September 7, 2002
NEW YORK CITY
THE MODERATOR: First question, please.
Q. Pete, the stock wisdom is, "Marriage is a distraction. He's thinking about somebody else besides himself. So that's it." How do you respond to that?
PETE SAMPRAS: As far as being married and playing?
Q. Is your attention divided?
PETE SAMPRAS: I will say, you know, there are times in my life, five years ago, where tennis was my life, consumed with being No. 1. You know, just being on top for so long, I think I kind of had enough. You know, getting married and having a future child gives me some balance. The years of dominating are over, but I still feel like I can win a major. I still believe that. If I didn't believe it, I wouldn't attempt to play. It's been a good couple weeks here.
Q. 6-all, first-set tiebreaker, second serve.
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah.
Q. That's the way you play, the way you always play.
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. I take my chances. You know, my serve is my weapon. I'm gonna use it whenever I can. You know, I get burned sometimes when I go for too much and throw in some doubles. But, you know, if I'm gonna, you know, lose out there, I want to do it on my terms, not being conservative. I take my chances.
Q. This will be your third final in a row. The perception is that the last one took place like five years ago...
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah.
Q. It's treated like it happened a lot longer ago than one year ago. Do you have that sense yourself?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, little bit. I played a very, very tough draw last year to get to the final. I haven't showed much this year, little bit frustrating. You still just got to remember my ability, I never question that. Even though it's been a struggle and I've lost confidence through the year, at certain times I never questioned that I could be back here. As long as I believe in myself and I do, I believe I can still do it. I got a chance tomorrow.
Q. What kind of treatment were you in?
PETE SAMPRAS: Just getting stretched and rubbed, ready for tomorrow.
Q. No IVs?
PETE SAMPRAS: No.
Q. You said you were working harder than ever before. Up to this point you had less to show for it. How tough was it to stay the course?
PETE SAMPRAS: It was very tough. This year, put a lot of focus, made some changes to just kind of help out my game to see if I can get myself to win a major. It's been frustrating. I worked hard, haven't had much of a year. You know, mentally it's good to come back. Something that I've never had to do before is come back from a, you know, pretty big low point after Wimbledon. Just working hard and being positive, you know, having good support with my family, wife and Paul, it's been good.
Q. Do you feel like an underdog?
PETE SAMPRAS: No. I've never felt like an underdog. I really, even though I'm not seeded very high, never, ever feel like I am an underdog. It's been ten years since I felt that way. I still feel like when I step out against any of these guys, I'm the favorite to win. Maybe not on paper, maybe not in a lot of people's minds, but in my heart I still believe I'm the one to beat. But I haven't showed that this year. But that's okay.
Q. What gives you that belief? Is it your family?
PETE SAMPRAS: Just my game. I just feel like I've got a powerful game, that it can click pretty quickly and I can get confident. It just takes a couple matches here and there. I've been patient all year to kind of wait for that click to happen. And it's happened this week.
Q. You haven't lost a set in the last two matches. Last year you had those tough matches, you had to play at night, come that Sunday you didn't seem to have that much. Are you fresher than you felt last year?
PETE SAMPRAS: I think playing first match helps. It gives me a little bit more time. It was a pretty hot day today, so recovery is important. Emotionally, last year it was very tough playing Rafter, to play Andre, to play Safin. I don't care how fresh I would have been against Lleyton, I think he was playing too well. But, you know, I'll do whatever I can tonight to get enough sleep, eat the right foods, be ready for tomorrow at 4:00.
Q. Anything you think you learned, just about how you got through, anything you've taken away from the last two Saturday nights that you think you can do to better prepare?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I'm going to do whatever I can to shut it down. Really, just last couple years I went home and just kind of stressed out about eating, sleeping. I never really emotionally shut it down. I'm going to do whatever I can tonight to just kind of relax a little bit and just go out and play well tomorrow. Having a day off is nice to shut it down, but I don't have a ton of time. I'm going to mentally just kind of relax and just have a beer tonight and just kind of chill out a little bit.
Q. How conscious are you of the crowd?
PETE SAMPRAS: It's great. I need all the support I can get. It's nice to have the support of the people. They were -- you know, it was a tough start, 11 o'clock, not a lot of people. But as the match went on, they got into it. It really felt good. Just nice having that support.
Q. How conscious are you of doing it? You're bringing them in more than you have in the past. Are you doing it on purpose?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. You need that support. You need it, it just helps out your game. Sjeng probably -- it's just tough playing against that. Just to show a little emotion, I think people get pumped. I normally don't do very much. When I do, they're kind of shocked, so...
Q. Can you go through the reasoning you went back to Paul.
PETE SAMPRAS: He knows me as a tennis player better than anyone. There were moments this year where I didn't have that coaching stability that you need, and he knows how I should play. He knows what to say, what not to say. And working with him again is a big reason why I've been able to kind of get it going here. So much of this year has been mental. It's not about forehands and backhands, it's about being positive, having a good attitude. It's paying off this week.
Q. Do you think it was a mistake to leave him?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I think professionally we needed to take a break from each other. Last year, I think we both felt it kind of ran its course, tried a few different things. Didn't pan out very well. But end of the day, Paul's nice enough to help out. He's a pretty busy now with the USTA. It's been good to kind of get back with him. It's a big reason why I've been able to do pretty well here.
Q. Can you tell us your thoughts, Lleyton, it's revenge from last year, Andre, a clash of the titans.
PETE SAMPRAS: So if it's Andre, it would be just a huge moment for both of us, for the game. Two older players, two rivals over the years. He brings out the best in me. To walk out there with him would be very unique, very special. If it's him, I feel like I'm pretty ready.
Q. Was there a shot or point or game in this tournament that all of a sudden you found your confidence back?
PETE SAMPRAS: I think the Haas match was a tough match to get through. Played pretty well. Roddick, I peaked there for a while. Just kind of carried on through the weekend.
Q. Do you find yourself rooting for Andre at all during this tournament?
PETE SAMPRAS: I wouldn't say rooting for him. I will say it will be special tomorrow if we face each other. It's hard to say how many times we're going to play each other here, let alone in a Grand Slam final. I have a lot of respect for Andre. He's the best returner in the game. It's a great clash. If it happens, it will be one to remember. Hopefully I can make it pretty competitive, the last couple years I've been smoked, so...
Q. Yesterday Paul said it's been such a crazy twelve months for you, that anything could happen. He wouldn't discount the possibility of your winning this and walking away. Can you remark on what the future holds?
PETE SAMPRAS: I don't know the future. I've said that I'm going to play a full schedule next year. That's what I'm planning on doing. It's something I'll just weigh up after the event. But I plan on being back, so it's hard to really predict what's going to happen here.
Q. Everything subject to review at any time?
PETE SAMPRAS: Just -- I'm not making any plans. I'm just going to take it one day at a time after this event and see where I'm at in the fall and plan on playing next year. Kind of see where my heart and mind is at. That's where I'm at.
Q. Wimbledon 2000 and now, what was the low point for you?
PETE SAMPRAS: I think this year at Wimbledon. Just an accumulation of a bad year and just such a nightmare playing out there on Court 2. That was the emptiest I've felt in many, many years.
Q. If it is Hewitt you face in the final, what do you know about Lleyton going out there?
PETE SAMPRAS: I know a lot. I've played him a bunch. He's a very, very tough player. He's competitive. Moves well. He's got a great return and serves pretty well now. So it's a tough match-up.
Q. How similar is his game to Andre's? How similar is the challenge when you play Lleyton?
PETE SAMPRAS: Similar games. I mean, Lleyton might have a little more foot speed. Andre has a little bit more power. Both return very well. It's a similar match-up playing either one.
Q. Would you say you lost your confidence but not your belief? Is that correct?
PETE SAMPRAS: Correct.
Q. After Wimbledon, what did you tell yourself to get yourself out on the court for this, to put yourself in physical discomfort every day, knowing that, you know, to that point it hadn't been paying off for you? How do you talk yourself through that?
PETE SAMPRAS: You need a lot of support. The family, my wife, Paul. Just those are the times where you need that stability. I was at a low point, but you have to get out of it. You can't sulk on it too much. Took a while, but, you know, just got to remember I still love to play, I love to compete. And still want to continue. It's nice to have that stability behind me. It feels good.
Q. How conscious are you when you walk out onto the court tomorrow, it could be Andre, this could be the last time you meet in a Grand Slam final?
PETE SAMPRAS: I think we're both aware of it - I mean, at least I am. The game is so strong today, you're not gonna have -- you know, there's a point five years ago where he and I were so dominant, we were -- good chance we're gonna get to the finals. Now it's hard to say if we're going to meet each other again in a Slam final. It could happen, but the game is tougher today than it was five years ago. So it's something I think we'll both appreciate as we get a little bit older. When we're done playing, look back at these moments and know they're pretty special.
Q. The actual match that just took place, Schalken was serving very, very well, particularly on the deuce court.
PETE SAMPRAS: Struggled a little bit today, my first match during the day. So the ball was flying a little bit. It was playing pretty quick. So I struggled a little bit with my return, but served well at times. Got it going. The breakers were huge and I just picked it up a little bit in the third and went from there. So it was -- he played well. I thought he served well. Kind of kept me off guard a little through the match. It was a close one. Nice to win in straight, so I'll be ready for tomorrow.
Q. Ten, twenty years from now when your kid's sitting around saying, "Tell me about being a tennis pro," what's the one thing you'll tell him?
PETE SAMPRAS: Playing big matches. Playing the finals of the Open and Wimbledon, those are the moments that I'll remember the most.
Q. Out of one of those?
PETE SAMPRAS: There's a lot to choose from. I mean, not to be arrogant (laughter). That didn't come out right. I mean, I don't -- there are moments that I've had that have been dramatic, that have been tough. Been some great moments. Just the Slam finals, I mean, that's the Super Bowl for us. So those are the moments that I'll share with my children and have those tapes to, you know, take a look at.
Q. At Wimbledon, when you played and won, you've done so - and pretty easily. You were really rolling the guys. Here, you've had very emotional matches, a lot of different dramatics. Why do you think it is? Is it just the end of the season? Is there something about this place?
PETE SAMPRAS: End of the season. You know, grass is a surface that physically is as demanding as playing here at the Open. You know, I've just had moments - Corretja match, getting sick; Yzaga. Just tough moments. I mean, this is a lot of pressure, and I internalize a little bit out there. Combination of everything. The last major of the year, so you want to do well. I've had, you know, I've done well here. This is my eighth final here, I believe. It takes a lot of work. Playing back-to-back semi and final is tough, so... I got one more in me I think.
End of FastScriptsâ€¦.