Aug 24, 2014, 4:34:50 AM

The players took part in pre-event media conferences. Here what some of them had to say.

Q.  What was your initial reaction when you found out you were opening against Taylor Townsend, a top ranked junior, a fellow American?  We don't really see that in this tournament. 
Yeah, it's going to be a great match for me.  She's such a great player.  Extremely young.  I have been able to see her play a little bit.  She does everything really, really well. We're really good friends.  We always talk and always text each other.  It's going to be a really tough match for me.

Q.  You spoke of what a tough match it would be against Taylor when you meet her.  What are the specifics of her game that most impress you, and how would you describe her progress?
Well, she's a lefty.  I always wanted to be lefty (smiling).  That just in general puts you on a whole new level as a player.  She's a very aggressive player.  She comes to the net.  She makes her shots. 

You don't really see that in tennis so much.  You see players that, you know, stay back and hug the baselines, as I do.

But it's good, refreshing, and I think it's the future of tennis just by doing what she does.

Q.  Many of us in this room know what a momentous event of a first child can be.  Do you think it will be as hard to focus on the tennis as ruthlessly as you normally would while you're here?
Well, that's a question I cannot give you answer to because I'm going to find out.  I'm going to see how that feels.  Obviously I talk with people who are around me who have children. 
As I said before, my coach and people who have been in similar situations like I am and how they dealt with that, how that has affected their careers, their mindset, their, you know, just overall life.
I with no doubt have only positive and joyful feelings approaching fatherhood, and hopefully    it's going to happen in less than two months.  Then I'm going to enjoy it and try to take as much energy as I can, positive energy to, you know, after kind of transfer that to the tennis court.
But without a doubt, life changes.  You know, priorities change.  My priorities, you know, my family, my wife, my future kid.  You know, tennis is not definitely not No. 1 anymore.


Q.  You have mentioned how many people are talking about you reaching the semifinals and finals and how they weren't here a year ago.  How different is your own confidence, that you feel you can definitely get that far, that maybe there was a little more doubt this time a year ago?

I think last year I was trying to convince myself I did have an opportunity, because I feel like once you have had success and once you know how to win majors, or US Opens for that matter, yeah, can you always do it again.

I believe it's the case, but you just need a lot more luck and the draw opening up.  Because I just kind of felt like it was always going to be for me hard beating top 5, top 10 players.  I felt like I had little margin against guys ranked just outside of the top 10 to No. 30 in the world. 

And then the rest of the field I felt like I could manage it somehow, but the confidence was, you know, going away quickly, too, just because I was just not moving so well.  I was scared to have another setback, and so it was just not as clear cut and simple as it is this year.

This year I played a lot of good matches.  Not just Toronto and Cincinnati, but really from the first week on I have always played really nice tennis.  Then you come into this US Open just knowing    well, you remember how it feels to win tournaments.  You remember and you get used to that. 

You almost forget how to lose to a point and confidence rises.  You're back to winning ways again and everything seems so simple, you know. It's nice feeling that way.  I'm looking forward to this tournament, because I really feel like I can play a great tournament.  I hope I can show that on the court this year.

Q.  Coming back from an injury, what is the toughest part?  Is it mental?  Are you afraid of hurting yourself again?  What was the hardest part for you coming back from such a long injury?
It's just a matter of getting it back into the rhythm.  You know, you're always used to playing matches and tournaments, so you go from one place to another. 

Once you stop, it's just a matter of getting that timing back.  A little bit of reaction.  But really just building that base of kind of a consistent playing.

So I think that's the toughest part that takes always a longer time, and it's a process.  When you come back you expect the result to be right there just where you kind of finished, but sometimes it takes a little longer.

Q. Your psychological fortitude has always been probably one of the best parts of your overall game. Do you think you were born with that?
I'm not really sure. That's a question I have been asked before, but I think it's also life circumstances that you go through, that you work through, and learn from. Also by the people that you're surrounded by and what you learn, how you go through making decisions. 

You know, I have never really had an easy journey to this step of where I am today. From my days in Russia to even now we always go through challenges and adversity. I think we're still not sitting here today saying I'm the strongest person or physically or mentally, because I always want to improve and be better and make myself a better person.

Q. You talked a little bit about how your life has changed a lot since reaching the Wimbledon final. I mean, for people that really can't comprehend what that would be like, in what ways has it changed? Is it people recognizing? What have these last few weeks been like for you?
They have definitely been, you know, busier weeks. I took some time off after Wimbledon though, which was necessary, and definitely, you know, tried to be normal a little bit for a few weeks, which was actually very nice. But for sure, you know, just being recognized a lot more, just feeling a lot of eyes on you no matter what you do, and feeling, you know, the expectations and pressure when it comes to tennis. 

Yeah, but it's a position I want to be in. I want to be climbing up the ladder like that. I want to be, you know, the one that people want to beat and to get to that position. I just feel like I'm on my way to the place I want to be. I'm not there yet. Still a lot of work to do

Q. Do you think you have had enough matches before the Open?
Yeah, I think yes. Like I said, I'm confident. I have confidence in myself and in my game also. I played tough matches in Cincinnati, so I feel prepared to start the tournament here. We will see. Every time first round is difficult at any tournament, so I have to be focused to try my best during the match and to fight to win the match. But we'll see. You never know.

Q. Last year you played a lot of matches on smaller courts and got up to Armstrong. Have you had an opportunity to practice on Ashe and looking forward to playing there?
Yes, this year I had the chance to practice in Arthur Ashe, and it's huge. It's very big. It's good to have this experience. Maybe I will play a match maybe first round or I don't know. I have experience everywhere now to play, so I feel prepared for everything. I have just to do my game on court, because I think that's the most important thing. Doesn't matter the court where are you playing. Just to play your best.

Q. Do you think the only thing missing from your game right now is the confidence of having back-to-back big wins?
Maybe. I mean, I have been playing well the last few weeks. You know, I lost to guys who had won the events, and had quite big opportunities in both those matches. I feel like I'm playing well. This week has been very good preparation. I'm happy. I feel ready to start the tournament. Yeah, we'll see what happens when we get underway.

Q. When was the last time you felt this ready, this prepared, this content?
For a slam, probably, I mean, any of the ones -- I mean, Australian Open last year, Wimbledon last year, you know, would have been the last two. Obviously I missed the French last year. My back was not great during this event last year. Yeah, this year would be the best prepared I have been coming into a slam. I got a great training block over in Miami done, so physically I'm where I would want to be. My body is pain-free, which is good. Yeah, I feel ready.