September 8, 2002
NEW YORK CITY
THE MODERATOR: First question for Pete, please.
Q. If I could ask what might be the obvious, you've got 14 of these in hand. How does this one stack up?
PETE SAMPRAS: This one might take the cake. I mean, I never thought anything would surpass what happened at Wimbledon a couple years ago, but the way I've been going this year, to kind of come through this and play, you know, the way I did today, it was awesome. I peaked at the right time against Andre. You know, had to play five matches in seven days. That was a lot of work. Just glad it's over, you know. I feel really good. Feel like I played extremely well today and I had to against Andre, who's very tough to beat. It was just a tough second week. It was one of the tougher second weeks, having all the rain delays. Having to get through tough matches, playing back to back Saturday and Sunday, it was a good effort. One of my better ones.
Q. Can you talk about your feelings when you walked on the court with Andre.
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, it was -- it made me nervous, you know, just sitting there. The crowd was so electric. It made me kind of pumped up, a little bit nervous. The atmosphere was awesome, it really was. Even though there were points in the third where they were getting pretty loud for him, kind of making a huge roar there when he broke me. But it was quite a day. It was really -- played extremely well when I had to.
Q. You played two and a half fabulous sets at the start. How did you drag yourself through that period when you were clearly getting tired?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, I was feeling it a little bit in the third, end of it. I played a lot of matches. You know, feeling the legs a touch. He started picking it up, especially his return of serve - he made me work real hard, then broke me. I was still up a set, I still felt pretty good out there. I just hung in there, got through some tough games at 2-1, down a couple break points. 4-3 down a couple break points. Then picked it up there to serve it out. It all happened pretty quick. But I was feeling it. I was definitely feeling a little bit of fatigue. I just hung in there the best that I could at the end and got it done.
Q. Go into that ninth game in the fourth set where you did break him, did you have an internal monologue with yourself? Talk me through the point in terms of what you saw, what you were thinking.
PETE SAMPRAS: You're not really doing a lot of thinking, it's all reaction. I had a couple break points. He had a couple good serves to my backhand. I chipped it short. He's not gonna miss those shots. The one that I did convert I hit a good return deep and it kind of caught him off guard. I had it in my hands to serve it out. And 30-love, second serve, up the middle I hit an ace. That felt really good to win that.
Q. Can you talk about the fourth game in that set.
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. Huge game.
Q. How important was it to hold your serve?
PETE SAMPRAS: It was a massive game. The momentum definitely switched there in the third. The crowd was getting into it. He had a couple break points there. I managed to squeak it out. It was a huge turning point just to kind of hold on to serve there. I still felt like I was in it. So there's some big points there I got through.
Q. You said all along the serve was going to make the difference for you. Two aces in the first game. Did you know at that moment that you were going to have the serve that you had all day today?
PETE SAMPRAS: I felt pretty good. Had a good warm-up. Serve was definitely clicking today. I felt it in the first couple service games, good rhythm. And, you know, I was hitting it pretty accurate with a lot of speed and mixing it up well. I was doing everything I wanted to do with my serve and hitting the second serve quite well. It was a good serving day.
Q. If you look back to before the Open, things you changed around, you've had a pretty tumultuous year, what were the key factors that put you in the position you were in to win this?
PETE SAMPRAS: Just a lot of support from my wife, from my family, working with Paul again. That really gave me a lot of peace of mind. Some stability. You know, he knows me better than anyone as a tennis player. And it all worked out. So much of kind of what I was going through this year was mental. It wasn't forehands and backhands and serves. It was kind of my head space. Wasn't real positive out there, kind of got down on myself extremely quick out there. We had some heart-to-heart talks about just my mind, where I'm at. All I could do after Wimbledon was start working again, get back to the drawing board. And start doing the running and the practicing, and it paid off this week.
Q. Is this the kind of -- does this make you look forward more to more Slams or does it make you happy to finish?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I'm gonna have to weigh it up in the next couple months to see where I'm at. I still want to play. I love to play. But to beat a rival like Andre in a major tournament at the US Open, a story book ending, it might be nice to stop. But... (Laughter). But... I still want to compete, you know? I still love to play. You know, see where I'm at in a couple months, where my heart's at and my mind. Right now it's hard to really talk about -- I mean, my head's spinning. But I'm sure the next couple weeks I'll reflect on it and kind of see where I'm at in a few months' time.
Q. When you went into the stands, was that spur of the moment, or was that planned?
PETE SAMPRAS: Spur of the moment. It was to share it with my sister and my wife. You know, those people really are the reason I'm here. I had that support. Because there were moments where I was struggling to continue to play and, you know, my wife really supported me and kept me positive and kept me upbeat. That support was huge for me at this stage of my career.
Q. Could you contrast the emotions of Wimbledon with that of the Open.
PETE SAMPRAS: Night and day. I mean, Wimbledon was the low point. This is the high point. Wimbledon was a shocking loss. It was -- got home and just was kind of down on my career and where I'm at. And I turned it around pretty quickly.
Q. Overall in your career, the seven Wimbledons compared to let's say the five Opens.
PETE SAMPRAS: I think this one might take the cake. Just after winning 13, I was kind of trying to figure out my goals from there - was to try to win another major. This year, struggling and hearing just I should stop, kind of the negative tone from the press or commentary. To kind of get through it and kind of believe in myself at a very tough time means a lot. It means more than anything probably, because adversity, and to be able to get through the adversity feels great.
Q. The day after Wimbledon did you fly home that Thursday morning or Thursday afternoon and just wondering, a long flight to LA. Did you do a lot of thinking on the plane?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah.
Q. Did you have a lot of doubt?
PETE SAMPRAS: Just was empty. It was an empty feeling. I was working so hard, I was doing all the right things. It wasn't clicking. Little anxiety creeped in. You just lose a little confidence. Guys are just getting a little bit better today. I got home and was pretty down for a week or so, and I just needed to kind of, you know, start working again. That's all you can do when you're at a low point, is start practicing - and that's what I did. It paid off here.
Q. Did you ever, just for a moment perhaps, even think, "Perhaps I ought to stop now?"
PETE SAMPRAS: I wanted to stop on my terms. That was one thing I promised myself, even though I was struggling this year and hearing this and that. I deserved to stop on my own terms. And I've done too much in the game to, you know, hear the negative things and start believing it because there was a point I was believing it, maybe this time. But having my family, my wife just kind of keep me going and Paul, just keep me positive, and that was huge for me. You know, because I could step away from the game and feel really good about what I'd done. But I still felt like I had one more moment, maybe a couple more moments. And it happened today.
Q. To be back in New York, did that have any motivational role for you?
PETE SAMPRAS: Competing, not much. But, you know, as far as the ceremony before, yeah, it touched me. And after, the people are into the match, into the tennis. But as you're in the trenches, you're just focused on what you're doing. New York's been through a battle this past year, and it's nice to see them come out and enjoy the tennis. It was a pleasure to play here.
Q. I wanted to ask, can you tell us something about your game plan for this match. It was nice to see an all-court game, observing it.
PETE SAMPRAS: That's what I wanted to try to do, set the tone, be aggressive on his second serves, take some chances, hopefully serve well and put pressure on him. That was -- kind of go for it. That was kind of my game plan. The thing I don't want to do against Andre is stay back too much, get into rallies. He's very good at that. Very good at just, you know, kind of moving you around. Just took my chances. I got it done.
Q. Do you remember when Boris met you at the net at Wimbledon and said, "I want my last match here to be against you." Do you think about that ever, who you want your last match here or at Wimbledon to be against?
PETE SAMPRAS: No, I haven't thought about it really.
Q. Greg Rusedski maybe (laughter)?
PETE SAMPRAS: He's got his own issues (laughter). His issues have issues.
Q. There's a left-handed British player...
PETE SAMPRAS: You have a question?
Q. Yeah, I asked who you thought it might be, or the circumstances.
PETE SAMPRAS: I don't know. You can't predict these things. Whoever it is, it is. I mean, I don't know. I can't, you know, you wanted a storybook ending, but hopefully my last Wimbledon will be on court - and not Court 13 or 2 (laughter).
Q. There's a left-handed British player who offered some tennis analysis this week. The BBC loves to get former players as their analysts. Do you think he has much of a future as an analyst?
PETE SAMPRAS: We're talking too much about the wrong guy, you know, in Greg. He said what he said. It doesn't faze me. He's got his own issues he's got to deal with.
Q. You've had to answer some questions over the past year or two about whether maybe finding your wife coincided with losing your game a little bit. How did that affect her? Does she share in this victory?
PETE SAMPRAS: Absolutely. It wasn't fair that -- the timing of breaking the record and getting married. I just felt like I was at a point in my career that it was a tough place to be after winning 13. Got married two months later. I was happy. I was happy being married. I met the woman of my dreams and now we're going to have a child. That's what life's all about. But she's, you know, a big reason why I've been able to kind of get through this tough period. She lives with me every day. Trust me, it's not easy (laughter). When you're struggling, you're not having fun, it's a burden. Just showed me that I met the right woman.
Q. From this point on, regardless of what happens, if you continue playing and it doesn't go well, is everything happy because this has happened?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, I feel great. I feel like all the hard work paid off. All the adversity I was up against this year, I was able to get through it. That means more to me than anything. Just, you know, I don't know where I'm going to go from here; I really don't. Gonna take some time to enjoy it, reflect a little bit and kind of see where I'm at.
Q. Where are you for Davis Cup?
PETE SAMPRAS: I haven't thought much about Davis Cup.
Q. Did you draw much from Andre's example of how he coped with adversity and rose to the top again? What did that do for you dealing with your adversity and getting back to the top?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, not much. You know, Andre, he's got as much talent as anyone. There was points in his career where he was struggling at times and it wasn't anything I thought of when I was going through my slump, or my tough time. I believe when you have talent, you have talent. You know, it's not gonna go anywhere. It's just a matter of mentally being positive. But he came from 140 to 1 in the world. That's a pretty huge comeback. My comeback, I'm still pretty competitive, came in here 17 seed. Was able to do it here, so felt good.
Q. Knowing what you know now about adversity and coming back, look back now on the easy days when you were a title machine. Does that help put you in perspective?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, those days, it was -- you don't appreciate it as much as when you struggle a little bit. When I was dominating, 1 in the world, winning Slams easily, I expected it. Now the expectations are still pretty high, but it wasn't, you know, kind of where I was at five years ago. You know, when you're struggling with confidence, you're not playing as well, players are better. I dealt with that adversity pretty well these past couple weeks. And this might take the cake. This might be my biggest achievement so far, is to come through a very, very tough time and to win the Open. I mean, that's pretty sweet.
Q. Could you talk about the inner excitement you must have about becoming a father, and what you think your best quality as a father might be.
PETE SAMPRAS: It's hard to say. You know, we're going to experience parenthood, knock on wood, in a few months. Hopefully, I'll be a good father. Hopefully someone that my kid's gonna look up to me and the way I am and I hope I'm a good kind of role model for him or her.
Q. In all the meetings you've had with Andre, where does this one rank with you in terms of quality and drama for you?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, there were points today that remind me a little bit of Wimbledon, the year I kind of got in the zone, you know. Really felt like everything clicked today. And just played as well as I could. You know, really -- I knew he was gonna start playing better in the third, he broke me. I just felt like I kind of was in the zone there for a while. It's hard to keep up that pace against him for three straight sets. But I played as well as I could, and you have to against him. He's a great player. You have to match his game, and I was able to do that.
Q. That moment at the net at the end, how emotional was that? Did you two speak?
PETE SAMPRAS: Just he's -- no disrespect to anyone I've played over the years, but he's the best I've ever played. He brings out the best in me. I've said that over the years. He has that extra gear that is very tough to play against. You know, those moments are great moments. You know, win or lose out there, it's about, you know, competing against the best. He still is one of the best. It was a good moment up there.
Q. Andre was asked if he sort of understood, you know, he knew what was going on, whether he was concerned or reflective, and he said basically you're just trying to play tennis. He was concentrating on the balls. Did you at all think of the momentous occasion?
PETE SAMPRAS: No. You know, you're in the trenches, you're just focused on the next point. You're not really thinking about -- obviously it's a huge match, but you're not -- it's still a tennis court with the same dimensions as my court at home. So it's kind of the mindset I had. You have to keep it simple and not get too overwhelmed with it all. I'm sure serving for the match, you know, I felt it, I'm serving for the title. So you just go out there and compete. You hope it works out. That's my kind of mentality.
Q. Was there any sense of disbelief that, "I am going to win the US Open," as you had hoped and as a lot of us doubted you could?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it hit me when I was serving for the match. Like I had it on my hands to win it. And it all happened pretty quickly. Struggling to hold serve 4-all, hit a couple good shots and I was serving for the match. Went for a point of being down a break in the fourth to coming back serving for the match in a matter of five minutes. Kind of an eerie feeling, but it all happened so quickly at the end. It was a nice way to end it.
Q. Do you ever get tired of winning?
PETE SAMPRAS: No, you never get tired of winning these moments. These moments are why we play. This is the Super Bowl. So that's why I continue to play.
Q. That's why you will?
PETE SAMPRAS: That's why I will.
Q. Do you believe in fate and do you think maybe you were fated to win this this year?
PETE SAMPRAS: I believe in fate to a certain point, but you have to put in the work, you have to play the great tennis. But a little destiny, sure. I think it might have went my way this event to play Andre in the final, two Americans that have meant a lot to the game in the US. Yeah, it was a fitting way to end it.
Q. How different would your career have been without Andre?
PETE SAMPRAS: Just -- he's made me a better player. He's brought moments to my career that are like Borg and McEnroe. Those guys needed each other. I've needed Andre over the course of my career. He's pushed me. You know, he's forced me to add things to my game. He's the only guy that was able to do that. He's the best I've played.
Q. What's the feeling of being the second oldest US Open champion? Do you think it's the last time you and Andre will meet in a Grand Slam final?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it's hard to say what the future is going to hold for us. You know, to meet in major finals, players are too good today -- where we were five years ago when we were dominating, now, this could be it for us. But maybe next year we'll do it again.
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