the tour then.
TAYLOR DENT: I was one of the first guys to play Andy in Queen's, I think first or second round. Even then I knew he was going to be good. I said in an interview then, he reminds me of like a Lleyton Hewitt, you know, Lleyton Hewitt with probably a little bit of a bigger serve. Andy's got a great first serve. Then after that, he's just so rock solid from the baseline.

Q. You rightly say you're away from the game and some of the guys you don't know too much about. You clearly know about him.
TAYLOR DENT: Yeah, for sure. Like I said, it's gonna come down to execution. I'm serving volleying my first serves. It's going to come down to how well I can place those, how well he can return those. I'm going to follow it up with a volley wherever I see an opening.
Then second serves, I'm going to try to dictate the point with my forehand and come to the net. Obviously, Andy Murray is one of the best counterpunchers the game has ever seen. It would be silly for me to stay back and out rally him.
I'm going to try to grab the point with my forehand, get in, and knock off a volley.

Q. When you were lying in bed, are these the kind of moments you dreamed about?
TAYLOR DENT: You can't even imagine these moments when I was back lying in bed. I would think of matches and kind of reminisce a little bit.
But just experiencing it and living it now is more than I hoped for back then.

Q. What was your biggest match prior to this one on that court?
TAYLOR DENT: On the Grandstand, gosh, I'm so bad at this. I wish I had Agassi or Justin's memory, then I could tell you scores.
I remember I lost to Mathieu. I think that was probably the last match I played there. I lost to Mathieu.

Q. Did you play González out there?
TAYLOR DENT: González was Louis Armstrong. That was a big win for me. So I'm sorry.

Q. Can you remember occasions when an American crowd has lifted an American player that you've watched and you've seen them being swept along?
TAYLOR DENT: All those matches that fit that description would be here at the US Open. I mean, by far, this is the most boisterous, vocal crowd that we have in the United States, and it really helps. I've seen the crowd just lift Andy time and time again. You know, he gets fired up, they get fired up. It makes tennis exciting to watch, and exciting play.

Q. Remember Agassi getting the same treatment?
TAYLOR DENT: That's right. Exactly.

Q. Looking forward to that?
TAYLOR DENT: Absolutely.

Q. Five set matches in Australia and also at Wimbledon.
TAYLOR DENT: That's right.

Q. Were you not ready then?
TAYLOR DENT: Uhm, yeah, in the five set match in Australia I was not ready. I can say that. That was the very first time I played five sets, and I end up pulling my hamstring a little bit in the fourth set. I was up two sets to one. So the body just wasn't ready then, which is to be expected. At that time, it was just all kind of feeling out how my body reacts.
At Wimbledon it wasn't fitness at all. That was just pure execution. I really didn't make many balls, and he was extremely solid. You know, it just comes down to that sometimes. When I'm coming back, at this stage of my progression of my comeback, you know, I play some matches where the execution just isn't so good.
And then I play some matches where the execution is great and I feel like a million bucks.

Q. How many people in that crowd were family and friends?
TAYLOR DENT: Oh, I had a few friends there. I'd say I probably had 20 friends there. Family, I think just my wife.

Q. You had 147 serve tonight. What was your high prior to your injury?
TAYLOR DENT: Well, it's tough. My high here at the Open wasn't that high. But my high overall the guns are different every tournament. You never know what's real.

Q. Does that tell us anything about the state of your serve compared to prior?
TAYLOR DENT: Sure. Those are the biggest serves and I'm serving 144, 147, all those numbers late in a match.

Q. How do you explain that?
TAYLOR DENT: You know, I saw Bud hit a few serves and I was inspired.

Q. Was there a point in all your difficulties when you thought, I guess I won't ever play tennis again?
TAYLOR DENT: Yeah. When I kind of bit the bullet and decided to go with the fusion surgery. I didn't do it to play tennis. The doctors told me that I would not be playing tennis if I did that surgery.
So at that stage, it was just kind of like, Okay, well, these are the cards I'm dealt. Let's not mope and whine about it. I have to have this surgery to lead an active lifestyle. No problem.
First one didn't go well. Second one ended up going well. The doctors said, It healed up very well. You should try to hit some balls. I got too excited. I definitely got too excited. My eyes lit up. I got out on the court later that day. That was probably the toughest moment for me, just to see how far I had lost, how much I'd lost.
I sat down after two minutes of hitting, and I'm just like, phew. That's kind of when I had the talk with myself, Do I even want to do this? I have lost everything. I'm getting winded after 30 seconds of hitting balls up and down the court. I'm hitting the ball terrible. I have no confidence. I haven't even hit serves yet, which is the biggest part of my game.
So that's when I just said, Look, you can't be selfish and you can't be naive about this tournament. You have to play professional sports again. Nobody gets this opportunity. A select few get this opportunity. You would be an idiot to push it back.

Q. When was that?
TAYLOR DENT: That was January, February of '08.

Q. 18 months ago?

Q. What came back first to your game?
TAYLOR DENT: My tenacity. I've had that for my whole career. I remember the first match I played, I wasn't even in a tournament tournament. I wasn't even playing to win. I was playing to see if my back would hold up to actual match conditions.
I was playing Cecil. I was in there fighting, lost 6 4 in the third. The whole match I was barking, fighting, you know, kind of getting in there. So my tenacity was the first thing that came back.
As far as my actual physical game, my backhand slice just came back. My backhand topspin. On that side I feel pretty comfortable.

Q. When you were lying in bed all that time, one can imagine the dark hours. How bad did depression become?
TAYLOR DENT: I had to be very careful because obviously I was in a lot of pain which kind of amplifies negative feelings and that sort of stuff. So I had to keep myself busy with stuff that interested me.
The less I thought about real life at that stage the better. I just wanted to read books, learn things, just do stuff that was fun at that time, just to kind of keep my mind off of where I was because it was depressing. And I did battle a little bit of that.
You know, I just said, There's nothing I can do right now other than rest here and wait for this thing to heal. So let's just get over that hump, get over that part, and move on.

Q. Were you able to actually watch tennis?
TAYLOR DENT: I didn't watch. It was a little bitter for me. I always watched when some of the Americans were playing. Obviously I'm partial. I want to see the Americans win. I want to see Andy win slams, and James do well, and Robby and Mardy, Isner, Querrey. I'd flick it on when those guys were playing. Other than that, I was just like, God, I want to be out there.

Q. As someone who has had a bad back for years, doesn't it hurt your back to be lying in bed with a bad back?
TAYLOR DENT: I had no choice. Basically I was in this kind of like a body cast. It put my spine in the position it needed to be in to heal.
Yeah, no, I was uncomfortable.

Q. Don't the muscles start...
TAYLOR DENT: Yeah, the muscles are just all kind of mangled at that stage after the surgery. That's why you can't do too much. You just have to wait, bide your time, and let those things knit back up.

Q. What good books did you read?
TAYLOR DENT: I love those Dummies books, for Dummies. I read a lot of those. Religion fascinates me. I read a little bit about various religions, kind of one person's story on how religion started. That was pretty interesting. And then I tried to read some political books, but I don't think I'm smart enough for that yet. I'll have to wait.
But, no, I was into that. Then after that, I wanted to get my real estate license. Like I was doing that, but I was in bed, and I was already in a pissy mood. I'd have to do this work, homework all the time. I'd be throwing the book across the wall half the time.
After that I started playing computer games because they were fun and they took my mind off my situation the best for me. I was like, This is a winner. I got to go with what works.

Q. How is your wife enjoying you back on the court again?
TAYLOR DENT: No, she's been my biggest supporter. She's been there every step of the way. She's loving it. She just wants me to succeed. I feel bad for her when she's watching matches like that. I'm sure she's just dying in the box. I feel so bad.
She tells me after I come off a close match, either a win or a loss, she just spends all of her energy trying to detach herself from my win or loss the whole time. She's like, That's fine. That's fine.
I feel bad. But there's nobody that has been more supportive than her.

Q. In the fifth set breaker, are you able to keep your head in the moment?
TAYLOR DENT: Today I was perfect at it. I was perfect at it. Even the forehand volley I missed, I mean, I didn't think I'd won at that stage. I got an opportunity. I went in there, I did what I wanted to do.
That's what happens when you don't have as much confidence as somebody who's been winning all the time. It's just part of the deal.

Q. Whatever happens here, one gets the impression you're going to go away from here as the biggest winner in your own mind.
TAYLOR DENT: Yeah, no, it's a very exciting time for me. I just have to be careful. Right now it's very important for my development as far as tennis goes to stay patient, because I don't feel like I'm executing as well as I can and I'm still competing and beating some of the best players in the world.
So I can't get too overanxious. I just have to be very methodical about my approach to the game and make sure that I'm working as hard and as smart as I can.

Q. What was that first tournament when you came back?
TAYLOR DENT: That was Carson Challenger. Cecil Mamet beat me 6 4 in the third.

Q. This time last year, US Open, where were you then?
TAYLOR DENT: My memory's horrible. US Open last year. You probably know what I was doing. At this stage I think in my comeback, I was playing like a tournament every two months. I was kind of dipping my toe in and out of the water.
You know what I did, I played Washington, D.C., and then I think this was one of the weeks of my two months off. I was probably at home spectating.
Two years ago I was doing media.

Q. TV commentary.
TAYLOR DENT: I was doing commentary for the world feed and the usopen.org stuff. I prefer where I am now.

Q. That will scare you back into it.
TAYLOR DENT: Yeah. I was saying earlier, as colorful as I am on the court, when I'm commentating, I don't get as colorful because I see the game very analytically. I'm picking it apart, all that sort of stuff.
I don't feel like I am the most entertaining person to listen to.

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